“Enjoy this one, it’s the last one you’ll enjoy this season” said Jerome Sale prior to the meaningless defeat to Eastbourne. In saying this he revealed one of football’s secret conspiracies.
Some people enjoy the football’s aesthetic, but Tennis has a similar eye-catching quality. The game has some residual benefits of being out in the fresh air, and grabbing a beer or two. But so does rugby.
Sky would have you believe that football is about families gathering around the TV punching the air and patting each other on the back while maintaining big grins on their faces.
This myth means that people who hate the game believe that people who love it do so to spite them. That we go to games for some giddy hedonism and that we watch Soccer Saturday to get out of going to the shops or mowing the lawn.
We perpetuate the lie by convincing people that football is exciting. It helps us justify the illogical investment of time, effort and money. We’re rational normal human beings, but not when we go to football.
The truth is far, far different. Look around the stands of a real game and you’ll see grim faces and hollow eyes. People attend big games, because the only thing worse than being there, is not being there, waiting for sketchy news from the frontline.
A win, of course, brings its own ecstasy, but the process of football is agony. Big games, games of any meaning, are approached with a sick fear of failure.
Nobody enjoys meaningless games because they’re dull, but the idea that big games are enjoyable because of their high stakes misses the point completely. We’re football fans, good things don’t happen to people like us. Should we dare to hope? Should we prepare to despair? Should we just say ‘fuck it’ and deal with whatever is thrown at us?