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If Only a Game


by David Dumville

5.25pm on Tuesday. Five minutes to go until the end of the working day. Five minutes until I, along with the majority of the UK head off to start my week-break.

It’s been ten years since we adopted a four day week in this country. Working Wednesday’s is a thing of the past since we added ‘hump day’ to Saturday and Sunday downtime. Not that it’s truly downtime though. Not really. Not at all.

My name is Myles Parker. I’m 29 years old, I live with my partner Amy, I average 20k steps a day and my Social Stats are tracking at +5%. I work for a small media agency DDF&J based in London and it’s no exaggeration to say that next week my life will change for ever. This is true in every sense, but in 2040, living in the UK the same is true for anyone turning 30.

Freedom after all is a small price to pay for ruling the world. With record economic growth, the highest GDP in recorded history and more cultural influence than before the fall of the British Empire, the UK is at the very top of her game. How did we get there? In a word - Sport.

Since we combined all four countries of the UK into Team GB, we are the first nation to simultaneously hold the Football, Rugby and Cricket World Cups - male and female versions. For the last three years, all European Club Tournament winners in football have come from Blighty and Team GB topped the medals board at the 2036 Saudi Olympics. We’ve also retained the Ashes and Ryder Cup for the last six years and hold the unified World Boxing Championship belts at three weights.

So how did we get here? After Brexit the UK fell into disarray. Nobody seemed to predict that a small island nation with limited natural resources and no discernible USP’s might struggle on the world stage having bitten the hand that fed her so aggressively.

Recession followed as did, ironically, unemployment. Turns out most people didn’t actually want many of the jobs that those foreigners had been so nefariously stealing. Automation ran riot. Cabbies were replaced by driverless cars; the high street all but disappeared with delivery drones taking over the skyline. Once freed from the shackles of Europe, the UK that remained didn’t have much of an identity left.

Then Max Bairstow came along. PM extraordinaire. A hybrid of Blair and Beckham at their most charming, popular and persuasive. He ran his campaign on Making Britain Great Again - sound familiar? Well the new bit, the clever bit was that he doubled down on Sport.

It started innocuously enough – increased government spending on sport, mandatory PT throughout all levels of education. Soon sport had taken over 75% of the national curriculum. Anyone under 30 was no longer allowed to drink or smoke and was required to wear a Fitbit every day, achieving at least 15k steps whilst participating in three forms of organised sport. The UK would regain her place on the world stage through medals and trophies. The starting point was to create an army of super athletes, hence the health regime. However it soon became apparent that being fit provides no guarantee of sporting talent.

That’s when mandatory spectatorship and encouragement was brought in. Everyone in the UK is now required to watch at least 30 hours of sport per week. Viewing is monitored by TV companies with fines handed out to anyone who does not make their weekly quota.

Next Facebook and Opta created the Spectator Encouragement Results algorithm. This identified the correlation between sporting success and viewing figures. In fact it went further, highlighting the positive impact that social media has on a nations’ sporting success. Bairstow used this to enforce compulsory Social Stats, a measurement which is updated and shared every day; mine is 900/750/50. The first figure represents how many people you follow, the second how many follow you and the third your average daily posts and shares. Again, if you drop below the target for your demographic you’ll be hit with a fine.

When sporting success started to follow and with so much action taking place on Wednesday’s, the government shortened the working week so that we could dedicate ourselves to sport uninterrupted for three full days.

Now I must decide which games Amy and I are going to watch tomorrow, which ones we will second screen and which ones to post about. My friend Chris will also be coming round as he has the misfortune of living near Lords Cricket Ground and it’s scheduled to rain tomorrow. This means the wind machines will be switched on to move the clouds from over the pitch to over Chris’s home. That’s right, not even Mother Nature can derail our nations sporting progress anymore!

Still, we’ll get a chance in between the sport to plan my birthday. The government cites 30 years of age as the point at which professional sports may no longer be achieved if not already attained. Ridiculous of course as most people who turn pro do so in their teens, but as we are constantly told it keeps the nation healthy and a Healthy Nation is a Wealthy Nation.

Chris is already 30 and so can drink legally as can Amy. I’ve had the occasional illicit beverage but it’s not worth the risk with random blood tests now so prevalent. Turning 30 also signifies the end of mandatory organised sport, plus with the removal of my Fitbit, for the first time in my life the only person watching my weight will be me.

Everyone jokes that your 30th birthday adds three years to your life as you go from 29 to ‘Thirty Free’. I’ll still have Social Stats to hit and who knows what new laws may be round the corner, but from next week at least, I’ll be happy to just be a fan. 

#GoTeamGB #Number1 #UKWorldChampions

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