The Olympics was a fantastic show, Well done Britain, Well done London – let’s not extrapolate about competitive sports, Dave

It was a fantastic show, and it turned Brits from a bunch of cynical curmudgeonly gits to cheerful folk for a while.  Well done everybody – the athletes, the crowds, Danny Boyle, even Zippy BoJo in his own curious style. The Ermine has his own reasons for being grateful for London 2012 as it allowed me to run my exit plan, a great swansong project to work on as a small piece for The Firm and to save enough to retire early. It’s good to go out on a high 🙂

Something to also be thankful for is that no bunch of idiotic sociopathic zealots managed to kill people or otherwise bugger things up.

What I wouldn’t like to see is for politicians to take the wrong message away though. There is probably a legacy to be taken away from the success, but it needs care and nuance to derive it. Not everything is as it seems.

No, Dave. Some is good. More is not always better

Our Dave has decided to hitch a wagon to the moment, and is calling for More. Competitive. Sport. In. Schools. Now.

The ermine says NO. I went to a grammar school, that did a lot of things right, in hindsight. However, in the frenetic anti-grammar school ethos of 1970s Labour, they were also a wannabe independent school, and actually became one later on as they were forced out of the LEA unless they became a comprehensive school. One of the things people associate with independent schools in Britain is some sort of Calvinist concept that competitive sports is character building.

Dave is half right. I’d agree with him that the ethos of not failing needs to be canned. Not convinced about team sports at all. My experience of compulsory-for-all competitive sports in schools is that it is character building – just that it builds the wrong sort of character. Competitive sports doesn’t, in general, teach schoolkids to be sporting and to play the game and have respect for your fellow man and win or lose well. It pumps up those with more physical prowess, tells them they are great. That turns them into nasty bullies. I ended up on the wrong end of that. I am of average build but physically nothing special. I didn’t see the point of sports. And got hassle all the time in competitive sports, until one day I came to the conclusion that though it wasn’t considered sporting and cricket, when the lead of the rugby team decided to pick on me for the n’th time that a good hefty knee in the nuts would improve this psychopath’s attitude no end. It did. It also improved the attitude of his mates; they realised that the Ermine was capable of totally unpredictable and dangerous behaviour, even though he was a weakling.

Before then I had been knocked out cold and generally harassed, all in the name of sport. School children are nasty and immature – the whole point of school is to mould them until they can function in a human society. Competitve psorts are great for those good at it, and this goes to their head, so they despise and pick on the uncoordinated or the weak, or the different. I was different, and poorly coordinated.

Now it may be at Eton they actually take the time to teach the weak and uncoordinated how to use their physical capabilities to better effect. The different they probably deal with by not accepting them in the first place 😉

I had to get to work and go through safety training before I learned I had more upper body strength than typical, because I was shown how to apply it properly. Teenagers are often poorly coordinated because their bodies are growing, perhaps I had a worse case of that than normal. Becoming an adult fixed that for me.

Unlike Eton, at a State school there probably isn’t enough time to teach the less able, and there isn’t the time to teach those good at competitive sports some social compassion either. My experience of competitive sports is that it is a bullies’ charter. There’s not enough money in the education system in my view to avoid that, and in the end school is also about giving people the skills to be productive workers in an industrial society, and we probably need improvement in that area which is also a call on resources.

No, Dave. More competitive sports at school is not an answer until you can find a way to stop it being a bullies’ charter. I was lucky enough to be self-aware enough to see that exceptional circumstances needed exceptional solutions and realise that going outside socially accepted norms was a reasonably response to a pumped up thug high on praise. Not every picked on kid is lucky enough to have an insight like that, or to have the grit to execute such a risky plan.

It also had a knock-on effect. I hate and loathe all sorts of team sports in all their manifestations. I probably am physically lazy by nature, but school gave me a specific loathing for sport. I’ve never set foot in a gym since leaving school. It does show 😉

I’m not rabidly anti-exercise, but I do demand it does something for me. Cycling is okay because it gets me from one place to another without running costs. I am prepared to hike to see interesting stuff. But team sports, no. I am extremely happy that they are not part of my life, as a participant or a spectator, ever since the experiences of school. At least there’s an upside – Sky is never going to sell me an expensive sports package 😉

So, Dave, the Olympics was magic and showed the best of British on the fields of play and off them. This was the pinnacle of human physical achievements. You can’t just infer the general from the particular to say that therefore more competitive sports is needed in schools until you have the answer to the side-effects of encouraging nasty little pieces of work to bully the less physically competent. Competitive sports teaches kids might is right as a byproduct. That’s not necessarily a good thing to do…