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The F Word part 5: In which I kinda get to where I was always headed - The Three Ts

About The F Word part 5: In which I kinda get to where I was always headed

Previous Entry The F Word part 5: In which I kinda get to where I was always headed Dec. 16th, 2005 @ 02:29 pm Next Entry

I've noticed over the last few days that people will go to all lengths and depths to defend their interest in football. Does this mean that football represents something essential at the core of their identity?

I don't think it does. I think it shows that there are in the grip of an obsession.

I should say that I don't really hate football; like ice-hockey or basketball, it can be great fun to play, but for anyone who doesn't play regularly I think it takes a conscious effort of will to not find it boring to watch a whole game.

I've been told repeatedly, as if it was a party line for serious football fans, that it brings joy to millions. It is after all a cheap and unchallenging form of entertainment - cheap, that is, unless you want to see a game live or in the comfort of your own home. Nevertheless, I think the same claim could be made for Formula 1, which is obviously fucking horrible.

What I do resent is its increasing ubiquity over the last few years, and the fact that intelligent and potentially intelligent people - which means everybody - dedicate so much time to thinking and talking about it.

I want to give a couple of examples. In the few years leading up to Euro 2004 in Portugal, anyone arriving in the country by air was greeted by banners proclaiming 'We Love Football!' Now this is quite a claim to make on behalf of ten million people. If the same claim was made in the UK on behalf of cricket or rugby, I suspect people would not feel at all comfortable with it. Football, however, has taken on a status which somehow precludes a lack of interest.

For people working in even the most obscure of fields, it has become a quick way to associate their work and themelves with something universally popular, and a lazy metaphor for virtually any collective human activity. In an interview with the rock star-turned antiquarian megalith researcher Julian Cope, he draws the following analogy:

"Look at football worship," he says. "All those people gathered in an unroofed stadium [is] not unlike what must have gone on in pagan sanctuaries. The goalkeeper is the ultimate shaman, guarding the gates to the underground, wearing the No 1 jersey in a different colour and not seeming to be part of the team. We've never lost it."

That may be true to some extent, but I think it lets football off the hook by repeating the mantra that there is something primal about the sport that goes back to ancient human rituals. It's a very easy and common claim to make, but that doesn't make it necessarily true.

Football sells, and the vast majority of claims made for it are spurious. A quite astonishing example was the recent front-page headline of the appalling free Spanish newspaper Que!, which looked at the prospects for Spain and the world for 2006. The economy, it said, would go from bad to worse, salaries would remain low as ever, the cost of living would continue to rise exponentially; but there was hope and joy on the horizon, because in 2006 we will have a football World Cup to look forward to!

Someone somewhere did not think that that was a bit ...mucho.

There is something about football that I haven't mentioned yet, and it is something that these days gets very little attention. It concerns women and football.

Now there are many reasons why lots of women watch football. Some for the same reasons that men do - to see the occasional bit of spectacle that the sport offers, or because watching and following the game is usually a social thing. Some, it has to be said, are Uncle Toms, showing or developing an interest in it in order to please men.

Some women play football too, but like women's boxing the professional game exists as a side-effect of men's football. We don't see it on TV, and it's no accident that the best known player is the ex-wife of one of football's leading men. And, like boxing, when it does get some coverage it is often just for the titillation of men. Women footballers, unlike their male counterparts, have no visibility and no power.

The fact remains; football, in terms of the sport we see on TV, the thing that is so often cited as one thing that unites all the people and peoples of the world, does not involve women at any level.

People, as the Ancient Romans understood, love any spectacle that involves competition. Create a pseudo-event to keep people's minds and their free time occupied, and you can rule however you want. Franco and Salazar understood this perfectly with their promotion of football as the national cause and hobby. Under our present regimes, Berlusconi and the bastards in Beijing understand it too. And as our working lives become more and more competitive and challenging, the relentless promotion of football relates directly to people's need for a free-time activity which involves no challenge whatsoever.

For all these reasons, people who profess to be football fans are extremely defensive about their beloved sport. Maybe one of the most taboo things that can be written these days is simply:

Fuck football.

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[User Picture Icon]
Date:December 16th, 2005 03:08 pm (UTC)
"I should say that I don't really hate football; like ice-hockey or basketball, it can be great fun to play, but for anyone who doesn't play regularly I think it takes a conscious effort of will to not find it boring to watch a whole game."

Funny, I haven't played in a decade and yet when Saturday morning comes along, I can sit in front of the TV for hours. And furthermore, think of all the F1 fans who have been wrong all this time! F1 is obviously fucking horrible, did you hear that guys? This is common knowledge, where do F1 fans get off enjoying their sport?

I'm really curious as to why you've decided to join a football-centric community (it's not like you could have made a mistake, right? It's called "premiership" and we're usually discussing who won what on the weekend, or just how much everyone hates Chelsea) and post this. You're just trying to stir things up a bit, right? Rattle the cage, get a bit of a rise? You're entitled to your opinion, yes (even one so blatantly misinformed), but why here in a community with people who love the game?

One thing I've learned over the years is that any instance like this will ultimately lead nowhere. I'll say what I have to say, you'll shrug or scoff it off, someone else may have a word or two, same deal applies. Essentially I'm wasting my time by typing this. That said, however, I'm a stubborn bastard, so here goes: It's more than clear that you quite dislike the game. It is not clear exactly why, though. I believe it's also clear you have no understanding of it whatsoever. For someone to so casually sidestep the influence that football has, whether sociologically, politically, financially, is perhaps a tad ignorant. World Cup 2002 had a viewing audience of 28.8 billion over its 25 match schedule. I don't know how your math is, but that's 1.152 billion viewers per game. That's over one person out of six in the entire world. This doesn't even include football fans without access to a television, which given its impact in Africa is likely to be a large figure.

So, just to base my argument around one statistic, what are you telling me? Are you telling me all those people are wrong? That over half the Dutch population that took to the streets after they beat Germany in 1988 are wrong? That the tens of thousands of people who flock to the stands every Saturday morning are wrong?

I think the problem lies with you. You're more than entitled to your opinion, but if you want to downplay the importance and significance of a sport, please, keep away from football. Stick to... Baseball. Or golf. Yeah, write an essay on golf.
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Date:December 16th, 2005 03:13 pm (UTC)
World Cup 2002 had a viewing audience of 28.8 billion over its 25 match schedule


Yes, I am saying you're wrong.
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Date:December 16th, 2005 03:21 pm (UTC)

Fuck football

Haha! I concur. You have outdone yourself, this is going in my memories.

one correction: tabu-->taboo
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Date:December 16th, 2005 03:23 pm (UTC)
I agree with the original author: fuck football indeed. I say stop wasting time on this useless sport, and spend more time writing borrrrrrrrrrrrrring essays designed to put all football fans asleep.

Like a goalless final, you promised so much, and delivered so little.


the only thing I hate more than intellectual snobbery, is the assumption that all football mad people are brainless objects following the masses. IF it makes you feel superior, keep subscribing to that theory. But remember this: maybe people enjoy football, because it is beautiful to watch (physical grace), it unifies strangers, and it gives us a reason to ignore twats like you.


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Date:December 16th, 2005 03:29 pm (UTC)
*nods* well put. I would write something of equal sentiment like, but then I'm a brainless fop drained of any kind of concentration span via the watchinf of Grimsby playing Luton town. Plus Mussolini wants me to wash his dishes again.
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Date:December 16th, 2005 04:10 pm (UTC)
At the split second Pele opened his body and laid that pass into Carlos Alberto's path in the 1970 World Cup Final your entire argument was rendered null and void. People all over the world are struck by that moment, they appreciate it for the skill and vision that was required. I remember being at a match where Spain massacred Northern Ireland 5-0 at Windsor Park, and Spain's 5th goal was one of such skill and beauty that the entire home crowd stood and applauded them.

Am I obsessed with football, possibly, but I believe I appreciate football rather than obsess over it, which is as it should be.

Football is not just a sport, when played correctly it is truly an art form, a point which you have missed as surely as Ronnie Rosenthal did from 6 yards out against Villa.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:December 16th, 2005 04:21 pm (UTC)
as surely as Ronnie Rosenthal did from 6 yards out against Villa.

Yeah, I remember that one.
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Date:December 16th, 2005 04:26 pm (UTC)
In the US, the women's game is much better known than the men's game. Yes, I know we're an aberration.
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Date:December 16th, 2005 04:34 pm (UTC)
Congratulations! That makes me think of America in a slightly new light.

As for American football though...totally no appeal. Do a lot of women play that?
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Date:December 16th, 2005 04:49 pm (UTC)
Never thought I would read someone who linked Julian Cope with footy. Nice one.

Nice entry as well actually.
Date:December 16th, 2005 05:13 pm (UTC)

i told you to leave football alone

Date:December 16th, 2005 05:16 pm (UTC)


the irish times devotes more time to golf now than football, its happening everywhere. Adolf hitler invented the Mclaren motor racing team, Nigel Mansell is an anagram of 'BOY RACERTWAT'
Date:December 16th, 2005 10:19 pm (UTC)


zieg heil!!!

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Date:December 17th, 2005 12:08 am (UTC)

Re: 14/88

And you look absolutely hilarious! That's a proper masterrace haircut, nyet?!?
Date:December 17th, 2005 12:42 pm (UTC)
You call us the defensive ones and yet you seem to be going to extraordinary lengths to tell us football fans how pathetic, trivial and ridiculous our sport is.

You seem to be railing against a percieved cultural or sporting hegemony of football but that's bollocks; when a country like Portugal is hosting a tournament of the magnitude of Euro 2004, no wonder there's hype, excitement and even a bit of hyperbole. Great sporting events have a tendency to capture the imagination, whether they're about football or not. Go to a cricket match in South Asia and tell me that football is the only sport that can inspire such a level of hype and hysteria.

I also take exception to the idea that there's a problem with "intelligent and potentially intelligent people - which means everybody - dedicat[ing] so much time to thinking and talking about it". Again, what's it to you what people think and talk about? And, more pertinantly, what would you prefer them to talk about? Would you have us discussing Chomsky over a few beers at the end of the day? Would we be drawing up the merits of Orwell's novels vs Orwell's essays on a night out?

Football clearly strikes you as a modern-day opiate for the masses, a new fangled religion that distracts people from some sort of higher calling. In your self-important way, you fail to see beyond the sheer beauty of the game. You can talk about the over-commercialisation of the game, the involvement of some fairly unpleasant folks, the marginalisation of women all you want. For the vast majority - probably all - football fans, these are periphal issues - problems, but solvable ones. As duj_1arm says, football, my football, isn't about Abramovich, it's about Adams. It's not about Franco, it's about Fabregas. It's not about nationalism, tycoons or any of that - it's about Thierry Henry flicking the ball up and vollying past Barthez. If you cannot understand this then fine, but do not tread that well worn path of arrogant sneering at those that choose to find beauty and enjoyment in something you so despise.
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Date:December 18th, 2005 12:11 am (UTC)
Thank you.
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Date:December 18th, 2005 08:15 am (UTC)
Pseudo-intellectual ranting indeed.

Offended? Probably not. I live in a country where "football" (soccer to me) gets very little recognization.

But I will say your rant comes across very ignorant.

I got bored towards the end because I have no idea what info you're going off of besides personal opinion and a few scattered references to history.


What I do resent is its increasing ubiquity over the last few years, and the fact that intelligent and potentially intelligent people - which means everybody - dedicate so much time to thinking and talking about it.

Apparently you've spent plenty of time thinking about this rant and typing it out. So doesn't that make you sort of hypocritical?

While you're entitled to your opinion and don't have to like football, you're also not expected to understand it like fans do either.

You may see it as an obsession and such, but you do realize what all it does for people besides provide "cheap" entertainment?

Have you seen the status of the world lately? Everyone is on the brink of war or fighting or some bs similar. Soccer (football) is a sport that a vast majority of the world plays. It's been around forever and ever, longer than a lot of other sports. When it's played, it brings the masses together, from all economical classes, all social classes. They all come together to either support the same team or they could be for opposing teams. Even though there is the sad reference to the soccer fights, for the most part that's not common everywhere.

But every four years (three if you want to count the WWC), the world is brought together in one place to support their team. People are competing without guns, bombs, and killing. The general unspoken rule is that everything is left on the field. You can go out there, kick some ass, and walk off, and what's been done, is done.

It's great to know that there's something the world has in common, and it's soccer. A sport that brings people together in one giant family.

Did you know there are more countries that are apart of FIFA than there are in the UN (I believe it was the UN)? That speaks volumes.

Let's not forget the unity team sports brings to team members. They form bonds. Friendships. Sometimes family-like ties.

On the women's national team here, some of those players had been on the team since they were 15, and just retired recently, ending their 15-16 year run. Those women formed bonds, their children referred to their mom's team members as "aunts."

There's more to soccer than some cheap obsession. You really have to be apart of it to understand. If you've been to a soccer game, it's just great to be there because it's amazing to know that there are people from all walks of life joining up to share the same interest. When goals are scored, strangers are hugging eachother in celebration, all differences ignored for that moment. In fact, for the 90 minutes of the game.

While I agree that it can be boring to watch for some (I know I don't sit down and fully watch a game, and I've played for 9 years), there are plenty of sports that are boring to some and not to others. That's how sports are. Everyone's entitled to like their sport and think it's the best and obsess about it. That's just how it is. There are also people who just don't like sports, but other things, and that's okay too. Everyone has their interests. That's how people are. I believe you even have an interest list on your profile too.

As I said, you're entitled to your opinion and such, but before you go around bashing something, be sure you know a little more about it.

Like I said, I'm not offended. I live in America, a country where soccer is ignored and bashed quite often. It rolls off me like water, my dear. But this is the rant community after all, you are entitled to rant about whatever you want. But please, if you're gonna bash something, know what you're talking about if you want to look like you have any credibility or intelligence. If anything, I found this post rather amusing.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:December 18th, 2005 11:16 pm (UTC)

I was tired and I knew that sounded wrong.
Date:December 18th, 2005 11:56 am (UTC)


You've really touched a nerve here. But I have to agree with you. I like kicking a ball around, but no way could I sit through 90 minutes of someone else doing it on TV, no matter how good they are. Especially all those overpaid show ponies that now count for professional players. Bring back George Best. No, actually, now I think about it, don't bother.
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Date:December 18th, 2005 11:15 pm (UTC)

Re: Fotbal?

When someone knows how to bring back the dead, then that's doable.
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Date:January 9th, 2006 05:12 am (UTC)
Sports is another crucial example of the indoctrination system, in my view. For one thing because it offers people something to pay attention to that's of no importance. That keeps them from worrying about things that matter to their lives that they might have some idea of doing something about. It's striking to see the intelligence that's used by ordinary people in discussions of sports [as opposed to political and social issues]. I mean, you listen to radio stations where people call in -- they have the most exotic information and understanding about all kind of arcane issues. And the press undoubtedly does a lot with this.

You know, I remember in high school. I suddenly asked myself at one point, why do I care if my high school team wins the football game? I mean, I don't know anybody on the team, you know? I mean, they have nothing to do with me, I mean, why I am cheering for my team? It doesn't make sense. But the point is, it does make sense: it's a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority, and group cohesion behind leadership elements -- in fact, it's training in irrational jingoism. That's also a feature of competitive sports. I think if you look closely at these things, they do have functions, and that's why energy is devoted to supporting them and creating a basis for them and advertisers are willing to pay for them and so on.
Date:January 24th, 2006 05:42 pm (UTC)
That might all be true, but. The fact remains people who have no interest in sport have no comprehension of its qualities. I hate jazz but i dont decry it.
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