by Colin Campbell
IT takes stamina to sit through a solid 10 hours of TV sport but on Saturday there was an abundance of riches and I’ve no doubt many people across the country gritted their teeth and saw it through to the end.
I’ve been to Wimbledon twice and watch as much of it as possible every year, but there’s rarely been a thriller to match the performance of 18-year-old Londoner Emma Raducanu, completely unknown a week ago and now virtually a household name after her enthralling, edge of the seat victory against an opponent who was widely expected to sweep her aside.
Then it was a switchover to Eurosport and the Tour de France, another sporting memory from a hillside in the Pyrenees, which didn’t last long. You wait at the roadside for hours as the cavalcade of vehicles accompanying the world’s greatest bike race passes by in a never ending convoy, with free gifts being chucked out from some of them. And then the riders arrive and flash by in about 90 seconds. But I wouldn’t have missed it, and you do feel part of it through being covered from head to foot in roadside dust.
And then of course, the Euros, with two matches rounded off by England playing in Rome against the Ukraine. Their 4-0 victory at least partly passed me by, but by then armchair weariness was setting in.
But while all this live action was going on – compare and contrast with the soul destroying dearth of sporting drama over most of the past 15 months – what was the main talking point among a section of the population in Scotland, ably stoked up by the Herald and The National?
It was a day long “Twitterstorm row” over Boris Johnson pictured standing on the flag of St George in front of No 10, to show his support for the England football team and, who knows, maybe Emma Raducanu as well.
The abuse poured down on him from nationalists like venom at an Old Firm match. This was proof positive that he was Prime Minister of an English Parliament which serves only English interests and he cares about England and nothing and no one beyond its borders.
One of the saddest aspects of this was that it was given lead prominence throughout the day on the website of the Herald, which, under the long and distinguished editorship of Arnold Kemp a couple of decades ago sold around 120,000 papers a day and was one of the most respected – by people of all political persuasions – newspapers in Britain and across Europe.
Now it sells a tiny fraction of that number and is little better than the National, produced by the same company, in its relentless quest for grievances for the nationalists to sulk, whine and whinge over.
One succinct comment under the main article described the attack on Johnson as insane. He is English, he supports England and if he chooses to demonstrate his support for his national football team, what possibly can be the problem with that?
But the weight of opinion was that Johnson had failed to stand on a Saltire before Scotland matches so his anti-Scottish bigotry and bias was there for all to see.
And what, one outraged critic demanded, would have been the scale of the backlash from Unionists if Nicola Sturgeon had adopted a similar pose in front of Bute House if Scotland had been playing in the quarter-finals of the tournament.
The simple answer to that is there would have been no backlash. It would have been perfectly right, proper and acceptable if she’d done so. In fact in the eyes of every Scot of every political persuasion it would have been seen as a snub to the national football team if she’d failed to make a grandiose, even ostentatious gesture of support.
But we didn’t reach the quarter finals, or get anywhere near them. And if we ever do, please God Sturgeon will have been substituted, red carded or be playing Scrabble in a care home long before it ever happens.
But where were the media stirrers and the grievance mongering nationalists when Sturgeon made decisions of much more significance than Boris Johnson standing on a flag.
She opened up Hampden to 12,000 fans for Scotland games in the first round of the tournament when Glasgow was still in the level 3 virus category. She was under so much pressure to do that that it was understandable, but it was still jarringly at odds with her ultra-cautious approach at the time, with severe restrictions still in force across the entire city.
She opened up fanzones in Glasgow where thousands gathered as booze flowed freely when they could all have watched the match at home.
And she had virtually nothing to say about thousands of ticketless fans piling aboard trains and buses heading for a mass party in London when Scotland were playing at Wembley. The “close the border” nationalists who have been so much in evidence fell completely silent when the travelling virus risk was heading south rather than north. That drunken weekend of revelry has since been linked to 2,000 virus infections.
But Travel Commissar Sturgeon did nothing to try and stop it, in the full knowledge that it was a rampant super spreader event. But she did find the time to ban travel from Scotland to Manchester, which at the time had a lower infection rate than Dundee.
The blatant hypocrisy of condemning Johnson for standing on a flag after Sturgeon’s football free for all would be shocking if we weren’t so used it.
Scotland did well to qualify for the tournament but didn’t measure up when confronted by superior opponents. But who knows how well they might do in the World Cup qualifiers after gaining top tourney experience and at least some boost to their morale.
But one thing is certain. The endlessly whingeing barrel scraping nationalist grievance mongers are truly world class at it, and their hate-driven stamina for trying to stoke up conflict, division and anti-English sentiment is nothing short of Olympian.