Do I Watch Football Because I'm Miserable, or Is It the Other Way Around?
Imagine the scene: You have just sat and watched your team lose an FA Cup final. Your dreams all seem to be shattered, and then just to make things a little worse, you hear a phrase that makes your blood boil.
"I don't know what you're so bothered about. It's only a game. How does it affect you in any way?"
As violently frustrating as that question is, it did get me thinking: Why do I put myself through all of this? Is football really making me miserable?
Looking back, I tried to remember how my emotional life and well-being were being influenced by the beautiful game. To be honest I was shocked.
I would like to share with you a few examples.
Christmas 2006 I broke up with a girlfriend, which is never a nice thing. I then sat on boxing day (Dec. 26) and watched Liverpool go down 1-0 at Blackburn. My mood instantly went from being upset, to wanting to introduce my ex-girlfriend's backside to the Christmas tree.
Is it perhaps worrying that I seemed to care more about a 1-0 defeat to Blackburn, than I did about splitting with my girlfriend of a number of years?
This isn't so bad though as the said ex had come up with the following comments in recent years:
1. "Why don't we leave early and avoid the traffic?" Two minutes before Steven Gerrard smacked in Liverpool's third and crucial goal against Olympiakos in the 2005 Champions League campaign.
2. "Did you really need to wake me up and tell me that?" As I rang her, whilst drunk admittedly, to tell her that Liverpool had won the Champions League.
3. "Yeah, but he's good looking isn't he?" As I cursed Christiano Ronaldo for getting Wayne Rooney sent off in the 2006 World Cup.
She never stood a chance.
In the World Cup of 2002, I sat with my friends in our local pub at 9:00 in the morning to watch England crash out of the competition in an uninspiring 2-1 defeat.
Following the game, the pub's DJ came up with brilliant idea of playing the song "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" by Oasis. I could have bottled him, I really could have.
The song "Panic" by the Smiths instantly came to mind. Not so much the title, but certainly the "Hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ" bit.
Is it bad that football caused me to want to attack an innocent pub DJ?
When England played Croatia, in their make or break Euro 2008 qualifying game at Wembley, I was living in Sydney. Because of the time difference, I was forced to watch the game at 8:00 am in the rest area of my place of work.
When the final whistle blew, signalling England's exit, I considered my options:
1. I could do the right thing, go sit at my desk, and listen to a bunch of Aussies whingeing about their superannuation problems.
2. I could turn around, take off my tie, risk being sacked, and find the nearest pub in order to drink away the memory of Steve McClaren's England reign.
Is it sane to risk unemployment when you're 14,000 miles away from home, just because of football?
I could write a whole novel on the dark thoughts Gary Neville has caused me.
I will not read the papers or the Internet for at least three days after a Liverpool defeat.
I have sworn at loved ones out of the frustration caused by equalisers (not even winners).
I consider Gareth Southgate's penalty miss at Euro 96 to be one of the top two most upsetting things that have ever happened me...and in the top 10 most upsetting things to happen to anybody. Ever.
Is football contributing towards making me miserable? No, because that would suggest there are other factors, and there are not.
I can honestly say that the one thing that makes me truly miserable 99.9 percent of the time is football.
So why do I do it? Why do I watch it when I know it will, sooner rather than later, make me miserable again?
Why do any of us do it? I'm sure that I am not alone in my feelings.
The reason is the highs, the glorious highs that counteract that lows. The peaks to the troughs, the Beatles to the Spice Girls.
I remember being thrown out of my favourite club for singing the "Ring of Fire" chant on top of a table following the 2007 Champions league semifinal against Chelsea.
I remember singing the same song, while twirling my shirt around my head, in a still packed Anfield, a full half an hour after the final whistle had blown in the Champions League semi of 2005.
I remember dancing on top of a telephone box after England's 5-1 mauling of Germany back in 2001, only to be helped down by a policeman whose only comments were: "He's some player that Owen lad, have a good night lads."
I would swap another 1000 years of the misery football causes me to have moments like this. Football might be the biggest cause of the blues, but it is the best cure by far.
Unless you're a Newcastle fan of course.
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