Back at the end of August I escaped the annual circus coming to town by having a night at the theatre. It’s not actually the football transfers on August deadline day that are the main performers in this gruesome show.
Though grotesque by their very nature of opulence mixed with large doses of desperation they are merely the sideshow supporting Sky ringmaster Jim White as he rolls out his bunch of punditry clowns for soundbites throughout the elongated evening of supposed entertainment. Every transfer made to sound though of life or death scenario which the ringmaster and his cronies actually believe, given their inflated self-importance that the whole country has stopped for. Sky Television are not the only culprits of this massively over-hyped dramatized exaggeration and nor is transfer deadline day the only circus.
When I was a kid it was Pompey for 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon followed by an hour of Match of The Day on Saturday night and another 60 minutes on Sunday afternoon with The Big Match. If there was no midweek game to come, which was more often the case, then that was your lot. But you were all the healthier in mind for it. To keep the appetite whetted in between The Sports Mail was the bible of information on a Saturday night, the arrival of which was eagerly awaited to tell you all that you needed to know. Monday’s News carried an elaborated report of the game whilst on Thursday the build-up on the back pages towards the fast impending weekend match started to gather pace.
In between few football stories, no live games, the occasional transfer of a player which caught your eye, and the first six figure transfer fee a distant pipedream. Fast forward to five live games a weekend as the minimum, Monday night live, Friday night live, and various other matches in their entirety throughout the week captured on one channel or another. All accompanied by lengthy pre and post-match debate, often aided by computer diagrams, re-runs of previous games, player interviews and player cams. In the event of a temporary lull to actual game time there is 24 hour wall-to-wall coverage to be had of all things football.
If you can’t afford the Sky subscription then there are radio stations devoted to football and sport 24/7. Alan Knight has Talk Sport on religiously in the car during trips away and I can tell you that is one hell of a lot of meaningless rabbit from Portsmouth to Carlisle. Adrian Durham, Paul Hawksbee and Andy Jacobs are just three of the supposed football luminaries that assault your ears 24 hours a day if you let them. Bless him even cricketing gru Darren Gough weighs in as if he’s some kind of football expert on a permanent overdose.
Look, I’m consumed by Pompey seven days a week one way or another and most of the time, as I say on my twitter intro, I see that as a massive privilege. I can’t enter any pub of an evening, and those who know me will vouch that may be several, without at least one person coming over to talk about Pompey. You can hear the same stuff in one night several times. When you are losing it’s about systems, who should play up front, the best central defensive partnership, why so and so isn’t playing up front, why the manager makes certain substitutions etc. If you are winning then it’s about all of the above but with less questions and more glowing references.
There is other off the field stuff as well which I’m obviously more qualified to influence wherever possible. Things don’t stop when you leave the office or training ground late afternoon and it’s usually something I generally love and embrace. But the destructive force of football never switching off is that over time select people treat it as life. It isn’t.
Remember that Plymouth pitch invasion in the play offs at the end of last season when the mob joyously celebrated victory and also gloated towards desperately disappointed Pompey fans. Any one of those could have received a call in mid-pitch flight giving them some unexpected bad news. News that would have possibly made the result, a forthcoming trip to Wembley and even eventual promotion totally trivial or meaningless in comparison.
Equally the most disappointed Pompey fan might have also been a mere call away from having his dejection truly put into perspective. Sure there are still times when I get utterly apoplectic in defeat and ecstatic with victory because you can’t turn instinctive emotions on and off like a tap. But these days I appreciate it is transitory because at the end of the day it is merely sport. Another chance presents itself very quickly where in life they often don’t. A home defeat against Notts County replaced quickly by an away win at Cambridge.
Earlier in the season losing at Accrington Stanley ruined my weekend as is the norm, but I certainly wasn’t in mourning and by the Monday evening was looking to redress the balance against Barnet which Pompey duly did It wasn’t a death or serious illness to a loved one that would have been life changing and the notion it was anything like puts football into stark perspective. It is a massive distinction. And so back to my night at the theatre, often a metaphor for a football stadium, where during a delightful adaptation of ‘Half a Sixpence’ I was blissfully oblivious to Jim White’s circus along with a packed audience equally unaware and uncaring.
My oblivion even amounted to that of our own Adam Barton going north of the border and Dominic Hyam arriving from Reading. Information I would have usually been aware of well in advance as a matter of course. Those lowly transfers might also have bypassed Ringmaster White and his collection of motley performers as chief protagonists in trumpeting the ‘football is life’ fanfare- usually at only the highest level. But even down in League 2 the 24 hour saturation enrols it’s disciples to whom football is religion, and we all know where that path can lead. The packed theatre at Chichester proved, despite Sky’s loving to believe otherwise, that the country, nor even the south of England, collectively stopped for Deadline Day and life pretty much went on regardless. I will state the case again.
Pompey means everything to me, they consume my whole weekend and embrace the other five days also long into most nights. My passion knows no bounds and the emotions are perpetually on a big dipper ride. When we lose I not only bear the weight of my own disappointment but that of Directors, colleagues and others close who I know to be equally affected. My joy for myself and them in victory is also palpable. That I am in a position to either help or at least listen to others on the same big dipper is a source of immense satisfaction especially when I can make some small difference. It’s a huge chunk of life for what after all is a 90 minute game. Yet there equally exists a parallel world that as a kid I retreated into for at least four days a week.
Now at saturation point it is easy to never switch off and be swept away on the tide of obsession submitting oneself to the media propaganda.
Many have learnt already and others will continue to do so that despite its major influence in our lives football actually isn’t life.