I plugged the telly in and watched the Eurovision Song Contest last Saturday night. It’s only occurred to me in the days since to wonder why on earth I tune in every year. I mean, I know it’s a load of phoney baloney, but finally I think I understand.
I love the voting.
And it’s not in any sort of ironic, ‘love to hate’ kind of way, no. I just enjoy it for what it is.
Let’s face it, any voting system that cheerfully and unashamedly makes FIFA’s process of selecting nations to host the next two World Cup finals look like a paragon of virtue has to be a hugely fascinating thing. In my opinion the brutality of the dishonesty is in itself disarmingly honest.
So Cyprus gives Greece its vote. What do you expect?
And here’s the rub. There ain’t no point bleating on about fair play in life because nothing in life actually is, even if we like to pretend otherwise.
Why else do we pepper our language with such idioms as ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’, ‘all’s fair in love and war’ (an oxymoronic, twisted piece of perverted logic), ‘only the good die young’, and ‘a fair crack of the whip’? Additionally we often bemoan the lucky sod who has had ‘more than his fair share of ...’ this fair share being something or other that we haven’t been getting (money, sex, or those little free sachets of barbeque sauce at the local burger joint). In fairness (see, even I’m doing it now) this last phrase can also be used with negative connotations, as in ‘he’s had more than his fair share of bad luck’.
Fair play and decency, it’s the very cornerstone of what we like to think of as Britishness. It’s what the Victorians invented team sports for. I mean what better educational model in life has ever been designed to teach youngsters the basics of fairness than a good hard game of rugger, footy or cricket?
By the time you’re reading this the Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester Utd may have been played. If so, I cannot guarantee that a fair and equitable result ensued, and that the best team won, but I can guarantee that the team that scored the most goals did – be them in normal play or from the penalty spot. There’s fairness, and there’s rules you see, and they aren’t always the same thing, much as we’d like them to be.
Thus it’s reasonable to speculate from my position here, pre-Champions League final, that one half of Europe will spend days bleating after the game about how corrupt the referee was and/or how incredibly unfair the result was. The other half won’t.
People, you need to get a life.
Aside from its inbuilt and immutable unfairness, the other problem with sports is that once we work out the rules, we work out how to bend them, break them and in many cases, utterly disregard them. And so it is in life. We can’t help it.
Our great British Empire was built on these fundamentally flawed tenets of fair play and decency – the sort that allowed us to march into other people’s countries and steal all their land and resources. There was nothing unfair about this. They had stuff we needed. It wasn’t fair they had it and we didn’t, etc etc.
But let’s not get pernickety. Or overtly political. Hardly anything’s actually fair at all when you think about it. In fact, nothing is. And really, once you accept it, you realise there’s no problem and that a system of blatant unfairness is actually a pretty good one with which to orchestrate life on a planet. Life is, to the very core, inherently unfair: life and everything that’s in it, all the way down to sachets of barbeque sauce and Joe Bloggs winning the Euro lottery.
Problems occur only when we start believing in the delusion of fairness. You’re as likely to hear a Frenchman at Eurovision say ‘and our twelve points this year goes to [dramatic pause] the United Kingdom ...’ as you are to expect anything in life to actually be kosher.
The prettiest girls get the richest boys and a football team can slaughter another yet lose a match one nil. Yes, even Jedward can finish as high as 9th in a singing competition. It’s called life.
So my advice? Accept all this and you’ll be fine. Don’t gnash your teeth next time Germany gives Austria maximum Eurovision points and don’t rail against the unfairness of the world next time you see Peter Crouch’s incredible new girlfriend.
Azerbaijan may or may not have had the best song and it mightn’t even be in Europe (is it?), but whatever. It’s irrelevant. They won coz they scored the most goals. And they had the prettiest girls too. It all seems fair enough to me.