I’ve had to hit the Ibuprofen pretty hard this morning. My skull feels as though it’s interior is lined with broken glass. My eyeballs feel as though they’re ever-so-slightly too small for their sockets. This could be down to a number of factors, but I have a strong inkling as to the prime suspect. There’s an image of a centre circle burned into my retina.
During the world cup, every single day is ‘Super Sunday’. The premise of ‘Super Sunday’, for the unenlightened, is that there are two televised games in the daytime, along with another in the evening, the latter probably being from Spain where they like to play their games in the evening. This happens every day now. Every day.
I’ve come to realise that watching football is a lot like sex, pub quizzes, and chocolate éclairs; a great deal of my enjoyment of football comes from actually anticipating football happening. If the football is provided in an unstemmable torrent, as it is now, with little opportunity for reflection, then my enjoyment begins to abate. I watched three games yesterday, and I watched three games the day before. The effect was quite numbing. I moved from excitement to confusion, and then to indifference.
Boredom is a symptom that a slight majority of my friends report when they encounter this sport. They prefer table-hockey or Mario Party 14 or whatever it is that the people who don’t like football enjoy when they should really be enjoying football.
“Why must they kick the ball?” They ask. The answer, to be sure, is that they want it to go into the goal – but is this really a noble aspiration? Does any of it really matter? Is there no more productive use of these people’s time, like accountancy or wigwam manufacture?
It doesn’t really matter, any more than anything else matters. Any more than life, death, cheese tessellation or belly-button fluff matters. Our values are really social constructs; they have no intrinsic value in and of themselves. If you’re going to glean pleasure from watching something, then something about it, however arbitrary, must matter; a ball going into a net (or not going into another net) is a pretty decent candidate.
There was a time, during high-school, where I was one of the people who didn’t like football. I couldn’t say exactly why, but I think it was something to do with the fact that I had to play it. I was shit at football, too lazy to become not shit at football, and not at all inclined to enjoy any activity in which I was shit, owing to the likelihood of my losing and thereby irritating the other people on my team.
Looking back, I think that had I possessed the tactical nous I now possess, I would undoubtedly have dominated the under-11 bracket, and not had to do a great deal of running in doing so. It would have been sweet. Selective quotation of Sun-Tzu would probably have provided an escape from having to do any exercise at all, in defiance of the government’s tsars in charge of tackling endemic childhood obesity.
“Where is your PE kit!”
“The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.”
“You said that last week, and you told me this week you’d bring it.”
“All warfare is based on deception.”
Nowadays, my enjoyment of football comes from the realisation of how terrible I am at kicking a ball. I can’t help but take umbrage with the objections which are now so frequently levelled at footballers, even by those professing to enjoy watching football. The most obvious, boring one is that footballers are all really thick. What a bunch of dullards they are. Does football require any real intelligence? Does it require any real skill?
It’s quite puzzling that these questions are so often asked, and I can only assume it’s because the prejudices of the people asking it preclude them from accepting ‘yes, what kind of crazy question is that’ as a worthy answer.
The most often cited evidence by the ‘footballers are dumb’ inquisitors is that of the post-match interview, during which footballers sometimes reveal that they are not in fact Oscar Wilde. Oh, chortle chortle chortle. GUFFAW. Footballers are so dumb, and I’m so clever. L-O-L.
The next time you perform some task as part of your job, like hand-waxing a Jeep Cherokee or throttling a muskrat, I am going to stick a microphone in your face and ask you a series of inane questions relating to the task. And if you can’t describe your performance concisely and precisely, in terms that a layman can understand, and without hesitating or resorting to cliché, I will call you a blithering nincompoop and as a consequence you will be sad.
“So Steven, are you disappointed with that loss?”
“Pirlo is quite good at football, isn’t he?”
Are there any clever responses to these questions? And is there any other walk of life where this is interrogation is required? Bricklayer? Bank Manager? Moose-hunter? Even porn stars don’t have to put up with this shit after they’ve exerted themselves for hours on end.
The preceding hour-and-a-half the interviewee’s mental faculties have been wholly devoted to the task of winning at football; very little forethought was spared for the cutting asides that might be delivered afterwards.
Here’s another scenario for you to imagine. Imagine that you are the cleverest person in the world. You’re like Stephen Hawking and Mordin Solus put together times a billion. Imagine you are presented with a choice. You can either pay several thousand pounds over ten years in order to complete a doctorate in quantum seismology at the renowned University of Cleverclogsville, or you can be paid several million pounds for kicking a vulcanised-rubber sphere around at Accrington Stanley.
If either option could be argued the cleverer of the two, then it’s certainly the latter. That’s even if you leave aside the considerable financial incentive. Which, let’s face it, I’m not going to do.
That’s enough for this week, anyway. I’ll try to think of a topic that isn’t football related for next week. If only there were something else happening in the world. Hmmmmmmm.
Until next week.