It goes without saying that this year Somerset’s RLODC campaign has been disappointing. No Somerset supporter would argue otherwise and all would agree that, despite last Wednesday’s heroics by Ben Green, it hasn’t been easy following the team they love when results have turned out the way they have. Earlier in the week I commented that supporting Somerset isn’t just about winning. There were, it seems, those who disagreed, arguing that it was most definitely all about winning. But those individuals were wrong – because sometimes it’s all about defeat.

If sport has any value at all then surely it’s that, alongside the pleasure of competing, it can teach us something, not only about how to win when things go well but also something about how to lose when things go badly wrong. Learning these lessons in the safe environment of the sporting arena has the potential to prepare us for when life itself starts to go badly wrong. Because badly wrong is how things will eventually go for us all.

One of my favourite musicians is Leonard Cohen. Known as the ‘godfather of gloom’ on account of his propensity to sing depressing songs, he was once asked why so much of his music was melancholic in tone. This was his answer:

“We all love a sad song. Everybody has experienced the defeat of their lives. Nobody has a life that worked out the way they wanted it to. We all begin as the hero of our own dramas in centre stage and inevitably life moves us out of centre stage, defeats the hero, overturns the plot and the strategy and we’re left on the side-lines wondering why we no longer have a part – or want a part – in the whole damn thing. Everybody’s experienced this, and when it’s presented to us sweetly, the feeling moves from heart to heart and we feel less isolated and we feel part of the great human chain which is really involved with the recognition of defeat”.

To recognise defeat then is something we all sometimes need to do. The announcement of James Hildreth’s retirement this week is itself proof that even dear old ‘Hildy’ has sadly had to acknowledge a degree of defeat now that the years have inevitably rolled on and he can no longer do what once he could. To pretend that everyone is not only awesome but will remain so for ever is foolishness and puts an intolerable burden on those that we imagine have superhuman powers and from whom we demand perfection. No wonder so many sportsmen and women suffer with poor mental health.

When we fail, as we all have, we would not want others to criticise and condemn us, especially when those doing the criticising are those who claim to be on our side. Neither then should we criticise those who have failed to live up to the demands that we have placed on them to provide for us the glory we could never achieve for ourselves.

How then should we respond to those who are no doubt just as disappointed about how recent games have gone as we are? Well for starters I would suggest that we could show a little humility, recognising our own weakness and our total inability to deliver what we have asked of them. And then we would do well to simply shut up and, rather than trying to advise on matters that more often than not we know nothing about, simply offer our support.

In such circumstances we may feel useless, but that’s not necessarily so. Knowing our own inadequacy allows us to stop being those so called experts who can’t help, and allows us to become instead those individuals who can, simply by entering a little into the grief of those about whom we say we care. In other words, rather than being angry with the team whilst desperately looking for someone to blame, we would do far better by simply sharing in their disappointment. If it’s true when we say we support our team, we must weep with them when they weep every bit as much as we rejoice with them when they rejoice.

In ‘Out of Solitude’, Henri Nouwen wrote,

‘When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.’

And perhaps that is exactly the type of supporter who cares too.

I don’t doubt that, for Somerset, winning ways will one day return, but until they do let’s do all we can to lift the team rather than to trample them still further into the ground.

Because #WeAreSomerset and it’s not just about winning.

Other Somerset cricket related blogs:

To read ‘A Tale of Two Tons’, click here

To read ‘A Song for Brian’, click here

To read ‘A Cricket Taunt’, click here

To read ‘How Covid-19 stole the the cricket season’, click here

To read ‘Eve of the RLODC limericks’ click here

To read ‘It’s coming home…’, click here

To read ‘A Song for Ben Green’, click here

To read ‘Enough Said…’, the last section of which is cricket related, click here

A Jack Leach Trilogy:

To read ‘For when we can’t see why’, click here

To read ‘WWJD – What would Jack Do?’, click here

To read ‘On Playing a Blinder’, click here

To read ‘Coping with Disappointment’, click here

To read ‘Somerset CCC – Good for the soul’, click here

To read ‘Longing for the pavilion whilst enjoying a good innings’, click here

Other related posts:

To read ‘General Practice, a sweet sorrow’, click here

To read ‘Don’t forget to be ordinary if you want to be happy’, click here

To read ‘Reflections on the death of Leonard Cohen, click here

To read ‘Luther and the Global Pandemic – on becoming a theologian of the the cross’, click here

17 responses to “IF ONLY…”

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