One of my students scoffed at me the other day for saying I liked football. In particular, I like bad football - the last game I went to see was Maidenhead United against Truro City in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup, and even that was a bit more skillful than I’d have really liked.
OK - you know how the Scottish Premier League is bad, right? And how there are three professional leagues below that? I used to go along to watch St Andrews United, who were, at the time, two or three rungs further down the ladder than that. I’m talking BAD football here.
So why would I huddle in the tiny stand in a blizzarding gale watching a bundle of has-beens, never-weres and might-be-one-day-if-they-don’t-get-tackled-by-Big-Cammys?
Well - my student is a basketball fan, and likes basketball for exactly the reason I don’t: in basketball, you’re forever scoring. It’s a never-ending sequence of up-and-down, two points, three points, foul, sub, whatever. Not my cup of tea at all, because if you miss a basket, there’s going to be another one along in a few seconds.
In football, if I’d happened to turn away at the moment that Colin Jeffrey looked up on the halfway line and thumped the ball in the general direction of Sainsbury’s, I’d have missed it curling back, over the goalie (who wasn’t even far off his line) and into the net. Crazy goal, never to be repeated.
You don’t get that euphoria in basketball. You don’t get the same build-up of tension, you don’t get the same sense of surprise.
It’s the same reason I like maths: even though you spend much of your time grappling around, miserable and confused, wondering why you ever bother and if it’d make more sense to chuck it all in and become a barman where you can be right all the time because you have a well-programmed till… it’s worth it for the blinding moment of brilliance when you suddenly see how it all fits together.
And the crowd in your head goes wild.
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