It hasn't been a great summer for British sport. England falling before the quarter finals at the World Cup, Andy Murray crashing out of Wimbledon and Mark Cavendish taking himself out of the Tour De France in the first stage have all, I would suspect, left British sports fans very unhappy.
And yet despite the failure of our national teams, this hasn't seemed to stop people from rolling out in force to support our boys regardless of the end result. Thousands of pounds were spent on tickets for Wimbledon and the World Cup, not to mention the amount spent getting football fans to Brazil. And the coverage of the first stage of the Tour was staggering to watch. Crowds packed three or four layers deep lined the route, not only in the towns that the cyclists passed through, but out in the countryside as well. In fact, on the moors the crowds were so large that there was only a very narrow gap for the competitors to pass through.
What is it about sport that seems to inspire this much devotion in the populace? The same was true of the Olympics two years ago. Even people like me - who find sport confusing and really really don't get the appeal of it - found ourselves drawn to the Olympics. Not just the opening and closing ceremonies mind, but the actual events. "How did we do in the X?" words that the rest of the year rarely leave my mouth suddenly became a central part of my vocabulary.
I imagine that in the end it is all about togetherness. Sport can be the ultimate unifier. Most sports - with the exception of some like grouse shooting and polo - are unaffected by such things as class, education or background. At a football match it doesn't matter if you are high flying city stockbroker or a milkman. All that matters is which team you support and what goes on down on the pitch for ninety minutes. Then at the end of the day, regardless of where you are going home to, all that matters is who won and who lost.
Of course this doesn't mean that we aren't disappointed when we lose. We still want to win of course, to show that we are better than everyone else - especially as we invented most of these sports - but at the end of the day, as cliché as it sounds, it really is the taking part that counts.
Sport brings us together in a way that not much else can. It gives something solid, real and straightforward to invest our collective belief in. At the end of the day, whatever else happens, someone will win, someone will lose, and we'll either be miserable or ecstatic. But whatever the result, for ninety minutes, or four or so hours, or however many sets, the country will be joined together, all believing in something, all able to forget the scandal and the austerity. And maybe in this current climate, we all need something to do that.Suggest a correction