The fabulous coverage of the Tour de France Grand Départ was marred by Yorkshiremen inexplicably shouting the word “Yorkshire” at the cyclists.
As someone who doesn’t really ‘get’ sport, because it’s boring, the Tour de France was something that I was quite prepared to get on board with. It did, after all, go through lots of places I know quite well, plus it involved no effort other than that of going to stand around at the end of my road waiting to catch a pack of Haribo and a commemorative 10-teabag gift pack of Yorkshire Thé. Oh, and a Carrefour-branded hat. And a plastic pillow. Whatever.
And it was indeed quite a spectacle. Quite apart from the cycling, the combined counties of West and North Yorkshire looked surprisingly sunny and pleasant for most of the time, giving the Yorkshire Tourist board the kind of fillip that only televising the entire landscape of a nice-looking place can really achieve. Chuck in a few freeloading royals, a red arrows fly-past, some frankly incredible cycling and a bit of finishing line drama and I’d almost go so far as to say that the Tour de France is an event I’m enthusiastic about.
What strikes me with this and every other sport is the apparent need to shout inane things and act stupidly in the presence of someone else’s brilliant achievement. Like shouting “Yorkshire!” repeatedly whilst angrily waving fists at a bunch of Italian and German cyclists, presumably just because you’re in, or from, one of the three distinct Yorkshires. Or standing in the road taking selfies while a pack of cyclists hurtle towards you at 50 miles per hour. Or letting your kids wander into the road. Or crowding the road and getting out of the way at the last possible second, obscuring the view and making things more dangerous than they need to be.
Initially I thought that the tendency for Yorkshire people to spontaneously shout out the name of the region they’re from, in a fit of misplaced loyalty based solely on a freak of birth, might have been one of the reasons why the British government was backing the Scottish bid for the Tour de France. On reflection, it was probably yet another self-defeating attempt to persuade Scottish people not to vote for independence. The Scots would probably have been yelling “Cowdenbeath!” at Vincenzo Nibali as well.
Obviously it’s not just sport. At any moderately attended gig, someone will choose a quiet moment to shout the name of their hometown. Although that’s probably really their football team, so it is kind of sport too.
There must be better words of sporting encouragement that can be shouted, in place of the name of a county. I’d favour “bravo!”. Which does at least have the advantage of not sounding threatening, especially if the Yorkshire accompaniment of inexplicable fist shaking could be converted into an agreeable, warm handclap.