What is it that the World Cup, Jim 'Suldog' Sullivan and Birmingham schools have in common? I can't think of anything - except this blog. Actually, that's not entirely true. I've just noticed one thing they have in common: the places where all three can be found all start with the letter B - Brazil, Boston and Birmingham. Now that really is blue sky thinking! (Horrible phrase!!)
It has seemed over the past few weeks (is that really all it is?) that scarcely a day goes by without Birmingham schools being in the news. If you really must have all the unpleasant details, just try Googling 'Trojan horse Birmingham schools'. If, however, you are content with a brief summary, here it is.
There has, it is alleged, been a plot for several schools in Birmingham to adopt a strict Muslim education policy, almost teaching extremism. This has really boiled over in the last couple of months or so but has actually, according to my daughter, been going on for some time. (My daughter, until recently, taught at one of the schools concerned. It has taken her two years to find another job, two years during which she became increasingly concerned about the failure of the education powers that be to do anything.) Schools across the country have now been told that they must promote “British values” in the classroom. This, perhaps not surprisingly, has led to discussion about what exactly are "British values". Politicians (naturally) and writers of letters to the newspapers have all suggested various things. Tolerance, an acceptance of queuing, putting other people at ease, a sense of fair play, cucumber sandwiches (without the crusts) - all kinds of things have been proposed. And yes, many, possible even most of the things suggested are what many of the silent majority of Britons would like to claim as part of the make-up of this island race.
(It's odd; I haven't seen or heard cricket mentioned.)
But there is one thing above all that seems to have been overlooked by all commentators and contributors to the debate. And this is where Suldog comes in. I have to say that, great softball player he might be - and a future Pulitzer winner as well - but as a sports tipster he is rubbish. The other day he even tipped England to win the World Cup! Granted, the England players are in Brazil to take part in the World Cup, but they might as well have saved the cost as they have no chance. Yes, England have won the World Cup - once, in 1966 (how well I remember!) - and we are usually there in the finals, but for goodness sake! We invented the game! You can't seriously think we can play it better than every other country?
These are the real, unvarnished truths of the matter: we Brits invent things (the world wide web, hovercraft et al) but leave others to really take them on and make them better, to develop the full potential. And when it comes to sport, well, we take part but don't reckon to win. After all, that just wouldn't be cricket, would it, old man? It's really part of the innate courtesy of we British, adopting the "after you" attitude and not wishing to be pushy.
So, England for the cup? In your dreams!