Watching the European Athletics Championships on TV last week, I was surprised to spot someone yawning on the screen. Doubly surprised, in fact.
First, because it wasn’t my reflection. (I was only watching because my wife wanted it on. I’d take a greater interest in athletics if it were more like the mums’ race on sports day at my daughter’s primary school, which for skulduggery and ruthlessness is rivalled only by Rollerball and water polo.)
Second, because it wasn’t a member of the crowd yawning, but one of the athletes moments before the start of his 800m race.
‘He doesn’t exactly look up for it, does he?’ my wife said.
‘Ah, but if you recall, some people yawn at moments of extreme intensity, not just when they’re tired or bored,’ I pointed out.
‘Oh yes, that’s right…’ she said, still not entirely convinced.
I say ‘still’, because this was an argument I used four years ago when our son was born.
I couldn’t stop yawning during the final moments of labour, which didn’t go down too well. (‘Sorry, am I keeping you up?’) But as luck would have it, I came across an article the following week which stated that yawning can be caused by the release of hormones triggered by stress or agitation.
It exonerated me retrospectively, though it was pretty clear at the time that my wife considered I’d got off on a technicality. And if I’m honest, I did feel like nodding off in the delivery room. It was in the small hours, after all.
The reason I mention all this is that I’ve been wondering whether this column should follow convention and claim to be looking forward to the new season with excited anticipation – or be more honest with you and confess that I’m finding it hard to get worked up about it. As you’ll have gathered from that last sentence, I’ve opted for the latter.
It’s not that I’m feeling gloomy about City’s prospects back in the Championship. The club is clearly on the up again, we should have plenty of momentum carrying us forward from last season, we have a manager who has so far demonstrated near-flawless judgement, and we’ve signed several promising-looking new players.
(Mind you, I’d be interested to know how we’ve managed to afford all of them given the club’s financial position. We’ll have saved some money with Doc and Rusty leaving, and by sewing a ‘Y’ on the back of one of Declan Rudd’s shirts for the new keeper, but is that enough to cover seven new acquisitions?)
One reason for the current lack of enthusiasm is that I’m going to miss the first week of the season. With admittedly poor timing, we’re going on holiday on Friday; instead of walking down Rouen Road to the ground in the evening, I’m going to be in a hotel near Rouen trying to keep up with what’s going on.
But the main reason is that my appetite for football has been dulled (only temporarily, I hope) by the World Cup finals. The tournament that’s supposed to be the ultimate celebration of the beautiful game had the effect of sapping my spirits.
I’m not disappointed that England didn’t lift the trophy; in fact, this was the first time I actively hoped we wouldn’t. (Three-word explanation: ‘Sir John Terry’.) But the performances and the attitude were an embarrassment. We had a power cut here in south-west London during one game, and I was tempted to phone and complain that the electricity was restored too quickly.
Apparently the national team’s problem is the lack of a two-week winter holiday for the players. Nothing to do with playing Emile Heskey up front and dragging Jamie Carragher out of retirement, then. (Apparently Fabio Capello also sounded out Paul Scholes about making a comeback, not unlike Gordon Ottershaw trying to get the old Barnstoneworth United team back together in Ripping Yarns.)
But it wasn’t just England that got me down. We had the usual playacting and cheating (with the handball by Uruguay’s Suarez against Ghana causing grave moral self-doubt as I realised I’d never previously seen anything reprehensible about Mel Machin’s save against Aston Villa in the 1975 League Cup final); we had vuvuzelas; we had Alan Shearer visiting the townships (‘So, segregation. How did you feel about that?’); we had James Corden discussing football with Simon Cowell… and then we had the final.
I’m surprised no football fans have posted ‘Horrified Reaction to 2 Teams 1 Cup’ videos on YouTube. The Netherlands – on that showing, the lowest of the Low Countries – were a disgrace. Not just for their cynical approach, or for their unjustified whinging at the end, but because they actually caused me to feel sympathy for a referee. Unforgivable.
Still, I’m hoping I’ll feel more positive after the holiday. It’s not as if the French are going to want to bring up the World Cup. A strong start to City’s season will help too – but even if things don’t go to plan, I’m sure I’ll feel that old tingle on the way to Carrow Road for the Swansea game.
If you see me yawning at the ground, assume it’s out of excitement.
And finally… while I’m no Gok Wan (though I am familiar with his work, again down to my wife’s TV viewing preferences), I have a fashion tip for you. There’s currently a sale on at the Gola website, and they’ve got 50% off some rather fetching green and yellow retro trainers.
They’d probably go quite well with, say, a yellow and green shirt. If you happen to possess such a thing.