” Are you not watching this ? ”
That was the wife to me, last night. A question like this normally means she’s figured out that football is on the telly, and not the usual “Axis of Evil” that is Corrie, Emmerdale and bloody Eastenders ! First to the remote control in our house gets first dabs on the evening viewing ( not exactly democracy ). On this occasion, her question was a valid one, because I had my head buried in the latest Everton fanzine, When skies are grey. The football on in the background was the play off game between Luton and Blackpool, which over the course of the evening would transpire to be one of the games of the season, certainly as far as drama is concerned. Incidentally, on the Red button option was another storming play off fixture, Exeter vs Carlisle. Both games would be decided late on, with more twists and turns than a Ryan Giggs run for a goal in an FA Cup Semi Final versus Arsenal ( Google it ). Back to the Wife’s loaded question…Was I actually watching it ? Truth be told, I wasn’t. For all it was on, I was relying on my own instinct of sensing when a goal ( or any other flash point ) was coming. That or the raised levels of the commentators tones. I tactfully explained to my better-half that years of football watching, both live and on TV, had given me a Jedi-like knowledge of the game ! You see, as you get older, you don’t have to stare incessantly at whats unfolding in front of you. We all know football can be excruciatingly dull at times, illuminated only by brilliance or fluke. It’s the ability to avoid the dull and be alert for the interesting that takes years to perfect ( this coming from someone that went to Bradford Away two years running and missed the winning goal due to a call of nature ). Admittedly it’s not a precise science ! But I digress. Back to the question – was I watching it ?…….
As many of you may know, my love affair with football goes back many years. I’m in my 44th year now – probably time I grew up – and football has been part of life since I was around 6 years old. I would take in my first game at seven – Hull City at home to Oxford United – and twenty eight years later witness my beloved Tigers win at Wembley, beating Bristol City in the play off Final. In between, I witnessed wonder goals, wet Tuesday nights in Hartlepool, dull-as-dish water 0-0 draws, coach journeys all over the country, ground lock-outs, administration, dodgy owners, useless managers, mercurial midfielders, centre halves with two left feet, worldy own goals, future Internationals, more dodgy owners, and finally the unbridled joy of promotion to the top-flight. It was quite the ride. If it was a book, it would be the proverbial fairy tale ending. For me, it was the ending. The ending of my time supporting Hull City. I know you simply don’t stop supporting a team, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Even now I still look out for the scores, I’d like to think I’m up on whats going on with the team and the owners. It still hurts to see “my” team relegated, and be the play-thing of a rich owner without the best interests of the club and it’s supporters at heart. I can only imagine how it must feel to those that devote their time, money and lives to supporting them still. It’s not just here in Hull. It’s Charlton, Leyton Orient, Blackpool, Blackburn, Notts County, Leeds, Coventry the list is endless. All proud clubs ruined by unscrupulous owners, with a boom or bust mentality. Football and businessmen have often gone hand in hand, often with disastrous circumstances. It’s nothing new, only now the deals are measured in millions and billions of pounds, amounts that can’t be replaced easily by bucket collections and sponsored walks by fans. When something goes wrong, it goes wrong spectacularly.
Back to Thursday night, and the football on TV. Was I watching it ? Define watching. If by watching you mean studying whats going on intently, then no I wasn’t watching. If by watching but not really taking that much notice, then yes. The beauty of being neutral, I explained to my wife, I can watch without any real “connection”. And finally to the crux of this piece, my “connection” with football, or to be precise televised football. I will often encourage people – via Twitter – to get out and support their local non-league side. After all, they need your custom and money more than most. I’m not preaching for people to turn their backs on their own teams – something I inadvertently have – but to go out and see whats local when they can’t attend a game because their team are Away, for example. Often people are surprised at exactly what is on offer, and go back for more. I personally stand with a regular group on a Saturday that make my team North Ferriby their second team, filling in the blanks of a fixture-free weekend when Hull City are Away. I applaud them for not taking the easy option, sitting on the settee watching Soccer Saturday, or worse still venturing to IKEA with the missus. In this day and age of blanket football coverage, the easy option would be to sit in and flick through the channels, or hook up the computer to a streamed game. Football can be viewed 7 days-a-week, from various countries, and various competitions. Is there such a thing as too much ? I often joke with my wife that I’d watch football every day of the week. My excuse is I need a hobby. Her retort is I should’ve married football, and had her as a hobby. That would be an expensive hobby, I mutter under my breath ! In truth, I wouldn’t watch football – televised might I add – 7 days-a -week. Perhaps it’s an age thing ? Perhaps my time is precious, and other things take priority ? Maybe the game just doesn’t grab me anymore, like it used to as a youngster ? Or maybe, just maybe, football has finally eaten itself. Too much of a good thing is fantastic ? Not for me. Perhaps I’ve finally had my fill of it, with saturated coverage and dedicated channels ? From now on, less is more. The Sky TV subscription has gone, no more Super-Duper over-hyped Sundays, or Monday Night Football, and whatever they call the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday editions. I’ll make do with the odd weekend of FA Cup football on terrestrial TV, and the MOTD highlights package. And perhaps doing that, I’ll look forward to it more, rather than it just being on in the background. It may even make me appreciate going to a game more too. If my only hope of catching a game is to go out and watch one, then perhaps that’s what I’ll do, instead of not bothering safe in the knowledge there will be a game of some sorts on the television. I might even become a dedicated follower of football again.