Football is boring. Maybe not to you – and I’m happy that you enjoy it – but to me it’s indescribably dull. Players are encouraged to fall over at the slightest provocation, the rules allow for mindless passing of the ball back-and-forth to deny the opposition possession (as opposed to the far more entertaining rules of passing in Rugby that make moving forward a necessity) and generally I find it hard to relate to the teams or the supporters or the clubs in any measurable way that might conclude my enjoyment of the sport.
So imagine my sup rise when I find myself watching the Champions’ League Final between Munich and Chelsea this week. Sitting in a bar with good friends whilst slightly-tipsy supporters around us cheer and clap at random intervals to try and break up the monotony of the majority of the game wherein no goals were scored. I kid you not when I say by the pool table opposite us there was a large group of guys who seemed to get ridiculously excited whenever anyone of either side got hold of the ball and/or made an attempt at the goal. They could barely contain their enthusiasm at the penalty shoot-out.
My friends had bet on it being a draw up until it went into extra time. They had fifty pounds in potential winnings and right up until the end, with it being 0-0 throughout, it looked like a done deal. We were bored with the game and chatting between ourselves. Then someone, I forget who and care not to remind myself, scored. Suddenly and transformatively we were fixed on the game. When the other team scored and brought it back up to a tie I actually yelled and pumped my fist in the air. It didn’t take much – it wasn’t even me who had the bet to win, it was my friends – but I was suddenly invested in the game. Right up until the last minute of the game proper I was anxious of every potential kick of the ball that might upset the perfect balance that would ensure my friends their win.
So I guess I don’t find football all that boring in reality. The passing of the ball between mindless millionaire number one and brainless billionaire number two wasn’t all that tedious once I had some reason to care who won and how. I don’t much care for gambling myself and I doubt I would ever bring myself to put down a sum of money worthy of worrying over if I did. But the anticipation of my friends being jubilantly victorious or frustratingly defeated was enough to excite me and make me want to see the game conclude.
I’m reminded of whenever my dad and younger brother went to go see the games of our local rugby team – the Northampton Saints. I love watching the saints and rugby’s a great game that I can actually enjoy watching for the sake of watching but my dad and brother are on a whole ‘nother level. They’re season-ticket holders. Diehard fans. They sit in that bit of the stands where everyone’s such a regular face to the point of knowing each other and chatting in the half-time. Whenever dad and brother went to go see a game I would hope for a saints win. Not just because I support the saints but also because I knew that if they lost dad would come back in a foul mood. Dad’s bad mood has a unique way of spreading out and putting me and everyone else in a bad mood as well so it was always in my interests that the saints won.
So I suppose the old adage is false – it’s not the taking part that counts : people care about the winning. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing but from what I can tell it’s the real thing