Why blame Bertie Vogts?

29th October 2004 at 01:00
y wife and I were in Dublin on a wean-free break recently. Having enjoyed an open-top bus tour, a shopping trip and dinner in a smokeless pub, we decided to round off our first day with a trip to the cinema. My better half fancied a film called The Notebook.

I happily agreed to go along. It was billed as a romance, but I reckoned I might find the sub-laptop computer of the title interesting. Wrong kind of notebook. Within five minutes I was awash in a sea of golden syrup, in danger of losing the Irish stew I had enjoyed earlier that evening.

Hence when my son went to cub camp and it was suggested that mother, father and teenage daughter went to see a romantic film called Wimbledon, I was sorely tempted to feign illness or perhaps pretend to be temporarily stuck up on the shed roof.

Fortunately, compared with The Notebook, Wimbledon was merely rather implausible and I was rarely visited with the desire to fill an empty popcorn tub with that afternoon's lunch. The only real downside was that it reminded me of a time I became annoyed while listening to the radio. I became annoyed while listening to the radio four months ago but had just written about being annoyed by something else on the radio the previous week, so I didn't do an article on the latest outrage at the time.

It was during the tennis season and someone had sent a text to Radio Scotland describing Tim Henman as a "loser". At that point he had indeed lost a tennis match, but only after winning several others. For the texter (if that's a word), this was clearly not good enough. Only being number one would do.

Now, there are many praiseworthy aspects to being male, not least a low tolerance of toe-curlingly sentimental melodramas. Less helpful is the sort of competitiveness that has as its end-point the notion that if you're not top, you're nothing. Thus, if you can't be numero uno, don't try at all.

You then have an excuse for "failure". Anyone who has had any dealings with teenage boys will have come across that belief system.

This is where group work scores. There is collective responsibility for performance and this has a positive effect that goes beyond merely having someone else to blame if things don't work out as they were meant to. Some people shine as team players.

We need to watch how far we take this sporting analogy. Whereas in Dublin they may be happy with their national football team's achievements, here in Scotland we aren't. And on the day I write this, rather than blaming individual players, it's the manager who's getting it in the neck.

Gregor Steele was desperate for a "shooting and car chases" film after The Notebook.

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