Sunday, 27 June 2010

Another Four Years to Add to the Hurt

I don't know the final score. I expect some smug git will tell me. I wish I could kill the messenger and get away with it. My guts are twisted in bile. Venom is pouring from heart. A venom that turns to self pity in the time it takes Germany to score their fourth.

That's when I turned off the TV. I'm not going to watch another game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. What is the point? Fuck off to the irritating vuvuzelas (which I've been selling) and fuck off to the shitty plastic Jabulani ball (which I thinking about trying to sell). A ball not stitched but glued. Fewer parts and less possibility for spin. The cheeky Japanese have been using in it the J-league for a number of months prior to the Finals. No wonder Honda and the other Japanese dude were the only ones so far to get it up and down from a free kick. A shit World Cup with a shit sound track and a shit Adidas ball to compound it all.

There’s nothing sadder than impotent anger and I have it in spades. This is so English of me. I rail against injustice and cry for fair play, when what I really want is for my sodding team to beat the Germans. It is going to happen in a tournament eventually. Surely in my life time. That will be a sweet day. England’s chavish populace will go wild. And me too. Publicans will make a killing. The street cleaners will have to put in over-time the following day. Let me dwell on the vision of future victories in this dark hour of despair. Here I am punching at the keys of my laptop trying furiously to work this out of my system. Outside it is raining. After that nightmarish vision of some Polish or Turkish expletive scoring the fourth I went out in the rain in my shorts and crooks without an umbrella in search of alcohol and the promise of oblivion.

I get back and the flat is deafeningly quiet. My wife watches another channel with the sound down low. She knows that I’m looking to burst out in rage at the smallest provocation. I feel like a twat for behaving this way. But how can you turn off your feelings. I seethe at our defence. I rage at the ref for disallowing Fat Frank's goal in the first half. I curse Capello for being just as unimaginative as every other coach we’ve had for the last 15 years. I also hold it against James for not being able to save three goals that shot straight past his body only inches away.

My only solace is the thing I always tell my students when the subject of sport comes up. I tell them (I fear they don't understand despite me laboring the point) it is not your achievement. It is the competitor's or competitors' achievement. It is really nothing you can take credit for. It is a con. A joke. Designed to distract you from the shittiness of your life. These sports people that you love are having a laugh. You invest your hard-earned emotion on them and they get paid anyway. They live in luxury because you imagine stupidly that their achievements are somehow yours. That is the great lie of patriotism. As the war poet Wilfred Owen pointed out the clarion call to sacrifice spouted by Horace of: Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori, is complete and utter shit. There is nothing noble and sweet about dying for your country. There is nothing sweet in cheering for your country. For the average person what they have got is what they have earned. They have paid their taxes to Caesar and owe nothing more to him. Don't worship your keeper and certainly don't step in front of a bullet for a vacuous ideal. Football is the ultimate in vacuous ideals. The world game is just escapism from a world where the 1% own 90%. Do you imagine that for a moment the 1% care less whether Frank’s goal was disallowed?

Oh well. Better this pointless stabbing at ideology then brooding on another disappointing World Cup.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Baby Lecture and Playing Heskey Up Front

Even Heskey is puzzled at the insistence that he throw on an English jersey.

On a drunk and stoned night somewhere in South America I convinced myself that it was a good idea to try and get my wife pregnant. Inspiration and impaired reasoning seem to have an uncanny resemblance at such moments. The cold morning light rationalist in me wisely counseled me that there were already too many people in the world and that when oil started running out nature would effect a horrific cull on the mammalian species that had attacked the planet like a virus. Opposed to this calm voice was the bacchanalian prophet screaming in my ear about the genius of creation, the possibility of bringing forth greatness into the world.

As I sat in the lecture for fathers who wanted to attend the birth of their children on a Saturday afternoon I began to wonder why I had listened to that drunken nut job of an internal voice. The woman lecturing us had psychotic red lipstick and scarily big teeth. She poured forth a torrent of polysyllabic advice, continually using the question form but not stopping for answers. I was trying my best to ignore her. Would Capello play Heskey? I wondered. Would we go with the standard and predictable 4-4-2 formation or would the new manager surprise everyone and play Rooney as the loner striker with a hungry Gerrard lurking just behind the front man? These were key points to consider, but made difficult to mentally pin down by the rhetorical madness of the woman in front of me. The middle aged government food specialist informed the mothers and fathers present that pot noodles were not healthy food. Yes, yes, but what about Joe Cole? Was his football guile being sacrificed for the work rate of Milner?

My wife had told me well in advance that I had to attend this one lecture as a minimum requirement for being at the birth of my daughter. It seemed like a distant elephant at the time. Now it was coming back to haunt me. After only 10 minutes of being there I was beginning to feel that the whole experience had a similar boredom quotient to cram school teaching. The minutes ticked by slowly in complete contrast to the manic fast rantings coming from the mouth with the massive front teeth. She reminded me of those fake nurses who used to do the rounds of hospital beds in Africa persuading mothers to switch from breast milk to Nestle powered milk. Only Bugs Bunny in front of me was pushing Beanstalk products like a motherfucker. She stopped her verbal assault only to hand out freebie Beanstalk powdered milk and yoghurt. Telling us how it contained extra iron. She pulled out this huge plastic bin and extolled the virtues of the Beanstalk bottle sterilizer.

Would Ledley King last the full ninety minutes? Would Jamie Carragher do one of his dodgy tackles and concede a penalty? God I had two hours of this lecture to last.

Finally, Big Teeth seemed to run out of frighteningly obvious things to tell us and freebies to hand out and let us take a short break. I immediately shot out the building and around the corner to have a crafty fag. How was I going to stay sober enough to focus on a game that started at 3.30am? Where should I watch the game? Would it be off-side as a husband to not watch the England match with my wife? All key considerations.

Being a good citizen I picked up my fag butt and slipped it down the side of the plastic wrapping of my fag packet and walked slowly and reluctantly back to the lecture room.

Back in the small room I noticed a couple of mothers had already scarpered. My wife pulled a face at me when she smelled the cigarette smoke on my clothes.

For Part Two a taller middle aged woman wearing a Winnie the Pooh apron took the floor. My wife liked her, but to me she seemed madder than the last old bird. This one suddenly lapsed into bizarre voice impersonations. I suspected that she had spent so long talking to babies that she couldn’t help modulating her tones and babbling Telly Tubby Japanese. She seemed to be talking about ‘image training’. Was that something similar to what Posh had done to Becks? I pondered. And so I fell back into fretting over Capello’s short-sightedness of playing Heskey who had only scored 3 Premiership goals all season. There was a scary pattern with Emile Heskey. He managed to convince managers of his worth as a non-scoring striker by providing a few neat lay-offs for the scoring striker.

Cartoon voice woman dimmed the lights and started up a CD with image training. It was like one of those self-hypnotism tracks that turn you from a timid under-achiever to a master of the universe in 90 minutes. I looked around the room. Several women had their heads down pretending to concentrate but probably just dozing or perhaps secretly fearing that South Korea would do the business tonight and make Japan look really second rate when they got around to playing. I took the opportunity to pull out my book and read a few pages of God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens. Anything to get my mind off the Heskey problem. Would Crouch be any better? Well he was taller, but not particularly good at heading the ball. Stuff about the Catholic Church supporting Fascism in Italy mingled with the problem of playing Fat Frank and Stevie Me together in midfield. The soothing music did some good in calming my nerves. Surely we were good enough to see off America with their sprinkling of Fulham and Everton players. The image training worked. By the time the lights went back up I was solidly confident that it would all come good on the night for the Three Lions. It was a piss easy group and besides the conventional wisdom is that you should build in form during a tournament. It was no good scoring a plethora of goals against the lesser sides and then hitting a dry spell in the knock out stages when it counted.

Salma Hayek breast feeding a baby in Africa because her mother had run out of milk. That's got to be better than Nestle

The lecture was over. Winnie the Poh plugged the image training CD and concluded the presentation. As the CD finished I was reminded for no reason of the constant bee hum of the South African vuvuzela. Humongous Canines was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps she had an appointment in Africa where the Beanstalk brand had a very poor market share. Anyway, nearly everyone bolted to the front to get their baby book stamped to prove that they had suffered the indoctrination and were thus entitled to use the hospital to give birth.

Outside I told my wife that we should buy plenty of food with iron in to avoid the necessity of getting Beanstalk products. I then walked with my loved one to the station where she was going to be picked up by my mother-in-law. I was off home for a quick nap before the footie started.

It all fell out pretty much as I had feared. Heskey did one decent reverse pass to Gerrard that set up the goal. Capello was now doomed to make the same mistake as Gerrard Houllier and persist with the non-scoring striker. American Fulham put up a spirited fight but it was the ineptitude of our keeper that threw away the three points. I hadn’t even remembered about the English drought of competent goalies such was my concerns over playing Heskey up front.

Robert Green let us down. Not Heskey.