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The grumble in the jungle

This week’s article revels in the renewed clash between the old and the young — the Boomers and Generation Z — in what is an ongoing and possibly futile bid to get a grip on what will be the new normal.

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With the much talked about fight between The Boomer and Gen Z now confirmed at a socially distanced Las Vegas venue (facemasks not compulsory), there is a lot of anticipation around what is certain to be a historical event on a par with Ali and Forman’s epic Zaire confrontation.

Despite the claims of both fighters, a face-off between these two fierce rivals was always on the cards. And, after years of mud-slinging and put-downs, it simply took a global pandemic to bring both fighters out of training and into the ring.

While these titans amongst generations have never actually met on the canvas before, the prospect of seeing them fight outside the boundaries of social media is mouth-watering. So here’s a guide to the fighters and our verdict on who will come out on top!

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The Boomer (or “Baby” to a select few), needs no introduction. But here’s one anyway. A solid representative of the generation born between 1946 and 1964, Boomer built on the sacrifices made by his parents — who fought and lived through World War II — by standing firm in the face of prosperity and firmly grasping all the wealth, benefits and cheap housing that came his way in a post-war period of growth and development.

Despite being born in an era of rationing — which he casually mentions in every interview — Boomer nevertheless called on the rapidly expanding economy and a free at point-of-care health system to get into the shape we see him in today; a still sprightly physique formed by free milk and school meals, a mind sharpened by a university education on the house, and a comfortable retirement supported by a final salary pension. His age is unknown, and his constant reference to the War, the Blitz spirit and ‘Common Sense’ suggest he was born earlier than 1946. But he has the well-cared-for physique of a far younger man.

Boomer dismisses his opponent as soft, privileged and more attached to a smartphone than any concept of reality. A self-professed student of the ‘school of hard knocks’, Boomer’s outlook on life is shaped not only by mortgage interest relief and, more recently, buy to let opportunities. No, its real source lies in his red-faced fury at the suggestion that character-forming benefits such as these were unearned.

His strength in the ring will come from the same burning sense of indignation one finds in the comments section of Mail Online, or the queue at the tills in the linen and bedding department in John Lewis. Rumours abound that the Boomer camp is building up its fighter with a diet of roast beef, his ageing body eased by massages in an equity release conservatory, and his passion fired by the enforced reading of Polly Toynbee articles.

Boomer’s current odds are 7/4, and it’s hard to see him giving up his comfortably commanding position come fight night. It could be ok, boomer.

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In the red corner stands Gen Z, whose preferred pronoun is they/them. They are currently working in an Amazon warehouse by day, doing a music production course by night and fitting training in-between. But what they are doing next week is anybody’s guess. Here’s hoping they put their phone down when battle commences a week from now.

Gen Z is driven by social inequality and a passion for overturning the status quo. A still-youthful 23, their recent arrival in the sport has spawned an army of sympathetic haircuts. They can call on a twenty-million strong following on social media, a group that calls themselves the ZEDZ. On, er, Inster(?!), the #GenZ hashtag is trending to the point of ‘SHUTUP’ 😉.

In their uniform of black hoodie, black track pants and black trainers, Gen Z presents a hostile, indeed combative, presence in every interview. Drawing on a media savviness that somehow belies their age, Gen Z uses every interview as an opportunity to air their concerns about the state of the environment, homelessness and oceans swamped with plastic. In a recent interview, a lengthy pause-for-effect swig of water from a (single-use) bottle was followed by a plea for viewers to build homes for hedgehogs in their back gardens.

Gen Z believes the recent pandemic revealed the institutional favouritism of a Government more concerned about the voting intentions of older generations than the future of the young. It’s why they enter the ring in a gown with the words #LOCKDOWNFUCKUP appliqued on the back. They will not apologise for attending rallies in central London, and have taken to attending press conferences with their mouth taped and their Instagram handle scrawled on their forehead. Although they won’t wear a facemask.

Strengths? Well, Gen Z has youth, passion and swagger on their side. If not an actual home, a pension, or job prospects outside the boxing ring. The bookies don’t appear to favour Gen Z, though, putting them at 4/1. But in the seasoned opinion of this sports hack, a few nights off the phone, a day or two without Dominos and a fresh civil issue to get their teeth into should see a performance better than the odds imply on the night.

Stay tuned sports fans!

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