What is the point of sport?

At last the latest bout of ritual humiliation is drawing to a close. With World Cup fever and Henmania subsiding, Britain has only a few cricket matches left to lose before we can all settle down to staking our national self-confidence on things that matter, such as crime and unemployment, rather than what a few overpaid young men do with a ball.

I have never really understood the importance of sport, particularly in schools. Initially men such as Dr Arnold brought it in as a means of tiring out adolescent boys who might otherwise thump their teachers. But, as we know, this can no longer happen. The wise and wonderful Estelle Morris is outlawing such violence (not that I believed it legal in the first place).

So tell me, please, why do we need sport in schools? Certainly not so we can produce world-beating athletes. That was only possible in the days when the British alone were well-fed and nurtured. Now that much of the rest of the world is too, we produce the kind of sporting prowess you would expect from a small, overcrowded damp island, clinging to the edge of Europe.

These days bigger nations with better climates are whupping our asses, as the Americans say. And indeed whupped they will probably remain. For if there is a lesson to be learned from sport in Britain today it must be how to lose well, something at which we Brits are getting loads of practice. But losing well is a skill that should not be underestimated. In life most people lose more often than they win. For every job there can only be one successful candidate. Most people who apply to be head at your school will fail and we don't want them all smashing up their dressing rooms, Italian-style.

So even if I'll never entirely understand what it is we are supposed to learn from sport, I do at least see the advantage of losing so often. It prepares you for life. And isn't that what school is all about?

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