Driven To Distraction

I love a Podcast and follow a ton of sport on iPad – but I mustn’t forget to live my own life

Billy Bonds consoles Bobby Moore after the 1975 FA Cup Final

NOW THAT I’M older, I’ve become a total homebody.

I write this blog at home, I do my house husband/housekeeper stuff at home, and there ain’t no-one with me for looong stretches of the day. *

I’m too lazy and introverted to make coffee dates with chums, so I turn a lot to los medios** for company.

But there is a danger in living my life on the virtual sidelines of the sporting world, in being a listener, and not a participant. Am I really living a life of my own?

Hearing a commentator say: “He’s walking very gingerly”, of the red-headed England captain Eoin Morgan, might add to the gaiety of nations, but there is also the chance that getting too involved in other peoples’ lives can ruin yours.

Take ‘my’ football team, Arsenal. I don’t really care like I used to now Arsene Wenger has gone, but I still sometimes find myself getting a little bit worked up after yet another defeat: particularly with ‘tight-fisted’ Stan Kroenke, or ‘misfiring’ Mesut Ozil.

I’ve been an Ozil fan ever since his laughably brilliant goal against Ludogorets in 2016, when he channelled his inner performing seal and made monkeys of the Bulgarian team’s entire backline.

I’d be pleased if he could come good again and justify his £350,000-a-week salary, if he got over the racism-tinged row that followed Germany’s World Cup exit last summer, but…. I’ve never even met the fellow. Or Arsene. Or Stan. Why should I care about their lives?

And let’s repeat: Ozil’s on £350,000 a week! His life’s probably going to be all right, no matter how much I choose totake an interest.

The problem is that I’ve been trained to live vicariously through sports stars and people in the media, ever since I was a kid

When I was eight, I cried because Cruyff’s Holland – the media darlings of the time – let slip the 1974 World Cup Final.

And was at it again the following summer, when I totally bought into the story of Bobby Moore, the gilded old hero, winning at Wembley one more time.

Even though I didn’t really understand the subtexts – like 1966, or West Ham – I cried because everyone else seemed so heartbroken for Moore, and he himself looked a bit sad in his white Fulham shirt.

And, despite my Mum telling me to Fix Up, I continued for years to nurse an unfair and unvoiced disdain for Alan Taylor, who’d been ill-mannered enough to score twice for The Irons that day. 

The habit – of getting involved in stranger’s lives because a part of their lives is on screen – dies hard. And it’s not just my habit. 

When I caught myself getting a bit fucked off that Johanna Konta had choked in her French Open Tennis semi-final the other week, I remembered my Granny expressing similar regret at her fellow Scot Sandy Lyle letting slip a golf major back in the 1980s.

He was, she opined, “A pudden”, and I nodded in agreement, even though neither my Granny or me actually knew Sandy Lyle personally.

The American polymath and political activist, Noam Chomsky, has argued that this tendency of ordinary people to fixate on relatively meaningless activities, such as sport, has sucked crucial energy from important things, like the struggle to make the world a fairer place.

The fact that a working person can understand and discuss arcane sporting matters such as a baseball hitter’s average, Chomsky says, proves that they are also capable of understanding complex politics and therefore fit to govern themselves. But they choose to pour their souls into sport and other sideshows instead, the knobs! *** 

And if there’s a political price to pay for being distracted, I think there’s also a personal one. 

The other weekend, the Missus pottered about and did the garden for hours while I was upstairs watching the triathlon, the cycling, the cricket, the football and then the rugby.

The kids – who are all but grown up, were in their own rooms on their own, watching Mangas and dramas on Netflix. By about seven on Sunday evening, all the good sport was done and I must admit I felt quite lonely.

I mean, distraction is great, as far as it goes. But I mustn’t confuse it with really living. 

​* Sorry. Been reading the new James Ellroy, This Storm, for the past few days, Some of his stylistic tics may have rubbed off on me.
** Told you. Sorry.
*** Don’t think Chomsky actually said ‘knobs’.

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