I am definitely not a real football fan. If the team I want to win is winning, well jolly ho. If it is losing, then it is only a game and nothing to get fussed about it.
So when I came home from a walk along the river in the evening sunshine, to find that Liverpool were already 3-0 down in the European Cup Final against AC Milan, it was no great source of sadness to me. Only a game. I switched to CSI Miami.
But every so often I flipped back to see how Liverpool were doing, and quite by chance, I caught the first Liverpool goal, scored by captain Steven Gerrard. Hullo, said the commentator. Expectantly. And prophetically.
When I next flipped back from the gruesomenesses of CSI, Liverpool were already celebrating goal number two, scored by substitute Smicer (pronounced Smeetzer), and on my next visit I saw Liverpool get awarded a penalty.
At this point, I did not want to watch it, not because it did not matter, but because it did. It had gone from Only A Game to: God On A Bike!!! in the space of about five minutes. If I allowed myself to get all excited, Liverpool would then lose, and I would suffer idiotic agonies. So, back to CSI, where the news was that more people were being murdered gruesomely, by really nasty people. Lucky thing the forensic scientists all look like actors. Back to find that Liverpool have converted the penalty. (I spare myself the agony of actually witnessing what they show me later: the Milan goalie saving it and then the Liverpool guy knocking it in at the second try. This is rare.)
From then on it was a visit back every five minutes or so. 3-3. 3-3. 3-3. 3-3. Extra time looms. 3-3. 3-3. Extra time. 3-3. 3-3. 3-3. Penalty shoot out looms. 3-3. 3-3. Penalty shoot out.
Can not bear that. If I watched that I would get even more wound up, and additionally wound up by the sense of shame at getting so additionally wound up. It is only a game!!! (God on a bike!!!!)
Ten more minutes of something, else. Ooh, I wonder how the shoot out is going. Milan have missed their first two! Amazing. Liverpool are actually likely winners. So I watch their next one, and of course the Milan goalie saves it. Liverpool are still one ahead, and still probably winners, but again, over to Celebrity Home Makeover Love Island on Ice Meets Eastenders Uncovered Confidential. (Actually I think that by then it was Blackadder.) And when I go back again, Liverpool are celebrating. Bloke in specs: “Jamie, tell me honestly, did you think at half time that you had any chance?” Jamie: “No.” Bloke in specs: “Rafael, that was fantastic, fantastic.” Rafael: “Yes, bloke in specs, that was fantastic fantastic”, etc.
As Alex Ferguson said after his Manchester United won the 1999 final of the same tournament against Bayern Munich in equally improbable style, with two extra time goals from Sheringham and Solskjaer: “Football. Bloody hell.”
At half past one a.m. tomorrow morning they will be showing it again. And that I will video, and then watch it properly later, and then again in the months and years to come. That is how to enjoy sport, if you are a not-proper sports fan like me. Watch and rewatch the games your guys win in style, and forget the rest. Do not waste your one life obsessing over games that got away, or which were won by your team but unmemorably, without any amazing magic moments to savour. Take all that spiritual energy, and apply it to doing real life better, I say. My method wastes far less time on all this nonsense.
But when games go right, enjoy.