Proud to be British

A good ad for prosecco

As a staunch believer in progress, I’m happy to see that British sports fans are moving up in the world.

They used to brawl only at football matches in places like Millwall and Luton, pre-arranging punch-ups on their mobiles. That took an element of surprise out of the proceedings, emphasising yet again the organisational talents of our working classes.

Actually, referring to those hostilities as ‘punch-ups’ is doing them a disservice. For the warring parties didn’t just use their fists: razor blades, beer bottles, knuckledusters, sawn-off baseball bats would typically see the light of day too.

(British sports shops sell about 500,000 baseball bats a year, although no one plays baseball. People in this country play cricket, but our sports lovers have cottoned on to the relative ballistic advantages of round baseball bats over flat cricket ones. That does credit to their understanding of applied aerodynamics.)

Without meaning to demean football lovers in any way, their chosen sport has traditionally been seen as the joy of the working classes. Formula 1 racing, on the other hand, is a gentlemen’s sport. Hence brawling at a Grand Prix race proves upward mobility, a step up the social ladder.

It’s with a sense of frankly jingoistic pride that I’m pleased to report that British sports fans have demonstrated their dynamic potential by making that step, nay leap. Yesterday they kicked off a mass brawl at an Abu Dhabi Grand Prix party.

The exclusive party was held at the VIP terrace overlooking the track, which suggests that the attending Britons weren’t exactly paupers. A trip to Abu Dhabi including a Formula 1 race, a stay at the emirate’s prohibitively expensive hotels, and a place on the VIP terrace, has to run well into four figures.

And if money isn’t a class indicator, what is? Our well-healed countrymen proved their social ascendancy by getting drunk not on prole lager but on solidly middleclass prosecco. That refreshment offers the additional benefit of coming in a sturdy bottle that’s much less breakable than the flimsy containers of proletarian beverages.

All those factors came together when our upmarket Britons tore into one another, battering their fellow revellers with prosecco bottles used as either clubs or projectiles. They clambered over furniture to bust one another’s skulls, threw chairs and parasols, and in general enjoyed themselves in the manner for which British sports fans are so justly famous.

The musical accompaniment fit the occasion. It was provided by Kanye West’s song All of the Lights, in which the great artist refuted accusations of racial bias by singing: “How I’m anti-Semitic? I just fucked a Jewish bitch.”

Mr West was present at the race, but no claims of his taking part in the pugilistic festivities have so far been made. He was rubbing shoulders with other celebrities, such as Naomi Campbell, but it’s unclear whether they rated admission to the VIP terrace.

Lest you may think that Britons have all gone hoity-toity, football fans are still doing their best to uphold our country’s reputation. Yesterday they were involved in a regular battle in Paris, which, you must agree, is a classier place than either Millwall or Luton.

Newcastle United are to play PSG tonight, which is the return leg of their group match in the European Championship. Newcastle won the first leg both on the pitch and off. Those sturdy Geordies showed the outnumbered Frenchmen what was what, in the process teaching them the meaning of such essential English questions as “Whatcha lookin’ at?”, “You f’kin wha’, mate?” and “Want some?”

The answers were delivered last night by PSG ultras who attacked the pubs in which Newcastle fans were refreshing themselves with pints of Newkie Brown. The French must have learned how to do that from us, and it’s good to see that our cultural influence is spreading well beyond our shores. Flares and bottles were thrown, glass was smashed, and our French disciples tried to storm the ramparts defended by the British.

The Newcastle United Supporters Club posted: “Stay safe in Paris tonight. Stick together and look after each other.” That brought to mind the celebrated battle of Thermopylae, in which King Leonidas must have sent a similar message to his 300 Spartans, if without the benefit of electronic communications.

The PSG ultras had no problem finding the visiting Geordies because they had all been directed to the specially designated pubs. That’s where the fans flocked, vindicating Gilbert and Sullivan’s verse: “In spite of all temptations to belong to other nations, he remains an Englishman!”

There is no dearth of indigenous drinking establishments in Paris where one can relax with a kir or a glass of pink Sancerre. In fact, in the distant past that’s where visiting Britons went, forgoing their customary food and drink for what they saw as part of the travelling experience.

But then upward mobility kicked in, and Britons began to travel in numbers encouraging them to think of foreign lands as conquered countries. And conquerors don’t adapt to the mores of the vanquished – it’s the other way around.

Hence English and Irish pubs spread all over Paris, where our upwardly mobile tourists pour gallons of British beer down their gullets and act in the manner evoking the image of a dingy boozer in a bad part of, well, Millwall or Luton. (I’m not sure those places have good parts.)

While the fashion for football hooliganism might have started in Britain, things don’t stay parochial for long in our globalised world. Now such displays of primitive tribalism are also common in France, Holland, Germany, Spain, Italy and throughout Europe.

Other abominations, such as tattoos and facial metal, are spreading as fast, along with jungle music like rap. Last summer we were having lunch in the beautiful Burgundian town of Clamecy, when a group of youngsters ensconced themselves outside with a ghetto blaster (otherwise known as a ‘third world briefcase’) blaring rap – in French. Let me tell you, that’s a far cry from Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour.

Over the past couple of centuries, the centre of cultural gravity has steadily shifted from the aristocracy to the middle classes to the proletariat and now to the lumpen underclass. I don’t know if cannibalism is the next stage but, if it is, count on me to keep you informed.

4 thoughts on “Proud to be British”

  1. We have imported the custom to America, but made it uniquely our own by removing the gang element and making it a more personal affair. The protagonist will usually focus his attention on one individual. He may be joined by friends or family and the poor antagonist is usually outnumbered, unless he has some very sturdy friends at hand.

    I did witness firsthand a multi-generational family affair at an American football game. Three generations of one family (children, parents, and grandmother) took it upon themselves to loose their anger on a similar clan who dared root for the visiting team. While security escorted out the aggressors during the halftime revelries, we saw them after the game, waiting outside the gates, still wanting to vent their anger more than an hour later. It was the grandmother who spied the offending family, shouting and pointing as they worked their way through the crowd. I did not delay to watch the proceedings, but shook my head in disgust and walked away. I attended a baseball game with my grandmother and grandfather when I was 8. I remember her buying me a cap. I have no recollection of her starting brawl.

    1. Yes, I remember many years ago I took my son to a fooball game in Annaheim, California. The Rams were playing Denver, and Denver won. As we walked to the car, some Denver fans were loudly celebrating in the car park. Crowds of Angelinos just walked by, smiling and waving at them. It was all good-natured family fun. If the same thing happened, say, in Manchester, with visiting Liverpool fans celebrating in the same manner, none of them would get out alive. I suppose by now general brutalisation must have reached American stadiums as well.

      1. My experience above was at Anaheim, Rams versus Green Bay Packers. Still, Anaheim is much better than Los Angeles. One quick look around the parking lot prior to the game gives all the evidence one needs. The Dodger Stadium parking lot is littered with beer bottles, not so for the Angels – unless it is a game against the Dodgers.

        I do enjoy an afternoon at the ol’ ballpark, but time and price constraints have made it a far less frequent outing.

  2. “(British sports shops sell about 500,000 baseball bats a year, although no one plays baseball.”

    American imports to the rest of the world often are nasty. Pit bulls, baseball bats, rap music.

    Remember too if you need to use the bat go for the knee first and then the head. Remember.

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