When I get home after a round of golf, the conversation with my wife follows a familiar pattern:
“How was the golf?”
“Mixed, but a lot of fun”
“What did you talk about with Pete?”
“You were with him four hours – you must have discussed something else!”
In a way, it would be better if I was lying: if we’d discussed the latest fashions, how to resolve the Syrian crisis or the case for parallel universes. But we didn’t. We might have briefly touched on other things, but basically it was just football.
Let me hasten to add – we also don’t engage in Donald Trump-style “locker room banter”. Nor did any locker room/dressing room I’ve ever been part of, I’m happy to say.
Our emotional involvement with football is a kind of escapism, of course. And a much-needed one perhaps, when the news is either unbearably cruel or pathetically trivial, many of our politicians either crazily stubborn or away with the fairies, and the sensible middle ground a seemingly abandoned wasteland.
Pete is an Arsenal fan (hence my soft spot for the Gunners). But irrespective of who they support, talking to other fans reminds us that supporters are fundamentally the same.
Yes, we’ll lay claim to be being special – “the best supporters in the world” and so on. The myth of uniqueness is part of the ritual. However, we know deep down that our commitment – great as it is – is shared by those who follow other teams. Yes, even Ipswich.
At Norwich these days, of course, we do have something special to feel good about: goals and wins. After 12 games the table doesn’t lie – and we sit at the top of it.
I know there isn’t universal satisfaction among our fans, and I won’t try to argue the point here. Results are everything, and I agree we’ve made it hairier in several games than it should have been but I have to say I’m enjoying some of our football.
Saturday’s midfield of Dorrans, Pritchard and the evergreen Wes produced some stuff genuinely reminiscent of Brazil (the nation, not Alan).
In passing, I have to admit to a bit of sloppy writing in a recent piece where I described Graham Dorrans as a revelation. In fact, he’s just showing the impressive form we saw glimpses of two years ago. If it’s a revelation we’re after, there’s the magnificent Ed Balls on Strictly.
We love our club and bristle at outside criticism of it. That’s our club, though. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t feel the same passion for our national team, and I don’t mind it being lampooned.
A play once featured journalists reporting on an England game in Eastern Europe. There’s a serious story, but the writer couldn’t resist putting his creativity into the journalists’ reports. One describes an England defender as “elephantine in everything but memory”.
The author was Tom Stoppard. Like many of his plays, that one (“Professional Foul”) is simultaneously thought-provoking, moving and funny. My own favourite is Arcadia, a play full of original and touching detail.
Set in a country house in two periods 150 years apart, Arcadia is about love – together with sex, scholarship and landscape gardening. In the ‘old’ scene we find the precocious Thomasina Coverly grappling with the science of dynamic, irreversible processes – a train of thought sparked by the image of stirring jam into rice pudding.
Believing he’s about to be killed in a duel, her tutor Septimus Hodge later leaves a letter for only her to understand, using the same jam and rice pudding image to convey his growing feelings for her. It’s a tender and beautiful piece of writing, in the midst of some very funny dialogue (you’ll never think of hermits the same way again).
The point of this? It’s perhaps that good writing doesn’t teach us much new; rather, it recreates what we’ve already known and felt. I’m just starting Volume 2 of Tales from the City. Like Volume 1, it’s a range of different perspectives, narratives and times. They’re all bound, though, by the love of Norwich City; they make us smile as we’re reminded of our own passion for the club.
In the end, it’s all about human feelings. Harking back to my last article, that’s the ultimate thing we’ll create (if we manage to create it at all) in robots: emotional connection and response. Whatever they’ll be doing with us and for us, it’s hard to imagine we’ll ever get much out of kissing one.
Emotional connection – the real stuff of football. And indeed, of life.