There are times when all of us say or do things by the heart without sufficiently consulting the head, and therefore must reflect upon such things and perhaps even apologize for them, which is what happened to me a few days ago.
On Sunday afternoon, I saw that England had won the Six Nations rugby tournament, and I wanted to send out a congratulatory message on both by Twitter account and my Hands Across the Pond Facebook page. As I was doing so, I found that this achievement was made possible by Scotland defeating France, and because England already was so far in front of France, the Scottish win put the championship out of reach for the French team, and thereby handed it to England.
Immediately, I saw what I thought was a poetic and positive narrative between England and Scotland as part of the United Kingdom. The fact that Scotland had helped England – even if by happenstance – seemed to be in the spirit of being “better together”, which was the name of campaign to keep the UK together during the Scottish independence referendum. It seemed like a “team effort” to ensure that one of the Home Nations of the UK took home the championship.
Of course, it was not a team effort – not a deliberate one, at least – but I thought it made for a what I believed was a good narrative, with Scotland winning against France and making England the champion of the tournament.
So I went ahead with the following tweet (more-or-less):
“UK wins as Scotland defeats France and helps to put England on top to win #SixNations championship. #TeamEffort #BetterTogether #SCOTvsFRANCE”
On my Facebook page, I shared the post about England winning from the RBS Six Nations page and said:
“Congratulations to the UK as Scotland defeats France to help put England on top to win its first Six Nations championship since 2011! #Team Effort #BetterTogether.”
The initial reaction on Twitter was positive with several likes, and then I further explained in a new tweet below the original one (which was replicated on the Facebook page):
“Yes, I know the UK did not compete, but I feel that a win for a UK Home Nation is also a win for the UK and when one Home Nation helps the other, it’s sweeter.”
Then one follower chimed in and warned that this may not go over well with some people with the way that it was worded. I responded (somewhat jokingly) that I believed that I had worded it in such a way that paid respect to both England and Scotland in the outcome of the tournament, and also stated that I would have done the same if it had been the other way around.
Shortly after that came a couple of negative comments. One came from an individual who takes issue with almost everything I tweet and said that this was of no help for Wales or Ireland (which has a unified team between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland), to which I responded that I would do the same if Wales had “helped” Scotland. Once comment came from a person who tried to claim that Scotland was not part of the UK, and that only England was the UK. I sent him a map clearing showing Scotland as part of the UK, but he did not budge, and so I left him alone.
Then came a flood of criticism from several people, including from a journalist, accusing me of ignorance, being out of my depth, and not understanding the nature of the separate rugby teams – with particular umbrage being taken that I represented events on Sunday as a “win” for the United Kingdom. There was mockery and people presenting me as some kind of misinformed idiot and/or ignoramus.
Eventually, I looked at the tweet again and reflected on it. After much thought, I myself came to the conclusion that it came off as insensitive and too triumphalist in the pro-UK tone that had been set, and I could see how it may have been wrong not to pay tribute to both countries in their own right – making it seem as though the only thing Scotland was good for in the tournament was putting England on top as opposed to celebrating its own achievement that day, and I did feel as though I came off as not understanding the nature of rugby in the UK and Ireland.
I genuinely thought there was some poetry in one Home Nation of the UK helping – inadvertently – another one win the Six Nations championship though its action of winning its own game. Indeed, I still do. However – having known beforehand the nature of the separate teams – I should have known better than to write a message that appeared to downplay Scotland’s achievement or make it feel as though its win against France was only significant because it helped England.
I make no apologies for being supportive of England and Scotland being part of the same country – the United Kingdom – and I strive to emphasize the United Kingdom as a single entity when possible and appropriate. However, I realized that my exuberance for the UK got the best of me – perhaps like Neil Kinnock at Sheffield in 1992 – and a rush of blood led to an over-the-top overbearing message on Facebook and Twitter.
For that reason, I wrote an apology on Twitter and changed the Facebook message to:
“Congrats as Scotland defeats France today and England wins its first Six Nations championship since 2011.”
Looking back, I should have known better because even supporters of the Union who I have met are proud of having separate football (soccer) and rugby teams for each Home Nation, and do not wish to see them combined or in any way diluted in the shadow of another. More to the point, I’m almost sure most members of the Scotland team and the fan base were not thinking about helping England as they were playing against France, or thinking that they would obtain some sort of a share of a UK victory with England.
Just to make it clear, I have respect for both teams and wholeheartedly congratulate them for their respective achievements on Sunday. Indeed, on Twitter, I found England fans congratulating Scotland and Scotland fans congratulating England in mutual respect for each other, along with the good-natured banter that befits the people who support different teams in this arena, but are citizens of the country and support each other in common endeavors.
Again, I make no apologies for supporting the United Kingdom, but in this instance, I do feel as though I carried my activism too far in an area where it was quite inappropriate and unhelpful for the cause of the Union, and for that, I apologize for any misunderstanding or offense caused in what was a well-intended but ill-considered social media message.