Tag Archives: sport


I went to a football match last night. Went to the pub first, as my eyes, brain, liver and rectum are currently reminding me. Today I resemble a worn seaside entertainer, knowing his best years are far behind him and ticking off the days on the calendar before he sets the pier ablaze, fills his pockets with pebbles and strides out to sea.

In the pub I had a heated conversation with a good friend of mine about tactics. Four-four-two and the merits of the deep-lying playmaker, you might imagine. Not so; our topic was tactical voting, and whether such a thing has any worth in a modern democracy. It doesn’t of course, but his assertion that I’m a simpleton for believing as much provoked the most invigorating conversation I’ve had in ages. Our friends who tried to intervene to cool things down entirely missed the point that we were both hugely enjoying it.

I mention this because virtually everyone else around us was discussing football. Football, football, football. It takes up many people’s every waking thought, as a substitute for actual existence. People whose daily activities are so tedious that the fortnightly trek to the stadium is a highlight on a par with Madonna falling off stage at the Brits and impaling herself on a rogue scaffolding pole, which must have been what happened last night given the clamorous media coverage this morning.

You wonder, therefore, why they seem to fucking hate it so much.

From the start of the match last night, they were bleating like a flock of English sheep casting envious glances over the Welsh border at their more lovingly attended kin. Only a goal in the opening minute could have tempered their misery at what unfolded before them, and that’s only because they were a minute late to their seats.

Every slightly misplaced pass in a football match nowadays is met with a derisive howl of anger, as though the player had done it purposely to wind everyone up. A defender sets up a goalscoring chance that doesn’t come off but then doesn’t perform the full Usain to get back in position, and is therefore so traitorous he makes Mata Hari look like that suffragette who got mown down by the King’s horse in black and white. A shot takes a deflection and beats the goalkeeper and someone must be blamed; not the keeper, not the person it deflected off, but the nine other players who didn’t prevent the shot from happening in the first place by charging around the park after the ball like St Luke’s Under-9s.

I once went to a game where our team were winning 3-1 and a man behind, upon the missing of a chance to go 4-1 up, shouted “Oh come on! It’s not good enough!” No you utter cretin, it’s the definition of good enough. It’s summed up nicely if you’re lucky enough to be watching a match on TV that’s nil-nil at half time. You can hear people booing. It astounds me every time.

People pay a lot of money to watch a football match and they feel it gives them the right to do two things. Firstly, moan and moan and moan from seconds after kick off that exactly what they want to happen isn’t happening in exactly the way they want it. Secondly, to make the experience a sickening misery for those of us who understand that what’s taking place in front of us is simply people kicking a ball around.

Football fans, I’m coming to realise, are among the lowest forms of humanity imaginable. Thanks to fans joyfully proclaiming their racism on trains either side of the Channel to fans espousing the virtues of gas chambers as they pass through a Jewish quarter of London, the image of the average football supporter has recently taken a beating of the type only Michael McIntyre deserves. And as an attendee at one of the supposedly more ‘cultured’ stadia in England I can confirm its a reputation a great many fans justify in their every action. You go on telling yourself there’s nothing wrong with yelling the word ‘Yiddo’, that it’s just a bit of fun. It’s really not.

Presumably to the immense joy of most of the people around me last night, our team were soundly beaten. Each goal for the opposition was greeted with screams of “Yeah that’s it, go on, fuck it up again, like you always do”. The player who last week was hailed as a match winner was derided for his comedic touch in front of goal, setting himself up gracelessly for newspaper headlines involving cows and banjos to the delight of the people who pay something like 50 quid a match to harass those around them with their pitiful anguish.

It is sport, and it’s meant to be entertainment. Nothing is riding on this. There will be another match soon, and another season soon after. Your life is miserable enough without making this supposedly fun experience about as enjoyable as an Ally McBeal marathon. Coming to the football to piss and whine like a little boy not getting his way is like buying yourself a huge box of doughnuts as a treat and proceeding to shit on every one, eating it, then complaining they don’t taste right.

I want them to win, but when they don’t I’m adult enough to understand they were at least trying to. It’s not very plausible that they actually want to lose. When they win it’s great fun, and when they lose you move on, hoping next time will work out. Both teams can’t win, that’s not how this works.

Twenty-one years I’ve been watching my team, and for the first time last night I wondered if I might not have had enough of it. I’m one of those idiots who starts the silly songs people sing in a football stadium, a full-throated bellow often enough to get hundreds to sing along to a bastardisation of, almost inevitably, Sloop John B. When I don’t, I look around to see people standing there grim-faced, quiet but for the muttering and occasional yell of torment, simultaneously moaning at the lack of atmosphere without doing a bloody thing about it themselves. At nil-nil, nobody’s enjoying it. What’s all this actually for?

My tactical voting chum recommended I take a break from it, and maybe he’s got a point. Maybe I’ll go and watch rugby for a bit instead.

Pass me those pebbles, will you?

I’m sorry I made you punch me

Stan Collymore is a cunt (allegedly). I say that without a lawyer present. Despite being accused, though not charged, with domestic violence he got on his high horse a few years later asking people not to call him a ‘wife beater’. They could complain to his employers TalkSport instead and get him off the air if they hated him so much. This man, despite having punched a woman in the face, received no reprimand. Nothing.

We recently saw the League Managers Association backtracking on racist and sexist texts they called banter. I personally think that looking through someone’s personal texts is a little underhand and doesn’t take into account the relationship between two people. Imagine Lenny Bruce’s twitter account if he was still about? That would be a whole different use of the terms we shy away from. To brush it off as banter, though, shows that those in staid old football boardrooms really don’t have a clue about decency.

My ire is of course bent out of all proportion at the latest domestic violence story to rock sport; that of Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens. That’s American Football to us limeys. He punched his fiancée in the face. Then dragged her out of a lift, unconscious. What awful things would rain down on him?

No charges were pressed and the team (and NFL) gave him a tap on the wrist. The Ravens even included an apology from the woman for her part in the affair. “I’m sorry I made you punch me.” He apologised to the team and fans (not her) and it seemed to be filed away as meaningless.

Then, some weeks later, the video emerged. What can be seen is fairly shocking; he punches her hard, knocking her clean out. Now all of a sudden he is banned indefinitely and the world is in uproar. Reporters are shocked. Really? He knocked someone out! There’s video!

In other words, bruises and the words of a battered woman (or bystanders) mean very little without the gory imagery. If you can persuade her to deal with it for the greater good, then fine. He can get away with it. “That’s the power of video” one tweet replied to me, after I went on a rampage at anyone that exclaimed “wow” to the NFL response. So I’d better make sure I am recorded everywhere I go then, just in case?

No, Mr Tweeter, no. It shows the power of rich people to make domestic violence seem minor. If you can’t see the damage actually happening, then it was probably nothing. Just persuade her to look loving and make people believe she asked for it.

Meanwhile, other players are banned for smoking a spliff, not because it enhances performance but because it breaches the personal conduct laws of the NFL. Cannabis…bad. Smashing up someone’s face…acceptable. It’s all for the greater glory. Show me the money!

It appals me that we still live in a society where domestic violence can so easily be excused or forgotten, especially in sports people. These are not golden gods, they’re humans who happen to have the ability to run or jump a wee bit faster or higher than the rest of us.

I remember the bruises on Ulrika Johnson’s face after the incident with Collymore. It was as shocking as the video of Ray Rice is now. Both are evidence of nasty spoilt bastards with no control over their anger. The press after the Ulrika attack no doubt gave Stan a kick up the arse and yet the NFL’s original response was almost to reward a star player to do it again, and again. Many fans were complicit in the cover up, preferring to think of their fantasy football teams.

The NFL is no stranger to violence, even murder. Their initial response shows exactly how things can escalate. All I can hope is that his now wife finds the courage to get out of Dodge before she is blamed for his fall from grace.

Domestic violence has spent too long being pushed under the carpet. Injuries and the description of an event should be enough evidence to kick these fuckers up the arse. The sooner sport’s overarching bodies wise up and clean up, the sooner you can really hold up your stars as role models.

Ten minutes to kickoff

TVs aren’t cheap. They’re cheap compared to cars I suppose, but you could get a decent number of Peperamis for the price of a TV and still have change for a packet of Angel Delight to dip them in.

They’re not something to just break at random, at any rate. It’s unwise to smash a TV simply because you don’t like what it’s doing; turning it off would save a lot of money. But if I hear the fey, winsome cover of the Cyndi Lauper song ‘True Colours’ come out of this TV one more time I plan to immediately kick the fucking thing to death and get myself right on down to Currys.

It’s not the TV’s fault; it’s Sky. They’re using the song to advertise an upcoming event on one of their sports channels and they keep playing it every single time there’s an advert break. Perhaps if it was advertising golf or rugby I could ignore it, since my boiling hatred of those two facile activities would drown out whatever shite was soundtracking it. But no, it’s an advert for the new Premier League football season.

You could surmise that I like football. Once a year I donate over a grand to an organisation worth £1.3 billion the last time anyone counted, for the privilege of standing in the same spot a few miles from my flat 26 times a year, and shouting until my hair turns grey and my arse falls out. I probably wouldn’t do that if I didn’t enjoy it at least a little. But I actually do it through habit, because I have for so long and the one time I don’t I’ll forfeit the right to do it again for Christ knows how many years. That’s how they keep us hooked: fear of missing out.

In truth I go to watch my football team not for the football, but for the buggering about. For a couple of hours before every match I stand in the same spot (notice a theme?) in the pub talking complete bollocks with a fine collection of gentlemen my year would be a great deal worse without. We talk about everything but football and we get quickly drunk, it’s superb fun and then someone notices it’s ten minutes to kickoff. With a degree of sorrow, at least on my part, we switch pub for stadium to yell obscenities at people just doing a job, and wish messy death on the few thousand bastards at the other end wearing different coloured replica shirts to us.

While it’s happening it’s impossible not to take an interest, but taking the game seriously at any point outside of the actual 90 minutes is beyond me now. I used to rake any form of press I could for a snippet of information on my team, and thought of very little else but who ‘we’ were playing next, and after that, and after that. It seemed to transcend almost everything and virtually all my friends were the same. The ones who weren’t were weird.

Now – almost certainly because the money in this sport has replaced any form of simple fun that used to exist, or fair play, or competition for the sake of it rather than for the prize money – I couldn’t give a shifty shit about it. There’s such a gigantic disconnect between the people running around on the pitch and the mugs forced to pay exorbitant amounts to support their team live, it’s impossible to feel any more affection for these people than I do for anyone else I spend a lot of time staring gormlessly at, like Krishnan Guru-Murthy, or Tori Black.

Every new season we’re told this is going to be the best and most important ever, as though last season was a selection of friendlies that, yes, we still had to pay a thousand pounds for. Every weekend has a ‘huge’ fixture or a ‘crucial’ or ‘must-win’ game, as though the losers will be lined up and shot through their screams of contrition. The media wallows in the notion that they’ve created a world where people need football facts like methadone, and everyone’s biased and everyone’s wrong when they disagree with you and every defeat should result in sackings and millions more spent on yet more footballers. At no point does it occur to anyone that they’re talking about people kicking a ball around a field.

The ‘True Colours’ advert involves stills of footballers moving slowly across the screen like a teenager’s bad 3D art project. People look serious; livelihoods, if not lives, are at stake. There’s sorrow on the way for the many and joy for the chosen few. And anyone who doesn’t understand how fucking important this all is should just piss off and watch the cricket.

I live in hope that at some point English football will have a moment of epiphany, most likely at the moment it realises it can see its teeth having disappeared so far up its own arse. It might realise how it’s taken the fleecing of gullible, trapped fans a little too far, by charging them five times as much for a season ticket as the best teams in Germany, Spain, Italy and anywhere else football is viewed as a spectator sport rather than an unusual form of banking. It might consider that money would be better spent on allowing as many children as possible to play and enjoy football, rather than allowing as many adults as can afford it to channel pure hatred at each other, while having absolutely no influence over some of the richest people ever to have been paid to have fun.

Or I might be sitting here 12 months from now, looking forward to meeting my mates in the pub before the first game of the season on Saturday, excited about just how ‘big’ this season will be, remembering just how small and pointless last season was in comparison, and wondering who I’ll be ordered to hate most come May. I wonder which is more likely. I wonder.

You can’t fake a suplex

My understanding of suspending disbelief covers everything from traditional cinema, theatre and even the circus, but one remark that really riles me is “You do realise that wrestling is fake?”

Really? You’re telling me that WWE is marketed at children and isn’t real? The handsome young fellow that has shoulder muscles up to his ears didn’t just slam the naughty man through a plywood table? Of course he did, but it wasn’t a proper table was it? Even IKEA have tables you can fall through. Why is this failed bouncer scared of The Undertaker, yet the scrawny referee is unperturbed?

Wrestling isn’t real life, but I know you can’t fake a suplex. “Yeah but it’s fake isn’t it?” OK, I’ll jump on your head and you tell me that didn’t just happen. Get the fuck out of here.

Sure, it’s predetermined, but if it wasn’t surely all of these self-professed wrestling gods would be tearing it up at the Olympics, trying to win a gold medal rather than a belt that doesn’t even hold up jeans. If I thought wrestling was real then I’d expect Motorhead to be playing on my front lawn every time I left the house.

Of course they aren’t actually hitting each other in the face; bare knuckle boxing is frowned upon before the watershed after all. You may still be reeling from the fact you sat through ITV Sport in the 1970s believing Giant Haystacks genuinely didn’t get on with Mick McManus – grow up and get over it. Hulk Hogan came along and made that shit glamourous. It’s now a huge market for both children and adults, just like Christmas is, and just don’t tell me Santa isn’t real when I mention I like Christmas.

I don’t sit through an episode of Eastenders and question why nobody is swearing, or why people in 2014 still use a fucking launderette. How can these people in low income employment be in the pub every night drinking pints, or eating breakfasts in cafes each morning? It’s no surprise everybody is sleeping with someone that lives three doors down when each resident steps out of Albert Square once every five fucking years – and that’s just to die.

It’s entertainment. I’m not comfortable seeing men in trunks at the local swimming pool let alone making it a regular part of my television schedule, but I somehow get taken away to this land of flashing lights where gladiators do violent choreography with each other, all the while contemplating why I never tried waxing my chest. If I wanted to see two sweaty blokes actually hurting each other, I’d nip down the local on a Saturday night – but their tables don’t seem to break so easily.