For John X
I've never trusted straight men who don't like football. Something just isn't wired up right in there.
Now here's a thing. I wouldn't, in a million years, describe myself as a serious football fan in any commonly-used sense of the word. I've seen my club team play in the flesh once in the last decade (not even that, in fact, as I had to leave before half time to catch a train), my national side less often still, and I don't even have Sky Sports. But I can't for the life of me grasp how any man with a properly-functioning brain could fail to be moved by the extraordinary drama, passion and beauty of it.
That a game played chiefly by people of, let's say, limited intellect and sensitivity is capable of conjuring movements of such breathtaking improvised co-operative grace, mixed in with odds-defying feats of athletic heroism, exhibitions of dazzling individual technical skill, moments of dastardly skullduggery or brutality, spectacular justice and heart-rending injustice, magnificent endeavour and slapstick farce and more besides… well, you can shove opera right up your arse, for a start.
(Likewise ballet. I went to see one for the first and very probably last time in 2009, and even though I already knew the plot – it was Romeo And Juliet, which in movie form left me dizzy, drained and breathless, actually gaping at the cinema screen – it was incomprehensible, tedious and left me completely unmoved despite having the odds stacked in its favour with all the choreography and costumes and orchestra. And I'm actually a total sucker for emotional manipulation in films and music generally.)
Football teaches teamwork, yet also encourages and rewards individual flair. It's as tactical as chess and as visceral as boxing. It requires almost no equipment and can be played almost anywhere. The rules, with the exception of offside – which despite the legend isn't THAT complicated – can be learned in ten seconds. ("Kick the ball in there, don't use your arms, don't kick the other players, go.")
In every meaningful, objective sense of the word it's a thing of beauty – it is, ultimately, about measurable empirical geometry and curves, after all. Plus everyone hugs each other at the end. (Football is also one of the few remaining examples of shared mass community in our 1000-channel age of individualism.)
I'm not interested in making sexual-politics points on the subject. A fair number of women like football, and plenty of gay men. That's just aces with me. But all the triggers in football are specifically tuned to the male psyche, particularly the heterosexual one. You don't have to have a team or ever go to matches, but if you're a straight man and those triggers don't set anything off at all when you happen to catch a game on the telly, something's defective in your genes.
You might be a perfectly nice chap and everything. But there's something wrong with you, and Nature wants you dead.
Nature, not me. 'S all I'm saying.