Friday, June 21, 2013

Something For The Weekend...

Apart from guaranteed entry to heaven there are few advantages to being a Catholic other than the knowledge that confession is good for the soul. It is therefore in acknowledgement of the latter and in anticipation of the former that I voluntarily make the following statement - I am indifferent to football.

I have thought long and hard about making this admission which I know will banish me beyond the borders of life as we know it, but I blame the BBC.

As I nodded my way towards Newsnight last night, the message "Match of the Day" was suddenly imprinted on my brain. "Alzheimer's" was my immediate reaction, as what remained of my grip on reality discounted something which only inflicts itself surely during "the season", thankfully now over. But, sadly no longer true, as MoD indeed it was, relaying to a supine nation the footballing antics of a competition in Brazil, so successful that the locals have been setting fire to cars in support.

This is not the place to discuss the geo-political place of football in the modern world, but it is the place to discuss my confession.

It was at a very early age that I realised I was indifferent to the national sport.

You can only imagine how dangerous this discovery was to a lad whose urban district straddled the dividing line between Newcastle and Sunderland. I knew even then, that this was indeed the fabled secret that dare not speak its name. And the only reason I come clean now is because the BBC has finally broken the holy vow that kept us indifferents sane over the years--no footy in summer.

Yes, I know about the World Cup and the Euro's but I have checked and 2013 doesn't have any of these. But now, without prior warning, MoD (you will note I know the lingua franca) is back.

In the years since I admitted my shocking character flaw to myself I have strived to keep it secret from my friends. After all, if it emerged I would not have any. I assiduously learned players names, practiced the clich├ęs that cover football chat and even (at 38), finally grasped the fundementals of the off-side rule.

I was so often almost outed.

As a newbie on the Hartlepool Daily Mail I happily covered my tracks in pub conversations about the beautiful game. Carried away by my own bombast, I compensated so much that the editor, suddenly short of his star Sports Reporter one weekend, nominated me to cover the Saturday home game. Petrified, I  came up with a desperate plan to borrow somebody else's cliches from the report of the previous weeks game in one of the Sunday papers. I dutifully repeated and reworded those phrases beloved of the fans, crossed my fingers and phoned it in.

The following Monday the editor accosted me:
"You liar. You said you didn't know much about football".
As I quailed and mentally signed on the dole he then added:

"Brilliant report, caught the mood perfectly. Do next Saturday's game."

I went sick the following Friday.

And so the con continued, year after year, season after season.

Gazza, Gary, Eric, George, Alex, Eeny, Meeny, Miny and Moe: I was on first name terms with all of them.

I traveled the corridor of uncertainty, heard questions asked and never answered, accepted the discovery that the game had two halves and suffered squeaky bum time every time I was almost exposed.

All along I wondered if my close friends suspected the truth.

Some had been present when, under the influence of the truth drug that is Gordon's gin, I terrified unsuspecting cab drivers. They would ask that immortal question central to male bonding,
"who's your team then?"
 and I would reply,
"don't have one"...
The journey would then continue in total silence.

I took to organising an annual "Let's not watch the Cup Final party" although I baulked at turning the tele off.

But as the years passed, I detected a cooling off, sudden silences when I entered a room where Saturday plans were being made. Luckily by now, I had moved into television where, as my mates often said, character defects among males were more accepted.

Those who have made it this far in my confession are no doubt asking:

"Is he that rare Geordie who perhaps prefers games involving other shaped balls?" 


Well having gone this far I might as well admit the whole truth: I am indifferent to all sport.

( I leave this gap to give the reader time to recover their breath. )

So there you are - It's said now - There can be no going back.

I am reminded of a reporter on the now defunct News of the World overheard one evening in a bar on the street of shame. He had tracked an errant vicar and his choir mistress mistress to their remote cottage.

Summoning the vicar to the cottage door Ron, for that was his name, identified  himself and demanded the gory details of the unholy alliance. The unnerved cleric stuttered,
"but how do I know you are who you say you are?"

To which Ron replied,
"I've admitted it, haven't I?"

And now, so have I.

Oh, by the way, I'm also indifferent to cars - but, that's another story...