I’m not keen on the football. Years of indifference have hardened me to all discussion of results and incidents. Listening to my students discuss it, it seems obvious that it exists only to give men something meaningless and trivial to talk about to fill the hours between being born and dying.
I sustained a minor interest in the international game for a while. I could sit through a Euro or World Cup tournament. At least they were only every other year. I’m a firm believer in making most annual sporting events biannual. How much more refreshing would, say, Wimbledon be if it didn’t happen every fucking year?
It was the BBC killed my final, lingering interest in international football. The marketing monkeys who have taken over the corporation have just lost all perspective. They did it with the Olympics, and then they did it with the South African World Cup. Every. Fucking. Programme. Had. Somebody. On. The. Spot.
They sent everybody to Beijing, and then everybody went to South Africa. In reality, they could have sat a couple of presenters in a studio in London and the experience for the audience at home would have been exactly the same.
But the wall to wall coverage, with endless bleeding discussions about meaningless trivia and minutiae drove me to the edge. I’ve been listening to Five Live since 1996. I knew everything that was going on, even though I had no interest, no team to support. I’ve listened to the sports news, the commentaries, the discussions, the interviews with managers about referees, the interviews with referees about managers, and the endless screaming trailers featuring Alan Green.
In a reverse of the move I’d made 15 years ago, I switched my radio from Five Live to Radio 4. I left Radio 4 in 1996 because I couldn’t bear the religion or the dull arts programmes with discussions of such artistic luminaries as Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. I left Five Live because I had lost the will to live when listening to yet another two hours of filler with the incredibly dull Alan Davies and his incredibly dull friends trying to be funny about vuvuzelas.
So I’ve had a season off from football, more or less. I feel lighter for it, liberated, though I want to shut off all conversations about it within earshot. When I returned to Radio 4 and heard The Archers for the first time in a decade or more, I realised that it was exactly the same, that I hadn’t missed anything. And I bet if I start paying attention to football again in 15 years, it too will be exactly the same. The same drivel being talked by the same pundits; the same “controversy” about refereeing decisions and indiscreet managers; the same pointlessly angry and aggressive players.
I know I haven’t really given anything up because I didn’t care in the first place. But I do feel richer, having filled the space in my life with something else. I still hate religious programmes, and I still want to stick knitting needles in my ears when I hear Mark Lawson, but at least I don’t hear Alan Green screaming about nothing in particular. Life is good.