Monday, 10 March 2008

There's Too Much Love

I do not pretend to know a fraction of what I knew about football in my younger days. When I was a callow sixth former, you could have asked me what David Batty ate for breakfast (sugar puffs, almost certainly, with a grating of black pudding on top) or what David Platt liked to listen to in his car on the way to the training ground (Luther Vandross, more likely than not) and I would have been right back at you with an answer, before you could say 'Shouldn't you be revising?' Admittedly, these are not the kind of facts that would prove critically useful during a pub quiz, but since I am a genius at pop music, I earn the kudos of my teammates elsewhere.

The beautiful game rarely turns my head these days. But the events of the weekend have whispered sweet nothings into my ears once again. This year, modest ol' 2008, there will be only one premiership football team in the semi-finals of the FA cup. And that premiership club is Portsmouth who, soz Pompey, hardly count. And by that I mean that only about 4% of Saturday afternoon visitors to, say, Miss Selfridge, or Mecca Bingo, or Frosts Garden Centre of Willington, Beds (or indeed anywhere populated by men and woman who don't have default plans for 3 o'clock on at least one day of the weekend), would think of them as even being in what the footballing lexicon calls the top flight. This tingly scenario has not happened for 100 years. Which is a proper, official, historically large unit of history. 

Real sports fans – who, remember, eat pies not prawn sandwiches –  are Romantics. They'd probably deny it and mutter on about some sense of community, their own very modern kind of church – utterly valid and my top answer on a different day. But how else to explain the swooping in the stomach, the priority-warping passion, the crushing sense of loss, the habitual tilting at windmills and tireless cheering of lost causes clad in the kind of garish colours rarely seen on a group of straight men who are not on a cycling trip. It's the stuff of Cervantes, I'm telling you. And even Cervantes would have been well and truly boggled at this year of years.

Though the more I think about it, this surfeit of magic and romance, the more I think it's all too much. I feel almost sick from feasting on it, and I've come to the party late. Eighteen stone Cardiff City fans must be swooning like Keats. Brian Barwick can barely get to his office for the corpses of slain dragons blocking his path. And here's what worries me… what drama is left for the final? How can 22 heroes further distinguish themselves when they've already dispatched all the baddies? I can't believe the FA, with their eyes on gimmick and spectacle, won't have something up their sleeves to wake up the ratings. Personally I'm advocating the release of real-life lions on to the pitch. Three of them of course… 

(In geek news, the title of this post refers to a nice song by Belle & Sebastian. And while I was looking for a clip of it to post, I found this piece of fancraft, which could have been put together especially for me and no one else. And that, of course, is the romance of YouTube.)

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