I suppose that I’ve always been prone to pessimistic over-analysis, that’s just who I am, but the handful of weeks that have passed since I finished my educational career have given me far more time to occupy myself with the indulgences of introspection. Naked to the urgent winds of post-university reality, I have taken it upon myself to take a step back and look more fully at the tasks over which I regularly obsess. Needless to say, as I spend a great deal of my time writing (or at least attempting to do so), my activities as a blogger have not escaped close scrutiny.
While the simple act of committing words to the page, of watching them take shape and arrive at an acceptable structure, has always given – and will continue to give – me great pleasure, I have found it difficult to reach an answer as to why I insist on placing football on the pedestal which it enjoys both amongst the professional and amateur media. An ultimately futile distraction from our own mortality (as is the case, I suppose, with any pastime), quite why so many rush to spend such large portions of their lives frantically studying the game to the very smallest detail is something for which I cannot find a reasonable answer.
As much as the game of football provides us with short-term happiness; a victory for “our” team, a moment or two of physical elegance – I have always been wary of the sport’s potential to come to define the individual. Football, as enjoyable as it can be, has the capacity to consume us, to occupy thoughts during every waking hour, to absorb us into its false precedence. Of course, I am aware that such effects are not unique only to sports, but their scope in that particular realm often appears magnified, lives becoming defined along the lines of empty rivalries and hollow allegiances, conflicts constructed only to defy more pressing realities.
As a cursory glance at any fans forum or social networking platform will reveal, football has become a ubiquitous reference point across a wide range of fields. Even when conversation strays from the strictly sporting, talk is regularly framed in terms of the game, those who stray too far from the unspoken boundaries being all too quickly chastised or even wholly ostracised. The “football community” (if such a thing can be said to exist) has little time for those who aren’t quite prepared to fully commit to its special brand of introspection, little time for those who wish to combine their interest with a passion for a wider range of subjects. I may be exaggerating to emphasise my point, but I believe these assertions ring at least partially true, and surely that cannot be healthy?
My own personal issue is that, in the grand scheme of things, I’m not even sure that I love football for what it actually is. As someone who relishes simply the process of writing, I chose the game as a medium because it is a subject which I have a relatively sound knowledge of, as well as being a topic so popular that, if I may be brutally honest, it is perhaps easier to have one’s work noticed by a larger audience. However, the more I mull things over in my head, the more I begin to think that my understanding of the game’s “culture” was really rather underdeveloped in the first instance. The case may be that I just don’t understand football as well as I thought I did; I thought there was a deeper meaning and purpose than that which appears on the surface, but that may very well not be the case at all.
Clearly, football provides a ready-made and self-renewing folklore for any writer to drop themselves into and begin to explore, but that is surely still not reason enough for so many to spend their hours, days, weeks and months pouring over its trivialities. Why, when there are whole worlds of literature, music, religion, science and philosophy out there to discover, is there such common fixation – as moths to flames – with twenty-two men kicking spheres into goals within a small range of differing contexts? Football may provide fleeting pleasures, but where books and other forms of artistic expression may seek practicable answers and inform our intellect through the enjoyment they communicate, football appears to offer only superficial gratification.
And yet I still come back to it, time after time after time. It may be, in my own mind at least, a futile preoccupation, but it is one which I cannot shake loose. Let there be no doubt about it, football has an inherent attraction, a ritualistic narrative all of its own that appeals to the voyeur in all of us. Quite often all we seek is an aesthetic diversion from the everyday, and there is of course a place for that in all cultures and in all people. Indeed, the purpose of this piece was not to write off football as a total irrelevance, I hope my work shows that that is not an opinion I hold, but merely to ask why it has the capacity to induce such blinkered intensity.
Enjoy football, even go as far as to love it, but don’t let it overwhelm the more significant realities of which it is a mere by-product.