Being a ‘Jack Of All Trades’ isn’t really something that one aspires to. Yes, it does imply some level of proficiency across a number of different tasks. In supermarkets they call it ‘multi-skilled’. But it also implies that the owner of this moniker lacks focus, dedication and any real, genuine talent in any single discipline. Jack of all trades, master of none. And he or she probably works in a supermarket. Where his ‘multi-skilled’ attributes will be appreciated, but rarely rewarded.
Britain is a bit of a Jack Of All Trades sometimes. Particularly with sport. Most of the world’s most popular sports were ‘invented’ here. Football, rugby, cricket, boxing, baseball, badminton, tennis, hockey, golf. basketball, table tennis and darts amongst them. More modern sports such as bungee jumping and (surprisingly) bobsleigh also came from Britain.
I used the apostrophes with the word ‘invented’ because, of course, many other nations and cultures make claims of their own with regards some of these sports. Some of them have substance, others are really quite spurios. But most of them are generally attributed to Britain. If those with losing claims need solace, it comes with the fact that Britain are, more often than not, the master of none.
That is a bit unfair really I guess. We have had our world beaters. We are the third highest ranking country in the Summer Olympics as far as gold medals go. Although that is largely due to extremely large hauls gained in the early games. More recently, or at least within my lifetime, there have been others. Lennox Lewis beat everyone there was to beat. Torville and Dean skated their way to perfection.
Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Lewis Hamilton and Jensen Button have all won F1 World Championships. As have Williams, McClaren and Lotus, the manufacturers. Lola and Reynard once cleared up the trophies in the US variant of motor racing. In fact no other country seems able to consistently match the British teams in motor racing. What a shame we can build such magnificent machines for the track, but seem so incapable of building more humble cars for sale to road users…
But we do love out sport, and the big sporting occasions. The Boat Race and World Snooker Final at the Crucible in April. The FA Cup Final in May. Wimbledon in June. The British Golf Open and Silverstone GP in July. And tomorrow is the last ‘biggie’ on the calendar. The Grand National at Aintree in Liverpool. A Brit might win that. We make up most of the runners.
The Grand National is a tradition. And putting a few quid on a horse or two in the race is just as much of a tradition. Tomorrow, betting shops will have their busiest day as people up and down the country go to pick their nag. People who otherwise never gamble, save perhaps for the odd game of bingo, will have a flutter on the national. If there’s only one race someone bets on in the year, it’s this one. I’ve put my stake down. A very heady £1.50 on three gee gees, 50p each. To win. My slip is below. Fingers crossed…