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Jacob Sweetman: The rites of January

Don’t worry about the misery of the New Year, it’s the ski jumping season again, if only to prove that the world is still turning. So here's a reason to be cheerful, and a random prediction. You may be skint, but it could be worse. Happy New Year!

Image for Jacob Sweetman: The rites of January
Photo by Dirk Ingo Franke (Wikimedia Commons)

All that remains of the carnage that was another Berlin New Year’s Eve is in the paltry, pink, mushy remains of the rockets that are now being washed down the streets by the rain. People trudge through it on their ways back to work, looking like pissed off Munchkins, their backs hunched parallel to the ground, their shoulders stooping and their faces shielded from the wet. Ah, January. So romantic. What should be a time of predictions and hopes for the future is bound up in the drudgery of now. The grey, wet, inescapable now.

But life can be made to look a little rosier if one tries. Sure, you’ve spent all your money already for the month, and there’s only a couple of sprouts in the fridge and half a box of Glühwein (no Rum or amaretto though) on the empty shelf, but things could be worse.

The Sportsdesk just cheered itself up by watching the latest in the often superb 30-30 series of films made by ESPN, “Broke”. It details the traps that young men find themselves lured into on signing their multi-million dollar contracts for the American sports behemoths in the NFL, NBA and MLB leagues. Many of the tales are of frippery to the extreme (or, as this is an ESPN film, that should really read “to the max”, I suppose), with fortunes spunked on stupid cars, vile houses, and terrible musical vanity projects the likes of which make Psy sound like Dusty Springfield. But more often than not these young men are betrayed by advisors, by hangers-on and by the sports themselves. What should be enough money to last a lifetime is suddenly a pittance. They are screwed by great expectations and delusions of grandeur. They often end up broke. It cheered me up at least.

At the end of the film though was a weird moment. It ran a list, stretching out longer than the intro to a Fassbinder version of Star Wars, detailing “sportsmen that have filed for bankruptcy”. It’s got George Best in there, which doesn’t really fit in with the rest of a film entirely about US sports, but we can forgive them that – he was a world star, it works. But then the name comes up: Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards. It isn’t just because he’s British that I have a problem with his inclusion, but this either has to be a list of every sportsman ever that has gone bust, or he simply does not count as a sportsman.

Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards was Britain’s greatest ski jumper. He was probably, however, one of Europe’s worst. I was surprised to see him on the list, but only a little because his name always crops up at this time of year – the ski jumping season – remembered as a beautifully geeky, thick-glasses wearing, innocent loser in the mould that the British used to not be able to get enough of on their TV screens and in their newspapers (until, of course, the Olympics this summer, which has now had the ultimately heart-breaking result that the British now revel in their sporting winners, which can only end in tears).

Yes the ski jumping sees us into 2013 (watch it on Eurosport, it’s a remarkably great way to spend a wet, boring day), and life goes in another circle. It can’t be the Super Bowl again can it? Yep. As empty pockets follow Christmas, the ski jumping follows the darts and it will segue back into the football season as the world keeps relentlessly turning, and I continue to attach an importance to sporting competition that have as little bearing on real life as the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills does to the works of Dickens.

No wonder that the Berliner Kurier’s tarot reader came out with the most boring predictions possible when he was asked to flaunt his skills in the paper – an easy Hertha re-promotion after a rough patch in February, with 1. FC Union coming in the top half but needing to buy a defender.

But, seeing as it’s all rubbish anyway, let’s have another little prediction for 2013. Hertha will indeed get that promotion, but they will be followed up through the play-off by Union. Both sides will finish next seasons Bundesliga in the top four, and then both will compete in the Champions League Final, played at the Olympiastadion, in 2015. The derby between the clubs in February is really just a warm up for that match.

So as we’ve got so much to look forward to this year in Berlin, sporting-wise, I’d best get back to the ski jumping while I still can. It’s tradition. And. like you, it’s that or do some real work.