Like losing weight or getting fit, being a football fan is not a transient thing; it’s a lifestyle choice. Fundamentally, it’s about routine. I, like many others, live their supporting lives by a set of arcane rules. Some culturally programmed; like picking a team and sticking with them, some entirely individualistic.
For example, I only miss home games for three reasons; work commitments (occasionally), pre-planned holidays and weddings. When I am at a game, I don’t leave until after the final whistle (although I can be moving at the first blast of the referees whistle). I was there when Dean Windass nodded home our consolation in the annihilation by Birmingham in 1998. I’m also one of those standing waiting for the pain to end whilst others head off to queue for cup tickets or catch the kick-off of some international.
It is this compliance that means clubs are chosen over countries every time. Breaking the routine for you country takes you outside your comfort zone. On Saturday I was at a wedding with no signal on my phone. I was, therefore, out of touch with Saturday’s comforting win over Altrincham. I didn’t find out the result until Sunday morning, although I was kept intimately informed of the progress of the England game.
This, however, was of little interest. For one, I am half Scottish, and I suppose the purgatory of supporting Oxford means I am naturally more aligned to supporting the underdog. I am not interested in the self styled ‘best in the world’ English who persistently prove they are nothing but.
It’s not always been like this; I used to take a keen interest in the progress of the England team. But the marketing of the team and the league from which it derives (the best in the world) has eroded my interest to nothing. Take Frank Lampard, no JJB Sports is complete without a brooding shot of him staring into the middle-distance in the latest incarnation of the national uniform. Yet, Lamps’ exalted status is not as a result of his performances. It is because he is a ‘superstar’ and superstars play for their country – regardless of how well he does it. Blame it all on Gazza, but in some ways, it seems to enhance his status if they lose; then he can show how real his pain is. Wadda guy.
England games become more of a brand awareness campaign than a sporting contest. I simply can’t get excited by an advert; especially one which lacks imagination and ends in disappointment. Supporting Oxford may be a chore, but at least it has some meaning.
My relationship with top flight football is getting increasingly strained; the chances of Oxford ever achieving such status again is increasingly remote and, even if we were to achieve it, all likelihood is that we’ll end up with a foreign billionaire owner and a bunch of players from some obscure North African feeder team. This isn’t how I understand supporting a football club. I’m not particularly happy about where we are currently; but I’m not overwhelmed by the prospect of where we’re planning to go. Which makes my OCD routines of fandom all the more comforting.