Hammering: England playing San Marino on 9 October. Photo: Getty
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Which is better – watching football in the flesh or on the telly?

Hunter Davies’s weekly column, The Fan. 

It’s been tough having two weeks without any Prem football, despite the thrill of England hammering the amateurs of San Marino and narrowly overcoming the ten men of Estonia, but now I am longing for normal, ever so exciting, best players in the best league in the world, blah blah, to start up for our delight all over again.

But which delights me more these days – watching my heroes in the flesh, or on the telly?

A few weeks ago, when I went to watch Man City, I set off at ten in the morning and didn’t get home till ten at night. Yes, I was stuffing my face in a hospitality suite, so it was pure self-indulgence. But on the way home, in a hellish overcrowded train, I began to wonder if it had been worth it, giving up a whole day of what’s left of my life. Watching it at home on the telly would have taken only two hours, leaving me free to do loads of other, nice things such as . . . hmm, must be some.

So which is better?

Being There

1. The atmosphere, can’t get that at home: the camaraderie, the jokes, the chants, the songs, the feeling of participating in an emotional event.

2. It’s social history, what we’ve done on Saturday afternoons for 150 years. At a game, I like to think I am communing with all those fans who’ve gone before, and those to come, and those all over the world now, going to the match, just like me.

3. The feeling of being able to affect what is going on. You can have a real influence on the players, by shouting and supporting, willing them on, or booing when they are rubbish. All fans believe this, that players do play better having you there. Even the players agree. You affect nothing, sitting at home and shouting at the telly.

4. Being there is three-dimensional: you get the smells, not just the sounds and sights. And also the touch. OK, you don’t touch the players, but you are aware of the physical impact, hear the crunch, shudder at the collisions, whereas on the telly it’s bloodless, remote, as pointless as acting.

5. It’s tribal. We are not isolated animals, sitting alone in our holes. It gives a sense of belonging, identifying with other families and our neighbourhood. Supporting our team – it’s in our blood, who we are.

6. It’s a release. Shouting and swearing: how often can we do that in our workplace? It’s often the best fun at a boring match, effing and blinding. And also an escape; everyday life fades; only the game matters. Hard to feel that, watching a box in the corner.

Watching on the Telly

1. You don’t have to trail all that way. The experience of going to a game is now horrendous – you can’t park, get on a train. In the old days, when no one had cars, there were football buses. Driving to see Spurs these days, six miles away, I have to allow 60 minutes at least, each way.

2. The cost of a Premiership season ticket is now roughly £1,000 – plus extras such as transport, programme, food and drink, so let’s say £2,000 a season. Sky and BT are total rip-offs, but probably work out at about half that price.

3. Telly is brilliant. No, it is. You get instant action replays of goals, penalty claims, dodgy incidents. Very often at a game, I have no idea who has scored until the name comes up on the screen.

4. You see everything in all corners of the ground. No matter how brilliant your seat in the stand may be, stuff will happen on the far side which you miss.

5. You get expert analysis – mostly dickheads at half-time repeating so-called talking points. But you don’t have to listen, just switch off, relax.

6. Telly is a private pleasure. With age, I find I don’t like anyone talking during a game, even my own son. If he insists on sitting with me, I repeat the house rules – no comments whatsoever, except about what’s happening on the screen. I don’t want to know about his day, or what he might be cooking tonight. Just shurrup, eh?

Sitting silently before the telly can make a football game bloodless and remote, academic and clinical, but on the other hand it is far less emotionally draining than being there.

So, which is better ? Still deciding . . . 

Hunter Davies’s latest book is ‘The Biscuit Girls” (Ebury Press, £6.99)

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 15 October 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Isis can be beaten

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Appreciate the full horror of Nigel Farage's pro-Trump speech

The former Ukip leader has appeared at a Donald Trump rally. It went exactly as you would expect.

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce Nigel Farage is at it again.

The on-again, off-again Ukip leader and current Member of the European Parliament has appeared at a Donald Trump rally to lend his support to the presidential candidate.

It was, predictably, distressing.

Farage started by telling his American audience why they, like he, should be positive.

"I come to you from the United Kingdom"

Okay, good start. Undeniably true.

"– with a message of hope –

Again, probably quite true.

Image: Clearly hopeful (Wikipedia Screenshot)

– and optimism.”

Ah.

Image: Nigel Farage in front of a poster showing immigrants who are definitely not European (Getty)

He continues: “If the little people, if the real people–”

Wait, what?

Why is Trump nodding sagely at this?

The little people?

Image: It's a plane with the name Trump on it (Wikimedia Commons)

THE LITTLE PEOPLE?

Image: It's the word Trump on the side of a skyscraper I can't cope with this (Pixel)

THE ONLY LITTLE PERSON CLOSE TO TRUMP IS RIDING A MASSIVE STUFFED LION

Image: I don't even know what to tell you. It's Trump and his wife and a child riding a stuffed lion. 

IN A PENTHOUSE

A PENTHOUSE WHICH LOOKS LIKE LIBERACE WAS LET LOOSE WITH THE GILT ON DAY FIVE OF A PARTICULARLY BAD BENDER

Image: So much gold. Just gold, everywhere.

HIS WIFE HAS SO MANY BAGS SHE HAS TO EMPLOY A BAG MAN TO CARRY THEM

Image: I did not even know there were so many styles of Louis Vuitton, and my dentists has a lot of old copies of Vogue.

Anyway. Back to Farage, who is telling the little people that they can win "against the forces of global corporatism".

 

Image: Aaaaarggghhhh (Wikipedia Screenshot)

Ugh. Okay. What next? Oh god, he's telling them they can have a Brexit moment.

“... you can beat Washington...”

“... if enough decent people...”

“...are prepared to stand up against the establishment”

Image: A screenshot from Donald Trump's Wikipedia page.

I think I need a lie down.

Watch the full clip here:

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland