Despite a lifelong ambivalence to team sports, I feel it’s necessary to keep challenging your ideas, fears, likes and dislikes. So it was that I ended up at my first Turkish football game the other day. The result? I took up smoking for one night only. It was either that or kill myself more quickly.
But through the damp plastic seats, fluorescent lights and biting cold I wanted to dig deeper into my phobia. Where did it come from? Why don’t matching scarves and cleverly rhymed chants instil excitement and the burn of patriotism in me?
Did I suffer some team sports related tragedy? Was I hit by a ball at birth? Did my parents lock me in a cinema and play the Football World Cup on repeat for hours on end, Clockwork Orange style?
So then why is it that my eyes glaze over and my soul starts to whither whenever sports come within sight and sound?
To start with, it’s the balls. I just can’t fathom how it can be possible to find the throwing/passing/bouncing/kicking of a ball back and forth interesting. Sure, there’s some variation in the speed, height and power by which it can be moved, but it’s still a ball. Being propelled back and forth. I have more fun on a see-saw.
But more than that, it’s the mentality I find the most difficult to stomach. Sport develops some of the most intense anger, hatred and jealousy. Sure, there’s love there too, but it only lasts as long as one team’s winning and the other’s losing.
Affiliation to a team is rarely based on logical factors such as reasoned judgment about who is the best team, but almost always on inherited or circumstantial factors like who your father supports, where you are from or which team can afford the most talented players.
And so they trudge, the ‘supporters’. Decked in identical colours, with a similar mindset, ready to jump and clap and hug and cry for the team. As they gather, they begin to evoke old songs and chants which reinforce their love and devotion to a group of people they have never met and will never meet.
The team are intrinsically linked and dependent on each other. They are brought together not because of a genuine and mutual love and respect, but for the purpose of working towards the ‘greater good.’ Yes, an individual’s efforts are acknowledged, but it’s always done in the context of the ‘team.’ Sound familiar?
So there we have it: sports involve socialism, nationalism and patriotism. My most detested ‘isms’.
I knew it was more than just the balls.