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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Blog 81. What happened to mud, fun & anticipation?

Clare Balding showed me why football is a rip off!

Explain modern football. Not the rules. Everyone knows the rules. The RULES are easy. Blokes kick balls into nets. If team a puts in three balls and team b puts in only one or two – then team a wins - duuuh.
This week I am writing on a subject about which I confess complete ignorance (as opposed to the partial ignorance I usually employ). I really need someone to explain the expensive end of football. What I desperately need to know – having spent two weeks trying to avoid hysterical news reporters going on and on about someone called Moyes, is what is it all about? I mean just WOT?
From a socio-political perspective I can about see a glimmer of light of an interesting idea. The modern game of football seems – from a distance – to perfectly reflect the rampant capitalism that is currently devastating this country and many others. I.e. a few people at the very top get disgustingly rich for doing not much at the expense of a whole load of other people who are exploited financially and who are too stupid to realise. So ‘fans’ (!) fork out ridiculous amounts of money for nylon T-shirts etc every time the season or the sponsor change or if the game is played at their home ground or not. Others pay to watch matches on the telly. The ‘fans’ may also pay to buy stuff that is promoted by the people who play the game – sometimes things that have nothing whatsoever to do with football from crisps to mobile phones.
The ‘fan’ is supposedly a tribal animal, fiercely loyal to a ‘team’ which takes the name of a town or city but usually doesn’t include anyone who actually comes from or lives in that town or city.
The ‘teams’ that get to the top are the ones with the biggest bank balances or richest owners. Owners also often have nothing to do with the locality of the ‘team’ or the ‘fans’.
I caught a news item a few months ago that confused me hugely. An interviewer was talking to someone regarding a ‘premier league’ club and its position of strength in relation to another club. It was a little while before I realised that the person being interviewed was not even talking about football prowess but the share values of the two clubs in question.
As a very young child I attended football matches with my dad. Leamington FC. My memories are vague as I had little interest in the game even then. I recall being cold, I recall drinking tea out of a white polystyrene cup that tasted of – well – polystyrene. I remember standing unless we were lucky enough to get a perch on a rickety wooden bench and I remember a certain atmosphere of fun and something I would possibly refer to now as camaraderie. I initially went because my brother and sister wouldn’t so it was a perfect opportunity to have my dad to myself. Ditto Cricket in the summer. At least at the cricket you could get nice tea and cake at the pavilion. But it was fun though hard to put your finger on why. Was it something to do with the smell of mud and expectation? Was it the sense of invisibility surrounded by grown-ups, mainly men, who were so completely absorbed on a single event? There was a peak of excitement and something to do with belonging even though I could almost never see what was going on because everyone else was man height and width.
Many years later I attended a match at Newcastle with a friend who insisted I needed to see at least one live match there. I could neither smell mud nor feel excitement. It was a sanitised and disconnected experience.
Thanks to Clare Balding and some history-of-sport thing I accidentally tuned into once – I know that the reason the rules of football were standardised was so that rich gentlemen could bet on the game played by the working class oiks – just like they bet on the gee gees. And though it’s too obvious to say it – I will anyway – that presumably is where the rot set in. Light years away from kicking a pig’s bladder round a field for fun we now have a game that is not just about money it is primarily about money – it is almost exclusively about money. It is about money to the point of seeming pointless to me.
Why not save everyone a lot of effort and just look at the bank balance of each club every month – or maybe which WAG has the most expensive handbag - and that club wins.

This week’s recommended blog from the archives is;
Blog 17 – How to make Monopoly more interesting

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