The Magpie Anthology

Something Less Boring

Ironically, my errant mother’s over-reliance on the electronic baby sitter inspired a life of eager, if not exceptional, exercise. Not as ironic as a blight – I believe this is the correct collective noun – of obese, racist, homophobes getting all hot and bothered watching an ethnically diverse group of lithe, young, semi-clad men hug each other when they score, but I digress. Thanks to ‘Why Don’t You?’ I do more sport than is good for me. Actually, that’s not just erroneous, the reverse is true, and that’s my point. Physical activity has too many advantages to mention; watching others do stuff condemns you to depression, distraction and poor conversational skills.

Foot-the-ball can be exciting. The outcome is unpredictable, but so are the country’s trains, yet people don’t fanatically support Southern Rail. I watched England versus Croatia in my local, and it was obvious, even to me, a man who thought aggregate was the correct term for AstroTurf, that we were going home. Spotting which insanely irate supporter would need the defibrillator first though was truly mesmerising.

It’s different ‘live’ my football supporting friends claim. The atmosphere’s contagious. Sixty thousand urging Salah on, as he hammers the ball past Dúbravka. They’re wrong. Last March, a friend and I attended a premiership fixture, and it left me cold, literally and figuratively. Although, in mitigation, it was a particularly ferocious cold snap. They were right about the atmosphere. It was contagious, I caught a cold.

These fan-atics deserve pity. Their happiness is in the hands of others, well mainly their feet, and occasionally their heads, but pedantry has no place here. Happiness is too valuable to outsource. My friend’s team lost, and he was inconsolable, unresponsive even to tickling and mother-in-law jokes. Adding insult to injury, he’d paid some serious scratch for this privilege.

There are psychological benefits to belonging, but these sheep would experience increased rewards if they participated physically. I belong to the library, a far more interesting – and informative – association. Currently, it’s less social, there’s definitely less singing, but once the government repeals its fascist diktat on silence, that will change.

Watching sport does ease socially awkward situations. I met a couple of friends, who, unbeknownst to me, secretly followed football, Wimbledon and Newcastle respectively. Immediately, these strangers were violently debating when one guy grabbed the testicles of another. The details are hazy, I drifted off after a few hours. Surely there was a more edifying subject: why Radio Four isn’t compulsory; the content of certain cult seventies TV shows, hell, I’d even have discussed Brexit.

The real reason for watching sport was revealed by ex-colleague Jason. He hates football, but, as he’s convinced his wife he bled navy blue, he’s allowed to watch every match Spurs play, guaranteeing him one drunken night a week. Machiavellian genius certainly, but such deception is appalling. A relationship is based on trust.

I have singled out football, but watching all sport is asinine. If you like it – and it pains me to sound like the positive-thinking inhabitants of our former colony – just do it. You’ll feel better. Of course, when I’m struggling up the mighty Sutton Bank, legs burning, heart and lungs exploding, the appeal of watching the Tour de Yorkshire supping Black Sheep increases exponentially.

Right, now that’s sorted, can anyone tell me what ‘Why Don’t You?’ was about, as I switched off my television set and went out and did something less boring instead of watching it? Normally, leaving flaming bags of dog dirt on doorsteps before knocking and retreating. If you’re local, we could meet up for a sharpener. I’ll tell Madame Le Quoi I’m popping to the library.

Words: Monsieur Le Quoi

Pictures: Christine Taylor Photography

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