Tuesday, 16 August 2011

It’s just easier to hate Football.

I have a confession to make, a big one, yes I am crushing on your sister – she’s hot. I am of course joking. No, not about your sister being hot, about me crushing on her. I’m sure she’s very hot, at least 500 degrees Celsius, but in fairness I’ve never met her. If I had met her I most certainly would crush on her, but respectively from afar so as not to upset you, but not like a stalker. Confused yet? Good I need you distracted so I can reveal my real confession without you flipping out, I don’t hate football. There I’ve said it. I repeat, I don’t hate football.

Shocking as this may seem I am however guilty of high level apathy, the fact that the English Premiership kicked off this weekend (except in Tottenham where everything literally kicked off last weekend) provided me with no stimuli other than as a source of topic for this here blog. To me football IS only a game, and much like Cluedo I neither love nor detest it. I don’t even mind the World Cup, yes during the tournament there’s a lot of mentions of football as people try to be topical. In fact all the commercials in the whole country are annoyingly about football, but let’s be honest adverts are always annoying. The fact they now have a theme makes no difference. It’s like swapping from one type of genital warts to another, nothing’s really changed it’s still very irritating.

Generally I’ve found though, that being someone with a non-descript ambivalence to football is harder for football fans to accept than someone who actually actively announces their utter disgust for it. For some reason it’s easier for supporters to comprehend people who tell them that football should be banned, than to understand people who find England losing the World Cup disappointing - but disappointment on a par with going to the fridge and finding someone’s drunk the last of the orange juice. Confusingly me sitting watching a football game coming up with comments such as “isn’t their kit an odd colour”, “oh well, it doesn’t really matter” and “at least the best team won” is more infuriating to supporters than me simply not watching the game at all.

I’m not quite sure why this is, perhaps football fans find it easier to simply categorise those who hate footballers as the enemy and dismiss them as cretins, whereas those of us simply not bothered by football are harder to fathom. “They understand football and yet they do not convert – this makes no sense”. This theory would at least explain the bizarre opinion the offside rule is held in. Stereotypically women are said to be football haters, and so it “therefore follows” that it must be because they don’t understand the offside rule – so secure is this belief that Andy Gray and Richard Keys even presumed a woman who had studied football in order to become a lineswoman couldn’t understand the offside rule. This all sounds perfectly reasonable until you realise the offside rule isn’t that complicated, to prove it I’ll have a go at explaining it “a player is offside if they are affecting play and there are less than two opposition players closer to their own goal”, a quick look at Wikipedia shows that I missed two mini caveats (one that they must be in front of the ball, and secondly that you can only be offside in the opposition’s half of the pitch), but broadly speaking I was along the right lines, and even with those caveats it’s pretty easy to understand. Admittedly it is one of the more complicated rules of football, but that doesn’t make it beyond comprehension. It’s still after all far easier to understand than the rules to the National Lottery: In It To Win It – an horrendously complicated game that would be difficult for even Professor Stephen Hawking to play. Though that might be more to do with the fact he’d find it difficult to constantly wheel himself in and out of Dale Winton’s red area (no smut intended… on my part at least, I can’t speak for Dale). Secondly, even if I didn’t understand the offside rule, I don’t believe that makes football inaccessible. It seems a tad unlikely to presume that if a football hater was explained the offside rule, that they’d jump up screaming “Oh my god, how could I have missed this amazing game for such a long time? It now all makes sense.”

In my university days I did used to try and get involved during the World Cup, but it is hard work, having to pretend to care more than you actually do, so as not to annoy your friends. Sitting there watching them turn into w***ers in front of the game – why do most football fans do this? Why do they feel it’s useful to heckle people who are clearly far more talented than they are, through a television screen, whilst their obese frames fill up the sofa? I mean how would they like it if a group of professional footballers turned up at their office to shout abuse at them, as they mucked up using the photocopier, which is the effective equivalent of what they’re doing. And whilst I do sort of care if England win, I’ve found that much like the Lottery, you don’t have to actually watch the show to find out the result – it usually crops up in the news, and saves you ninety minutes of your life.

But whatever my feelings about national football, I can’t even begin to force an interest in league football – well other than lying about supporting a football team to impress people cooler than myself (i.e. everyone) and trying to become part of their cool gang. If you answer any football comment without the phrase “I absolutely detest football” then instantly the next question will be “What team do you support?”. This I’ve come to find is a hidden minefield of a question, it’s too hard to give the honest answer of “whilst I don’t really hate football, I don’t have a favourite team” because instantly you become that confused group football fans don’t understand. So instead you’re forced to pick a team, to lie. But which one to pick? Unlike national football there isn’t an obvious answer (local geography seems irrelevant in this matter), and this answer matters. In any group of people announcing your footballing allegiance (faux or otherwise) will at best end with you receiving a mixture of cheers and boos, like you’re being watched by a confused pantomime audience. At worst you’ll end up with a bottle-shaped extension to your face, so you need to pick carefully. At this point you can be clever by saying something generic like “the reds” in the hope that the questioner will assume you mean one of the “red” teams they don’t utterly despise. Though a word to the wise here whilst there are enough teams that you might get away with “the reds” or “the blues”, for some inexplicable reason this doesn’t work with “the yellows” or “the greens”, you’ll look like a fool – don’t ask me I have no idea what’s going on.

In short you can save yourself a lot of time, anguish, and awkward hours spent watching the “beautiful game” with people who care far too much to be healthy, simply by saying you absolutely detest the game, even when really you’re not that fussed.

Although there is one thing about football I do hate, and that’s its privileged place in the world of hobbies and interests. It, along with other popular sports and media (by that I mean music, cinema and television) form a unique group of interests where you can know as much as you like about them – and not be classed as a geek. It’s perfectly ok to know the results of QPR’s last one hundred games and not be considered a weirdo, but express even a passing curiosity in anything from steam locomotives to crochet or from papyrology to ancient Greece and you’ll be consider a nerdy freak for all of humanity to pour scorn upon. And god forbid you try to compare the importance of your interest in exotic horses, for example, to their interest in football. Once a friend of mine was upset that their precious football team failed to qualify from one pointless lower league to the next marginally less pointless league up, and was deeply upset. While their other friends mocked them, I explained that I could understand their feelings as I had interest very important to me, at which point they replied “You can’t possibly understand my pain, this is worse than anything you’ve ever gone through” – what an unmitigated prick! How dare you presume my hobby to be less important to me than yours is to you, just because yours is bloody soccer (and yes I said soccer just to annoy you). And honestly “worse than anything I’ve ever gone through” – really? I was forced to play Rugby at school, despite being a pathetic feeling wreck of a teenager – seriously until you’ve been a wretched wreck forced to be the prop in a rugby scrum, you know no pain.

So in summary, I don’t hate football, I have no problem with its existence and now and again I might even pass a casual glance of interest in its general direction – but it’s a hell of a lot easier to just say I hate it.

And by the way football fans, if you are reading this, may I be so bold as to suggest a minor improvement to the game? Surely the random adding on of an undefined number of minutes at the end of the game, and then stopping the action at simply a mutually convenient point is a very unsatisfying way of ending a football match. Wouldn’t it be better to do what they do in ice hockey, stop the clock for every disruption to play and simply countdown the last few seconds of play in an exciting, tense way much like the way they end the cooking time in Ready, Steady, Cook. Admittedly by mentioning Ready, Steady, Cook in my exciting idea, I haven’t really helped sell it – but I hope you get the point.

“Come on the greens”. Or maybe just “come on the green peppers.”