Magazine article The Spectator

Monumental Arrogance

Magazine article The Spectator

Monumental Arrogance

Article excerpt

Until quite recently I used to be really proud of hating football. It meant that, instead of wasting my Saturday afternoons watching Sky Sport or paying huge amounts of money to hang out on terraces with yobs, I could do something useful with my time like gardening, shopping or playing video games. It also meant that the chunk of my brain that would otherwise have been filled with tedious footie 'stats' could instead be employed in remembering the names of Latin plants and obscure rock bands, in thinking up ways of becoming richer and more famous, in planning my next bestselling novel.

Then Nick Hornby went and ruined it by writing Fever Pitch. Besides repositioning the game as one that even nice, educated, middle-class people could enjoy, he demonstrated that you didn't have to be a gobbing oik called Darren to make heaps and heaps of money out of it. All you had to do was write an autobiography involving your favourite team or host one of those footie-related chat shows and spout amusing drivel for half an hour a week. Both of which I'm sure I could have done really well, if only I had been qualified.

Another benefit that football obsessives enjoy, I've noticed, is that they don't have to deal with reality. Once you've decided that quite the most important thing in your life is how, say, Chelsea did against Man U the other day, you're automatically freed from the quotidian anxieties to which normal people are prey. Anxieties, for example, about the fact that one day you're going to die; that you're a cult Spectator TV critic but are still depressingly poor; that you're still no closer to acquiring that fivebedroomed Georgian townhouse you deserve; that your baby has started to get worrying tinges of red in his blond hair . . .

That's why, every now and again, I try forcing myself to get into football. The only times I've almost enjoyed it though are 1) during the World Cup, because it's war; 2) when an underdog slaughters a huge, hated team like Man U; 3) when it's one of those `Classic Games of the Seventies' and you can admire the haircuts and get all nostalgic about how much happier and more innocent we were back then.

Since Bostock's Cup (ITV, Tuesday) fitted into both the latter categories; I suppose I should have been over the moon. It told the story of a third division football team called Bostock Stanley which, by various strokes of good fortune, ended up going to Wemb-er-ly and winning the FA Cup in 1974. …

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