Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – May 15, 1948
Loyalties of Association
I felt quite excited as I took up the paper and looked for the result of the football match between Bournemouth and Queen’s Park Rangers. I feared, I may say, the worst: and the worst would have been for Queen’s Park Rangers to be beaten.
My excitement may seem odd since I am not a devotee of association football and have never seen Queen’s Park Rangers playing. I know a Queen’s Park director, however, and I cannot help sharing his up-and-down hopes and fears.
Hence I groaned in spirit when Q.P.R. collapsed the other day before Leyton Orient, and I was in a state of fluttering anxiety as to the result of what was generally regarded as the key match in Bournemouth. When I read the result of the game I felt that the world had taken a distinct turn for the better.
The only other team whose fortunes I follow with the same loyalty is Tottenham Hotspur: and on one occasion I actually went to White Hart Lane to see them playing.
A friend of mine happens to be a supporter of the club, and his fanatical soul must have entered into me as I watched the game, for though I am not much of a roarer I found myself roaring with the roaring crowd every time the ball got among the forwards.
Personal association certainly accounts for a good many of our loyalties. I remember once sitting at a rugby match between London Scottish and Bath, and, to my surprise, shouting as loud on the side of Bath as my narrow chest would permit:
“What’s exciting you?” a Scotsman sitting beside me asked. “What’s Bath to you?” “I once spent a week at Bath,” I explained, and even so slight an association turned me into a Bath chap for the duration of the game.
In cricket as a small boy, I worshipped the Surrey of Lockwood and Lohman, in quite an impersonal way, for I lived far from the world of county cricket; but, when I came to London, I transferred my allegiance to Middlesex, and felt that the world was a good place as I saw Middlesex under the captaincy of P. F. Warner beating Surrey at Lord’s and winning the country championship.
Later, when I spent a few years in Sussex, I became a pro-Sussex man; and even now the day always seems a little brighter to me when I read that Cox has scored at least 50.
As between the old universities, I have always been an Oxford man, probably because my Greek professor, Sir Laurence Dill, was one. Then there were Ruskin and Matthew Arnold. I never like to see Ruskin and Matthew beaten in the boat race.
I seem all my life to have been taking sides not out of principle but for purely personal reasons. I have always been for my end of the town against your end of the town, for my city against your city, for my province against your province, for my country against your country.
I do not go so far as to say “My country right or wrong” for as Chesterton once observed, a man might as reasonably say, “My mother drunk or sober.” But loyalty is always there coloring my judgment. Even at the present day my Presbyterian upbringing makes me dislike hearing anyone outside the fold attacking John Knox.
When once is on one’s travels too, one is constantly collecting new loyalties. Ever since I first visited Italy, I have hated to hear anyone speaking disparagingly of Rome and St. Peter’s.
Similarly, as a result of having been there, I am conscious of certain loyalties to France, Spain, Canada; and if I had been to Russia I have no doubt that I should still long for the Moscow Dynamos to beat the Bulgarian Wanderers at football.
I will not go further than that; but I am a weak vessel, a very weak vessel indeed. I am such a slave to personal associations that after a visit to Russia I might easily find myself as enthusiastic about Mr. Molotov as I am about Queen’s Park Rangers.
Perhaps, on the whole, it is safer for me to remain in London, where I can judge him with the impartiality of a man who has never set foot in Russia in his life.
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