Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Farewell to the football grinch

First published in The Grecian, 26 December 2007, Exeter City -v- Torquay United

’Tis the season to be jolly. Well, unless you’re a football fan. We don’t do ‘jolly’, unless we’re that annoying person next door who reckons that everything will take a turn for the better in the next game. The poor, deluded fool.

For some of us, ‘the true fans’, it’s even more annoying if the soccer optimist turns out to be (temporarily) right. Because that means we were wrong, even though we obviously know far more about the football grinch.

“Huh”, we say to ourselves. “I’ve been around long enough at St James’ Park to know how cruel life really is.” That means if the glass is half full it can only be because some sly wretch filched the other half while I was in the bathroom.

Which brings me to the topic of New Year’s Resolutions. Yup, those annual opportunities to turn over a new leaf, be nicer to everybody, remember to turn the central heating off, love the in-laws, sack the boss and ridicule that carthorse in midfield.

Oops! I let my guard slip instantly there, didn’t I? It was all going so well on the sweetness and light front until I allowed the thought that Exeter City are not five points clear at the top of the Blue Square Premier to dull my warm-hearted vision, opening up the necessity to find someone to blame.

When it comes to blame, there are only ever four candidates. The boss, the players, the fans and the media. Oh, and that guy who says “it could be worse, we could be in the Unibond”. His is definitely the smile of a person who’s just drunk half my beer. No wonder he’s cheerful.

My first football resolution of 2008, then, is to stop blaming so easily and start supporting more readily. Instead of fulminating about the sitter our sub’s just missed, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. It wasn’t a shot, it was a pass that got deflected by a divot and shows him to be both tactically aware and unselfish.

Of course, if he does it again I may have to revise my opinion in the light of evidence… but a lusty shout of “bad luck” is surely better than “you plonker”. Especially as there are others who deserve that far more. No, stop. Accentuate the positives. That’s my new motto.

Along the same lines, my second New Year football resolution is to be fairer to the officials. Instead of yelling, “why don’t you ask your optician if that was offside?”, I will instead proffer: “Thanks for giving the benefit of the doubt to our inferior and misrepresented opponents, ref. Adversity like this is building the Grecians’ character, and will now guarantee promotion in three season’s time!”

My third resolution involves coming up with shorter, snappier and more sound-bite oriented things to chant from the terraces. By that I don’t mean one word theories of alternative parenthood, either. I’m not quite sure what I do mean, yet. I’m still working on it. Once again, it’s a battle with the negatives, because football wit and wisdom seems invariably to flow downhill toward the morbid observation rather than uphill toward the snowy peak of reason.

Which brings me to my last resolution. Only four, but it’s a short column and a long year. I’m dangerously going to suggest we all give up chanting “Argyle are not very good” (or words to that effect). Because they’re three leagues above us. Frankly, it’s not dignified. We should be above such things, as well as higher up the table. Happy New Football Year!

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