But why? It’s certainly not because the event itself had any inherent meaning. The 26 million people who tuned in were, by no stretch of the imagination, all football fans. The same goes for our neighbours across the water, as they sailed into Sunday’s final still surfing the warm wave of patriotism from Bastille Day. Did it matter that the sport was football? How many of those fair-weather ‘Bleus’ supporters would have known their Griezmanns from their Girouds?
The point is that, whatever hook we decide to hang it on, there’s a deep, subconscious need for us all to band together from time to time and remember who we are, as a group. It’s more than just mammalian instinct, innate tribalism, and all of that: it’s about a sense of collective statehood, a common identity.
And I’m afraid to say that in Jersey we have lost track of where ours is. It seems to have pottered off into that parallel dimension inhabited by missing socks, TV remotes, the plan for the future hospital… And that’s a massive shame.
Because there was a time when we, as an Island, knew who we were. We believed in our capacity to ensure a decent standard of living for everyone in Jersey, to elect an Assembly that cared and listened. We believed in our own talent. And yet, gradually, without us really noticing it, we seem to have misplaced our sense of self.
Now, it seems that our politicians have fallen into a vicious cycle of reassurance-seeking, to the point where they are apparently unable to believe in any plan, strategy or decision that hasn’t been underwritten by a UK expert. In fact, it’s got so bad that they have simply said to hell with appearances and have imported the whole top tier of the civil service direct from the UK, like some political version of an Amazon shopping binge.
Obviously, I recognise that our nine-by-five talent pool is never going to supply the solutions to all of our problems, and so yes, please, let’s have regular transfusions of fresh blood, across all our industries. But you don’t have to be some wicker-man-weaving yokel to start wondering if maybe things have gone too far.
Rarely a week seems to go by now when I don’t find myself bristling with ‘off-Island stranger danger’ at some dismissive comment about things getting done on ‘Jersey time’ or how this or that is such a typically ‘Jersey view’ of a situation. When did we start letting ourselves be spoken to like this?
And then there’s the question of our politicians. We bitterly deride them in the echo chambers of social media, we rant about them to friends and family (some people even rant about them to total strangers), and yet how many of us actually bothered to turn out and vote? I can’t even bring myself to type the number. It’s embarrassing. We have resorted, it seems, to the passive aggression of voter apathy.
So what’s the answer?
It’s not a glamorous one, sadly, nor is it even an especially interesting one. It’s just the same answer that you’d get to any question of how best to break a bad habit: we need insight, and we need persistence.
We need to accept that we’ve taken a few steps off course, and then maybe a few more after that, but that it’s not a disaster. In fact, the whole situation is eminently fixable. We just have to recalibrate a bit.
We need to re-engage with our democracy, in a real and meaningful way.
We need to get interested in our Island again, and in the people who live here.
And we need to scrutinise the things that actually matter – from what we do and don’t have to put up with as a post-Brexit dependency, right through to why we so often pay consultants four-figure day rates to give us a bunch of answers that we already know.
Most of all, though, we need to believe in ourselves again.
Vive la France? Come on, England? Yes, fine – good luck to all of them. But let’s not forget about Jersey too. Remember: we may not be big but we are clever.