Blog Session 7 Sports
Happy new year to you all firstly, even with lockdown etc. I thought I’d look at sport this week as it does have a profound impact on my life as a man. At first I thought that perhaps I just loved sports and that was just how it was really but then after a few moments of reflection I realised that it’s a lot more than just a love of doing something. It’s more than just something to watch on television. It’s more than just a game.
I started with sports I think with my Father. He was a big football fan. I won’t say which team because it can cause all sorts of feelings (hence not just a game). Even before I was crawling or walking I had a logo on my baby-grow that signified a great deal to my father. It meant to him a number of things I think before it meant anything to me. For him it meant that he could share something with me, that I was a part of his team, his gang you might say. I think that it comes down to something very base and direct for me as a man. It means 1) I belong to something and 2) it means that I have a connection to others without really having to say anything. No need for words, feelings or thoughts just facts and a common direction. My father didn’t even know if I’d like football but it was bred into me I think over time. It started with the suggestion that it wasn’t really an option. It would also classify me as a man. I know that sounds sexist even as I say it, but that’s what I think it meant for him and now in part to me too. How many times as a man do you ask what team do you follow? And if the answer is ‘I don’t really like football.’ There follows an awkward silence as if they have just said that they don’t really like breathing or drinking.
So why does football as a sport mean so much to me? Why does it affect who I am and how I define myself? I think that in part it allows me to express how I feel in a socially acceptable way without really being too obvious about it... I mean if my team lose a big championship and I’m at the game then I might just shed a few tears. Do people around me look at me as if I’m an alien or any awkward silences? No. If this was in a cinema, a favourite film that ends in the lead character getting killed off and no chance of any further films coming out with them in it and I cried.... completely different story. It is changing I know. The modern man can cry and show his feelings but at my age and in my mind that’s not where I’m at. To be excited and jump around like a mad thing, to shout aggressively at the ref because of a bad decision, to hug my mate and jump around screaming when my team score, all acceptable. Obviously the hug ends with a quick breaking away and often a swift and hearty slap on the back to just add the manly full stop but still able to express something of how I feel. When you look around and half the stand is in tears or shouting together it gives you permission. It almost becomes a group mentality that allows you to suddenly express how you feel. I think if this happened outside of football or other sports then I’m sure I wouldn’t be quite so hung up about being able to express myself and would just get on with living but that isn’t the case.
The other thing I suppose is that my father and I could share this together. It didn’t quite work out like that after a while. I think when I started to have my own opinion about the team and it differed from his it started to become less of togetherness for him. It did allow me though to have a relationship with my father. One that was based on pretence of sport and something we shared. It feels like this framework of sport, teams, and players provides a structure for me to be able to work around the adage that we need to express how we feel really. Like in the previous blog I said about the separation with my ex and that when I went round my mates we very quickly went from an awkward ‘That’s terrible mate’ to ‘Do you want a beer? The match is on’. This allowed me I think to be able to be with my mate, to share something together and to not have to talk about the fact that I felt my heart was ripped in two. The way in which a cloak of invisibility around the actual exchange of emotions was involved helped me to be there and tolerate what was happening inside of me, and I think helped my mate too (although I’ve never really asked him about it since).
I used to play in a five a side team after work. Not anymore as my knees, and belly, couldn’t quite manage it now. I used to meet up with the lads once a week on a Friday after work and we would have a kick about and prepare for the Sunday five aside league that we were in. We didn’t do too badly and were always in the top three in the league. That aside, being in the team allowed all sorts of feelings and expressions to take form and be expressed. I think that it provided closeness for me to my friends above and beyond just belonging to a team. It allowed me to be able to dip in and out as well. For example, the five a side practice was for 60 minutes on a Friday evening. The weekend league was for about half the day but could be down to just the match time. The evening after the match was of course mostly reserved for drinks and meandering about town looking to be as loud and obnoxious as we wanted to be (not the sole purpose or even pre planned but tended to happen when we were in our high spirits and chanting our football songs). It did allow me though to have an outlet for how I felt. I maybe didn’t express exactly how I felt in meaningful words but I did find that I was able to express something of the pent up frustrations, excitements, loneliness and feeling lost. These feelings of loneliness and feeling lost were almost completely dissolved when with my sports mates. So sports seem to have the function for me of allowing me to express things in a organised/disorganised way. The last little bit I wanted to talk about is the following of a team. A family you might say that is reliable (unless they go downhill and start losing too many matches), always there for you to watch, stand by, be proud of, be disappointed in and have common ground to be able to start a conversation with anyone (belonging to the same team or opposing) and have a way of connecting. I know that sport isn’t just football but that’s my experience of sport. I’m sure other sports have similar and different experiences involved in them but this is mine. In saying that it is mine it reminds me as well about the feeling of ownership.
Ownership over the fact I am part of a team. That is my team and i belong. It allows a more base feeling of me being a man that there is little space for now in modern society. Well that’s it for this week so I will catch up again next week. Hope you have enjoyed it and speak to you soon.