Saturday, 12 December 2009

Measuring football devotion

First published in Sons View, 12 December 2009, Dumbarton -v- East Fife

Have you ever spent time trying to figure out precisely how much of your life you spend contemplating the wonders and weirdness of football – most particularly the ins and outs, why and wherefores, and ups and downs of Dumbarton FC? If so, you have my sympathy. For a small consideration I can even give you the name of someone you could consult professionally over this problem.

But seriously – who says there’s anything wrong with thinking about football? Some years ago a psychologist came up with the well-broadcast (but probably not very scientific) fact that most men are supposed to think about sex every eight seconds. What that means, when you think about it (yes, I spend far too much time thinking, most of it unpaid!) is that on average one eighth of your life is spent this way, not that you are suffering from some kind of salacious mental tic that kicks in every few seconds.

Similarly, while most human beings spend roughly one-third of their lives sleeping, it doesn’t follow that all their sleep occurs in one continuous session starting at birth and ending around the age of 25. Well, OK, this seems to happen with some students… but you get my point.

Now the reason that these statistical distinctions are significant is that non-football initiated partners and friends of those devoted to the Beautiful Game, not least loved ones of those drawn inescapably to the Sons, have been known to suggest to us that we “go on about football all the time”.

It is therefore important to be able to point out to them, with a fair degree of authority, that this isn’t true. We only go on about football – oh, I don’t know, say once every nine seconds? But not literally once every nine seconds. We merely “go on about it” for periods of time that, if you divided them into any reasonable unit, would be about a ninth of our lives. Which is quite different, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Indeed the upshot is that, actually, we spend eight-ninths of our lives as Dumbarton fans not talking or thinking about football at all! Put that way, it seems, does it not, that we are devoting massively insufficient cerebral resources to the game! Perhaps we should be dedicating even more of our aural and visual cortex to understanding things like the latest revisions in the offside rule, the reversible diamond formation, the inner workings of Jim Chapman’s tactical brain, the impact of popular Scottish breakfast foods on Dumbarton players’ match-day preparations. Or whether and how we are going to take three points off East Fife this afternoon.

Armed with such arguments, we can all now present ourselves as entirely reasonable folk who spend only a modest amount of time focussing on the game we love and the team that enthrals and torments us. But, if provoked, we might reasonably point out that we could, in fact, be spending much more time thinking about football while leaving most of our lives in tact – “so best not to mention it, dear.”

Well that’s my theory, anyway. My wife sees things differently. As we all know, there are some things in life that work OK in practice but don’t fare so well in theory. Trying to persuade your non-footballing beloved to look benignly upon your extensive football interests happens to be one of them.

But we, the DFC faithful, are not dissuaded. The fact that you are sitting in the stands at the Strathclyde Homes Stadium today, eagerly transfixed on the latest instalment of the sporting soap opera that is the Mighty Sons, proves the point. It tells your own personal story of dedication.

Or maybe you weren’t here at all, but asked a friend to pass this programme on to you afterwards. Then again, perhaps you acquired it thanks to the fine work of Sonstrust membership secretary Tommy Hughes, in his noble efforts to raise money for Dumbarton’s Youth Development Initiative on eBay.

However you came across this copy of Sons View, my point is proved. The fact that you are reading it this carefully means you are by definition a dedicated follower of football and of the Sons, and will continue to be so, I’m sure. Good on you – and enjoy the game this afternoon. Let’s hope it’s another DFC victory for us all to “go on about”.

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