Apparently the "beautiful game" has contributed to the demise of the "stiff upper-lip" traditionally exhibited (and skillfully parodied in the Zulu War/tiger sketch in "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life") by the English in trying times. Quentin Letts explains in a piece in today's Wall Street Journal:
English men have long prided themselves on a certain resilience. It has been this way since at least 1815, when Lord Uxbridge was hit by a cannon ball in the closing moments of the Battle of Waterloo and said, in mild surprise: "By God, I've lost my leg." To which his neighbor, the Duke of Wellington, replied: "By God sir, so you have." Today's England was, therefore, a little surprised to switch on its TV sets last weekend and find one of its best-known men weeping over the result of a soccer match.
The fellow's name was David Beckham, captain of the England soccer team. It is hard to overstate his fame in England. "Becks" is the most prominent player of his generation, a man who has made a fortune not only for his skills on the pitch but also as a male pin-up. One of Mr. Beckham's many endorsements was for Gillette razors, whose television ads linger adoringly on his chin of manly stubble. Last Saturday, that same chin wobbled with lachrymose blubbing. The England team was about to be eliminated from the World Cup in Germany and 31-year-old Mr. Beckham, a Conservative-supporting father of two, was inconsolable. Tears rolled down his cheeks like autumn raindrops. His eyes spouted like a garden sprinkler.
When the final whistle blew a few minutes later the England players, almost to a man, sat down and bawled, to be joined by thousands of England fans in the stadium and elsewhere. It was not much better the next day when Mr. Beckham announced his resignation as England captain. He could barely complete his press conference, he was so close to breakdown.
What on earth was happening to the country which bred Captain Oates? Frostbitten Lawrence Oates was the polar explorer who in 1912, not wishing to delay his comrades, stepped out of his tent to certain death with the words: "I am just going outside and may be some time." Now that was manly. That, once, was the English way. It seems hard to believe that just 94 years later an English "hero" such as Mr. Beckham could behave so drippily about the result of a ball game.
Pull it together boys. Now is not the time to go wobbly on us. Perhaps you should focus on a more manly sport. Like cricket.