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June 24, 2006

short attention span leads to madness….

Yes, once again I've got bored waiting for a football match to finish and have wandered off to write blogs entries while most of the population sits glued to their seats. I can't help but think that the sole purpose of extra time is to irritate people like me who have just about learnt to sit still through 90 minute games.

But, I'm determined to pretend that this is at least a pseudo intellectual post, and so I'll start the following rant: what's most irritating about football is not the game itself, but the (oh, that was a goal, I can hear the shouts from next door) encyclopedic knowledge of certain fans (mentioning no names….).

While I confess that it hardly gets my pulse racing, I'm perfectly capable of watching a game whilst enjoying a pint or two, and while I really don't give a toss who wins, I can just about recognise a particularly skillfull play and get a dim sense of recognition of the level of talent involved. I begin to feel the hounds of death pursuing me when the conversation turns from the game at hand, where I can at least make naive observations and ask stupid questions, to discussions of the players' histories.

Before long, I begin to suffocate under the weight of footballing trivia diffusing into the atmosphere, and soon the game at hand has faded into insignificance in the face of potential questions concerning the crucial period during the last decade in the history of a particular (oh look, an interruption: apparently Argentina scored that goal just now. It was a great goal. Oh and I am informed that play is apparently not a noun one is allowed to use to describe football, at least in England.)

Where was I? If Isaac Newton had had to put up with such interuptions, we'd never have discovered gravity.

The point is that game that is apparently the focus of all this activity, or even the sport itself is of course of negligible significance. What is actually important is the act of following the sport. This is why it is of far greater significance to ascertain from one's fellow sport fan not what their opinion might be on a particular aspect, say, of a game, but instead on their opinion with regards to a an aspect of what one might term the metagame, viz what team they choose to follow. Perhaps I was wrong in my earlier rant with regards to football, perhaps football represents not primitive tribalism manifested in a modern age, but instead is essentially an insecurity of identity.

In other words, we (well, not me personally, of course, lesser beings, amongst which I shall assume for the sake of rhetoric I fall) construct for ourselves a metagame, a semiotic universe of sport in which obscure trivia are elevated to heights of absurd significance, purely for the purpose of using it as a tool of social classification. We are thus able, through the application of a few judicious questions, quickly able to situate a new acquaintance in this metagame, and are thus able to establish not only our derived position respective to them, but are hence able to establish a mutual identity.

(This ties in with my sudden conviction that all identity is inherently subjective; formed only from interaction with others: before he met Friday, Robinson Crusoe did, in a sense, not exist.)

As a proof, or rather as a potential line of supporting evidence, consider the odium with which are considered pretenders to the throne of fans: those foolish individuals who claim a greater knowledge of a sport than they in fact possess. Is this not a demonstration of a fundamental insecurity in the heart of the accusers? Is it not the case that –

Bugger. I've run out of beer.

May 15, 2006

Sport as social atavism

We were robbed.

A dozen or so men in coloured shirts have run around a field for a couple of hours, challenging another group of men in different coloured shirts for control of a spherical artificial pig bladder while the greater part of the nation looked on. A little while later, one group of men were deemed the victors and took possession of an overgrown piece of crockery. Somehow it's not about the men, the bladder or the crockery any more, it's about us. We were robbed.

So who are we? We don't necessarily look the same, talk the same, have the same beliefs, work in the same job, eat the same food, read the same newspaper, go on holiday to the same place, or make racist jokes about the same stereotypes. Instead we are people who choose, voluntarily, to be associated with the same symbols.

With the same symbols? With the same group of bladder–chasing young men, surely? Actually, no. The young men swap red shirt for blue shirt for purple shirt at the drop of a hat, or rather a heavily stuffed wallet: at the end of a game they can all come together and shake hands, blurring into one hive, but we, oh no we can shake hands but it's always us, the imitation-purple-shirt wearers, shaking hands with them, the imitation–red–shirt wearers, pure and unadulterated in our heraldry.

So why do I make this choice? Even in the purest of cases, when two of us imitation–red–shirt wearers went to the same school, sleep with the same girls, give money to the same charity, phone in to the same radio station, buy the same colour mod kits for our cars, and reject the same developments in literary theory; even then, why should we choose two to care what happens to a bunch of rich kids and a ball, and why should I care what a dissolute bunch of fellow imitation–red–shirt wearers who may have nothing in common with me think about the kids and the ball? Because I want to belong to something greater. We don't have tribes any more, and nations? Give me a break. The whole country's swamped with immigrants who take our jobs and our unemployment benefits, kids who don't respect their elders, old men stuck in the past, yobs who don't respect the law, and an Establishment that thinks Big Brother didn't go far enough. No, what I want is to be in a group whose diversities are secondary to that one great unifying feature – willingness to display the same colour uniform at appropriate intervals, and believe, really, really believe, that what matters on some strip of artificially cultivated pseudo–turf at the other end of the country to a bunch of kids I'd probably hate if I had to spend more than thirty second elevator ride with actually matters to us.

Maybe I was dropped on my head as a kid. Maybe I'm taking out my masculine aggression. Maybe I'm fundamentally insecure in the modern world. Maybe I was born under a penumbral lunar eclipse. Maybe it's down to the flows of chi in my house. Maybe I'm not getting enough sex. Maybe I was toilet trained too early. Who cares? I'm happy to voluntarily renounce not only my intellectual judgement but even a little bit of what constitutes my own identity as me. I might even start jumping on whatever bandwagon happens along, because, really, deep inside of me, I suspect I'm looking to join a posse.

June 2023

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