THEY say it’s not the winning that counts, it’s the taking part – but we all know that’s not entirely true, don’t we.
As sports fans, we support our teams passionately, we cheer them and encourage them, we share their sweet moments of victory and shed with them the bitter tears of defeat.
Why? Because we want them to win!
When we stand on the terraces or sit in the stands and bellow at our heroes with lung-busting volume, what is our message? Certainly not “come last”, “don’t win” or “it doesn’t matter if you don’t come first, it’s the taking part that matters anyway”.
But for every winner there’s a loser. Or in a speedway race, three losers. And when your team competes in a league populated by 12 other sides, the simple laws of mathematics tell you there are going to be a lot of unhappy punters come October.
As a small kid I was an avid Rayleigh Rockets fans and they were, how shall we put it, not very good.
So imagine my delight at the end of the season when, at the end of one particularly poor season, they were presented with a prize on the centre green. We’d won something! We weren’t rubbish after all!
I swear there was a tear in my eye as I watched the Rockets manager step forward and receive… the Wooden Spoon.
I was a kid! I How was I to know it wasn’t a real prize? It was a real, actual wooden spoon they handed over, so it had to be real, didn’t it?
My parents, bless ’em, went along with it. But then we all know the lies parents spin when we’re young, don’t we?The bogey man will get us if we stay out late. The Tooth Fairy.
And don’t get me started about Father Christmas and the magic spanner he uses to negotiate the fire place when there’s a gas fire in front of it.
Eventually it dawned on me that, rather than being a hard-earned reward for sporting excellence, the Wooden Spoon is a prize no side wants to win. But in a few weeks time one of speedway’s 13 Premier League teams will be the not so proud possessors of said ‘accolade’. And it could be Redcar Bears.
A season that promised so much disintegrated before our very eyes and the Bears currently stand just one place off the foot of the table.
Immediately above are Sheffield, whose defeat at Glasgow has put them well and truly in the brown stuff, and then Berwick, who officially entered the race for the wooden spoon with a home loss to Edinburgh the night before.
Berwick, of course, are the visitors to South Tees Motorsports Park on Thursday as the race to avoid last place heads full throttle towards its conclusion.
I’m old and wise enough to know now that whoever does eventually get the Wooden Spoon won’t be expecting an open top bus ride for their efforts.
But if I see a young lad cheering with misguided pleasure, I’ll let him savour the moment.