England versus Russia in the Euro 2008 football tournament qualifier, England versus South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final, and Lewis Hamilton fighting to win the F1 world championship.
But after two defeats it falls to Hamilton to lift the sporting spirit in his homeland – and cement himself and his sport in the nation’s affections.
A surprise comeback by Russia saw them win 2-1 and all but see off England’s hopes of qualifying for next year’s European championship. South Africa’s rugby victory was less of a surprise, but no less galling to fans of the former rugby world cup holders.
The English media fixates on the country’s great sporting failures – or, at least, those individuals and teams deemed failures in the eyes of the press and public. Tim Henman is a fine tennis player, but he’ll never be forgiven for not winning Wimbledon.
I don’t care for the nauseating hype that now pervades most mainstream coverage of anything to do with Lewis Hamilton. But I like to see F1 in good health in my home country. I’d like to think that a Hamilton championship and the surge of public interest it would bring would lessen the likelihood the British Grand Prix disappearing from the calendar.
If tomorrow’s race does give Hamilton’s British fans the result they want, I won’t be complaining if I end up reading more F1 headlines in the future, and less about all those other sports that leave me cold.
But above all, let’s have a close, exciting, free and fair fight, with none of the acrimony and controversy that has spoiled the season. Let it be decided on the track, and may the best man win – whoever it may be.
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