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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, May 06, 2004
    On hating football
    Will Buckley's Guardian piece yesterday, Why I'm not singing any more, got me thinking. He's a football writer who's come to hate football. It's a childish pursuit, he says, which these days enjoys boundless and ridiculous amounts of coverage. A sign, perhaps, of our society's pervasive childishness:

    For my father the results were unimportant. He went to the game to have a laugh with his friends and enjoy his son's innocent pleasure.
    Now I am the age that my father was when he first took me to a football match, I am perplexed that so many of my contemparies react to the game as I did as a six-year-old, rather than as my father did as a 40-year-old. You know the type: they arrive at work on a Monday morning in their replica shirt and baldly state: "Don't anyone mention what happened yesterday." What might this be, you wonder. A death in the family? A terminal medical diagnosis? No, it is simply that his team has lost a football match. This event, over which he has no control, will determine his mood and his conversation for the rest of the week. Until another Ford Soccer Sunday on Sky Sports One offers a chance for an improvement of sorts.

    I recognise myself in this. As one whose lounge hosts an signed Everton football on display and a massive picture of Goodison Park on the wall, in whose otherwise sparse wardrobe hangs three 'best' EFC shirts, as one whose moods do swing according to results (such relief last weekend, but for most of the year I'm filled with a melancholic gloom).

    I can understand Buckley saying this sort of behaviour seems something of a waste and a retrograde step from half a century ago, when Albert Camus wrote: "A single sentence will suffice for modern man: he fornicated and read the papers."

    But there is still, perhaps in remnant only, but still, something else to footy (why else, I wonder would Buckley still be in the sport himself, why else take the time to write a comic novel about it). Childish, maybe, but beneath the hype, things like a communal ethic, self-giving, loyalty, trust and hope persist. Camus must have shared this tension, too - as I've mentioned here before, another great Camus quote (one Will Buckley must know) is this: "All I know most surely about morality and the obligations of man, I owe to football." Confused now? Join the club.