Sports Editor’s blog: What will be sillier in 2020 - sport or life?

Is it time to reassess our attitude to sport in our New Year's Resolutions? EMN-200201-135434002
Is it time to reassess our attitude to sport in our New Year's Resolutions? EMN-200201-135434002
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No matter how much we might try to avoid falling into New Year’s classic trap, many of us will find it hard to resist a spot of navel gazing.

Akin to the spirit of the eternally disappointed supporter and their tragic mantra, ‘there’s always next season’.

In my own indulgent moments of self-assessment, my job and passion for sport and its endless minutiae can seem pretty frivolous.

In one particular New Year column, I once vowed to improve my lot and broaden my horizons by taking sport less seriously.

Instead dedicating the time previously committed to watching or fretting over my football team to learning new skills.

It seemed a good plan, and would in principle free up enough time to learn at least one new language, maybe two.

Of course, it was a wildly idealistic idea, doomed to fail, and did so quicker than you can say, ‘How do I get out of this gym subscription?’

Mainly because I possess all of the willpower, motivation and self-discipline of a particularly idle sloth.

It will be a tragic episode when my son one day comes to me for sage wisdom about the world and life, and I can only respond by listing the FA Cup finalists and goalscorers from 1978 to 1990.

Or name the cricketer who hit the winning runs in the Benson and Hedges Cup final in 1987.

If you are now pondering these questions, welcome to the club. Now seek immediate medical help.

It seems all the more frivolous in these political and social times of uncertainty and hardship as the country heads into the unknown - either into a brave new world of opportunity, or a hopeless abyss whichever side of the fence you occupy.

But perhaps because of this, rather than in spite of, the need for sport could become greater than ever.

After all when uncertainty unsettles, turning to escapism can be the only way to stay sane.

Saturday afternoon kick-offs were designed to fit around the lives of the masses in the days when Saturday mornings were considered standard working hours.

Like the millworkers and miners when the Football League sprang up 130-odd years ago, for some sport remains a brief, priceless window of respite from the hardships of reality.

For all of its frivolity and failings, sport – if taken in a correct dosage and with adult supervision – can still serve important functions as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

There are, of course, the limitless benefits to physical and mental health that taking part in sport and activity bring.

And as a follower, the tonic a top result brings – or the failure of a rival – may be temporary, but can make a world of difference to a day.

Think back to how the London Olympics lifted some of the gloom of global recession and austerity.

Memories of last year’s Cricket World Cup final kept me bouncing back throughout a tricky 2019, just as it enchanted a massive TV audience, including those who would rather knock themselves senseless than admit they liked sport.

Twice in the summer of 2019, Ben Stokes morphed into the Ian Botham of 1981, and unified a divided country in rare joy.

Whenever Botham talks about his extraordinary Ashes heroics he refers to the turmoil off the field at a time of riots and social strife, and how the country needed a lift.

The parallels between the two summers on and off the field are there for all to see.

When it comes to the everyday headaches of work, paying the bills and putting food on tables, sport is useless, and pinning all of your hopes on your team is silly.

But when the world itself appears to become more ridiculous and less credible, perhaps I’ll take sport more seriously.