A pair of dickheads
He's one of the best things to happen to football since Brian Barwick's Root and Branch. And he works for us. Ladies and Gentleman, the ever-excellent Andi Thomas of Twisted Blood fame.
What you are about to read runs counter to almost everything I hold dear, not only in football but in life. If I have any kind of creed, or overarching principle, it is that you shouldn't judge something, or someone, without first making at least some kind of attempt to understand the context. Obviously, this needn't be much effort – it doesn't take long to get a decent grasp on whether somebody's a twat or not – but it should be some, and it certainly shouldn't be done on the basis of a momentary television shot. Indeed, I've written about it at length elsewhere.
But with that in mind …
... anybody who waves at a television camera while they're at a football match is a dickhead.
There are, of course, different kinds of dickheadery at work here. Generally, the camera will do some pre-game crowd shots, in an effort to bring the viewer at home a little bit of the “atmos” to spice up the warm lager and crisps. There'll be a slow trail along the front row of the stands, goons leaning over and gurning like tragic casualties of the second summer of love. There'll be a few Look! A man with a flag! A woman with facepaint! A child with ADHD! moments, in which families and friends will contort themselves for the pleasure of the glassy-eyed televisual overlords.
But that's all build-up nonsense, and can be dismissed as a minor form of dickheadishness. After all, you’re probably drunk, or hyper, or nervous, or whatever. Being a pillock passes the time.
Then there’s the celebratory waver, dickheadus jubilatus. If anything, this is even more understandable than the preceding clownishness: you're winning, so you want to rub it in the face of the world. People do strange things in the grip of victory. Once watching a game in a pub, a last minute winner suddenly found me outside and a fair distance down the street, jumping around like a delirious gibbon. Not sure how I'd got there, and not sure what I've done if I'd seen a television camera. Waved at it? Fucked it? Set it on fire? Who knows. But I digress.
The third kind – the worst manifestation of cranial cockery – require some introduction. Let's assume that if you're at and watching a football match, then you care – that is, unless you’re press, in which case you’re working, or you’re there on a corporate junket, which is a rant I’ll reserve for Magic Spongers’ “Cunts” series. Prices for the kind of matches that end up on television being what they are, the era of the casual ‘well, I like football, so I’ll pop along to Old Trafford, even though I’m a Coventry fan’ attendee are all but over.
So you care, but you’re losing. Losing hard: outplayed, overmatched, humped into oblivion. You’re sat there, gazing into the middle distance, seconds after the last glint of the possibility of a rare comeback was snuffed out by your fumbling inadequacy of a winger treading on the ball. And you see, out of the corner of your eye, a television camera nosing toward you, the calm, unblinking eye of the world turned, just for a second, towards your grief.
And you’ve only gone and fucking waved.
Now, a loss – a proper gutshot of a loss – feels, in the moment of defeat, something akin to bereavement, only with worse language. So, would you wave for the camera at a funeral? And while this sounds like an over-the-top comparison, the analogy is sound: if you're at an event that you're emotionally involved in, and it's not going your way, you owe it to yourself to respond appropriately.
Otherwise, why are you crying? Why are you even there? What is the point and the purpose of your existence, if your allegiances, affections – if your very identity – can be bypassed in a second by the slim chance that someone might catch a glimpse of your gapingly vacant face? That’s why it’s called the idiot box, you know: it lobotomises people on both sides of the glass.
As an aside, this is why relegation makes for such excellent television. Not for the schadenfreude -- that only comes when it's somebody you loathe, and nobody has that many rivals that they can be crowing every year -- but because it's the one time that football fans disregard the cameras, disregard the celebritarian tyranny of the lens, and really care. Real tears. Real despair. Real pain. It's not pleasant, rivals excepted, but at least it's honest. At least it’s true.
I know this sounds like a rant about proper and not-proper ways of supporting a team, but it’s not. I don’t give a toss how you deal with loss, or how you demonstrate your joy, whether you go to every reserve match or only watch the televised games. Whether you live in the shadow of your stadium or on the other side of the planet, the world is big enough for you. But if you think of yourself as a fan of a football club – if you define yourself, at least in part, by an entity that you dreamed of playing for, that you waste your weekends watching, that you will defend against any and all who would besmirch its good name – then you owe it to yourself to sit there and cry like you’ve just sent your favourite goldfish down the porcelain highway to heaven. No matter if there’s a camera pointed at you.
Otherwise, you cease to be yourself. You become a parody of your own nature: the dancing, shouting, whooping proof of your own irrelevance. You become a dickhead.