Richard Hearn educates his boys in football
If you asked me whether I want to give my sons a life of disappointment, frustration and hopes dashed, I‘d obviously answer no. Why then, am I considering educating them in supporting a football team, when I know what this means? Tying up your own mood with the fortunes of others?
Now I don’t want to alienate readers by talking about my specific team, but I may scatter a few clues. I’m not even talking about ‘proper’ supporting. I’m very much an ‘armchair’ fan, attending very few games, but still getting my fix by a process of reading sports pages, TV watching, listening to Radio 5 Live. The word ‘armchair’ is well named. If I’m not even in the crowd shouting abuse or encouragement, I have as much influence over the result as a piece of living room furniture.
“If I’m not in the crowd shouting, I have as much influence over the result as a piece of furniture”
I remember listening as a cup game against Liverpool went to penalties. The Boy – then aged two months – was asleep on my shoulder. Listening to football on the radio can be fantastic, but it can also be unbearably tense. Particularly penalties. My team lost, of course.
It was an education in life for The Boy on my shoulder. Not so much ‘My First Camera’ as ‘My First Intense Disappointment’. If Fisher Price package this up for Christmas, I’m not sure it‘s going to fly off the shelves. Over the years, disappointment has taken many forms. Sometimes it is simply expectations raised too high. Other times, the ref doesn’t notice when the ball bounces a foot into the goal against the league leaders, or when we would have got into the Champions League if it wasn’t for a dodgy lasagne (these are not topical events, but it shows the bitterness lingers).
The only fact The Boy knows so far about football is ‘Mummy thinks it’s boring.’ Can we just stick to playing without supporting? Out in the garden, The Boy kicks the ball with gusto, equally thrilled whether it’s gone onto the compost heap or in the goal. I should treasure this and not lead him into the altogether bleaker hobby of scanning newspapers for goal difference or the Saturday Night anti-climax of avoiding the score only to watch your team lose on Match Of The Day. (I end up second-guessing each editorial choice. If they showed the ball going out for a throw in, is it about to be a goal? That’s no life to pass on).
It’s Sunday afternoon, nearing the deadline for this column. I listen to my team on the radio and they beat Wigan 9–1. Forget all the negativity! We’ll probably win the Premiership! I’m smiling, New Baby is smiling (although it‘s probably wind). This is our year!