This is the previous post, initially. As usual I get sidetracked, which is one reason why I suspect that I won’t ever be any good at this.
Anyway, it should be clear that I love football. And football is culturally significant, at least to a large minority of us. Football feeds on and nourishes culture, as I’ve just said below. And therefore what happens in football is important as a means of describing our lives and attitudes – equally our lives and attitudes determine our attitude towards football. Substitute rugby union, or basketball or some other sport, religion, ideology, what you will – the context is the same.
I do like other sports a lot, golf, tennis, cycling and American football in particular. I wish I was good at any one of them. However, none come close to football, and I attribute its cultural context to this. Other cultures operate in different contexts. We are told, for example, that one reason that football hasn’t taken off in the US is that (cup games apart), the Americans can’t take the prospect of a draw, or tie, as a valid result. We therefore have the ludicrous (to me) idea of “overtime” in what is essentially a league game when scores are tied. We’re told that Americans can’t abide the idea of a sporting contest that doesn’t produce a winner. For this reason the world’s second most popular sport – cricket – will never take off in the US, as the thought of five days play without a result is too much to bear.
It should be said that I was mildly devastated, again, that the New Orleans Saints couldn’t make it all the way this year, despite once again having the best offence in the NFL.
Now I was a rubbish footballer and never played to any level, but when I played I was a defender. The reason is that I modelled myself on my favourite footballer at the time, Everton and England hero Tommy Wright. I wanted to be just like him. Maybe because I took that path I looked upon not losing as equal in importance to winning. Draws are part and parcel of the game, and the tell the tale as effectively as anything else.
We’ve had a couple of draws that will go down in history in the last few days. Last night (April 24) Chelsea went to Barcelona and came away with a 2-2 draw. OK, they won on aggregate, this being a two-legged affair. However, they needed to draw 0-0, or score while losing by no more than one goal, to go through. Barça had 82% of the total possession, according to the BBC, as befits the world’s best team. Nevertheless, Chelsea, reduced to ten men, played the percentages so well, scoring on the break twice, that the draw was a fair result on the night. I would have preferred that Barça had won but nothing should detract from the Chelsea performance. They did what they needed to do when it mattered. Additional time would have been a travesty. Chelsea’s (and Roberto di Matteo’s, and Frank Lampard’s, and Didier Drogba’s), careers could historically turn on not what they achieved but on what they denied others’ achieving.
Everton’s season, as potential winners of something, finally ended on Sunday. They didn’t even win but then neither did Manchester United. It’s entirely possible that Manchester City could win the Premier League and point to United’s failure to beat beat Everton at home as the turning point. This wouldn’t be fair to Everton, who played magnificently throughout, and scored four outstanding goals. It’s terribly frustrating for me yet again, that Everton should be “best of the rest”, just like last year, and come away with nothing. Yet the draw is cause for hope if nothing else, apparently. Never have I been the recipient of so many flattering texts.
These two results teach us in their different ways that there is more to life than winning, albeit that Chelsea won overall. That sounds a bit English public school, I know. Pride, hope and optimism don’t always spring from victory. I suppose that Tennyson could have told me that.