The fan - Hunter Davies thinks he may stay at home
If you support an unsuccessful team, at least the parking's easier
''All you seem to do is moan," said my wife when I got home from Spurs last Saturday. "I don't know why you bother going, you get so little pleasure. Why not just watch a game on the television instead?"
"You don't know nothing, woman. You can't beat being there in the flesh, it's what football's all about, innit, always has been, what's for supper."
It was true that going to the match had hung over me all that day, which is daft. I do like Saturday-afternoon games, but it means parking is hellish. It can be a £40 fine on a yellow line. Or being towed away. No wonder local schools are making fortunes at both Arsenal and Spurs, charging £10 to park in the playground.
What a rip-off. That was the cost of a season ticket, not long ago. I refuse to pay. So it means setting off 90 minutes before kick-off, just to find a side street with space, then I have to walk at least a mile to the ground. I'd go by bus, with my free pass, but they're useless.
Once parked, I do like walking with the crowds, communing with my fellow fans, part of the vast body of supporters, all going to matches across the globe. I like to go round the ground, see the stalls, look at the faces, feel the anticipation. Then I love that first glimpse of the brilliant-green grass.
"How funny," said my wife. "That would be the bit I didn't like, mixing with all the other people."
She had been to a gallery and a film, her usual cultural Saturday while I'm at footer. Sometimes she does a theatre, but she prefers a film. She can't suspend disbelief when she's at the theatre, being too aware of the audience, the theatre itself, the actors. At the cinema, she sinks into the dark, feels totally alone, cut off, totally immersed. That's why she likes the cinema best, hence she can't understand why I don't prefer footer on TV.
I explain that being there, you don't just feel the crowd atmosphere, you're also conscious of the players' flesh, the clash of bodies. You can tell who is up for it, who is desperate to win. You take in the whole scene, understand the patterns, watch what's happening off the ball. With TV, you see only what they choose to let you see.
On the other hand, with close-ups, TV makes dodgy decisions clear; goals can be repeated and analysed. At a game, very often you don't see who actually scored: it all happens so quickly. But the emotion is greater when you're there, if it's a goal for your side. Everyone stands up and goes wild. That's really good.
Spurs played well enough - for Spurs. But they got beaten 1-0 by Chelsea, so there wasn't much jumping about. I don't think defeat and the fact that Spurs have a lousy team at the moment are the only reasons for my current state of depression, however.
If they were a brilliant team, winning all the time, there would obviously be more pleasure, but would it be enough to make up for the hell of getting there? Parking would be even worse, if they were a successful team.
I was realising that the misery of going there, which was now hanging over me, was new, resenting having to waste three hours of my life in order to watch a boring 90-minute game. With TV, the game comes to you. No time is lost.
My passion for football is as strong as ever, greater if anything. That's not the problem. Football generally is better, more skilful. But in dark moments, like now, I feel myself wondering if I will renew my Spurs season ticket next season. Maybe just watch them on the box instead.
"Never thought I'd hear you say that," my wife said. "Things must be bad." "It'll pass," I replied. "I'm in a bad mood. Anyway you haven't told me what's for supper."
"It's free play," she said, "remember? On Saturdays, I don't do any cooking . . ."
Oh God, bloody hell, that's the last straw. What is the point, of life, of anything? Might as well go to bed. Wake me up when it's Real Madrid on Sky . . .
More from New Statesman
- Online writers:
- Steven Baxter
- Rowenna Davis
- David Allen Green
- Mehdi Hasan
- Nelson Jones
- Gavin Kelly
- Helen Lewis
- Laurie Penny
- The V Spot
- Alex Hern
- Martha Gill
- Alan White
- Samira Shackle
- Alex Andreou
- Nicky Woolf in America
- Bim Adewunmi
- Kate Mossman on pop
- Ryan Gilbey on Film
- Martin Robbins
- Rafael Behr
- Eleanor Margolis