Sunday, 8 May 2011

in praise of things about which i have no opinion at all, such as football

Much as i enjoy watching football, i don't really ever put enough effort into this activity to have any real opinions about anything.  I read pretty much the bare minimum of sports journalism possible to keep up with the most absolutely essential stories, and avoid any subsidiary articles at all costs, lest i read enough that i might start using words like 'cynical' or 'clinical' or 'speculative' with as little linguistic sensitivity as certain football writers.  And also, i've only started taking any interest in the sport at all in about the past year, so i still don't know as much basic football info as most proper fans do.  Add to these compelling arguments the facts that i don't play the game and don't support a team, and you will surely be thoroughly convinced that i am not a particularly well-informed or insightful consumer of football.  But i do quite like watching them kick the ball around and stuff.

So, today being the day of the biggest match of the season, i just about decided that i might quite like to join my housemate in watching the game.  The thing is that because of my complete football ignorance, as outlined above, i don't really like watching it with people, for fear that i will be exposed as a massive fraud or something, and so when i do watch it with people i always feel a bit awkward and never really know how to respond to anything.  I sometimes dare an 'ooh' or 'wow', but usually substantially after the commentator has summarised what has just happened, so that i can be moderately sure that at least one other person in the world (the commentator) is of broadly the same opinion as that which i have just implied that i hold myself through my particular choice of vowel sound.  That's right: i think to myself 'If the commentator had expressed that last point he made in the form of a single vowel sound, of the type which people often make when responding to an event, what would that vowel sound have been?' and then i articulate that vowel sound in such a way as to appear unobtrusive to my companions.

And today, while pondering how best to respond to my housemate's as-far-as-i-know-reasonable-enough argument that Ji-Sung Park is an underrated player, i began to wonder why i was quite this petrified of expressing myself.  In a sense it doesn't overly concern me that i am not particularly talkative on the issue of football, because i genuinely don't have any insights into it - but it still feels a bit pathetic to act quite as blandly as this, in any situation at all.  And after all, for most fans football seems almost to be about expressing opinions, however blatantly stolen from commentators, unsubstantiated, or factually inaccurate they are.  I've always assumed that it was the opportunity which football provides people with to express their own thoughts - however half-baked and derivative, still essentially theirs - which was the cause, or one cause anyway, of its mass appeal.  It's like the appeal of sticking a trending topic into a post on Twitter - it's still essentially an act of creativity, however puny and crap, but it's one which is so fully endorsed by such a large number of other people that you can be fully confident that you haven't made a fool of yourself.  It is, then, because i lack this basic confidence that i never see fit to express myself on the subject of football.

The other reason that i feel awkward when watching football with people, though, is that i'm sure that my vowel-based method of participation must be pretty annoying.  My response to the Ji-Sung Park question, which was sort of a '...yeuh...', actually even annoyed me.  But this raises the question of what else i might do, at all, because i absolutely do lack adequate knowledge to compile an acceptable response to most arguments concerning football.  And i simply can't think of a better method.  One thing i know is that i don't have the capacity to simply parrot the commentators' views on things (except in the form of single, inscrutable vowel sounds, in which form it is obviously fine) - because behaving thus with reference to any topic at all is one of my least favourite things ever.

Blind adoption of general-consensus opinions particularly annoys me, predictably enough i suppose, with regard to music.  To me, the sentence 'I think Beethoven was a great composer' is almost semantically invalid; i really don't care what you think - if you can find anyone who knows who the guy was and holds a different 'opinion', i will buy you an ice-cream.  They are not really YOUR opinions if you have plagiarized them from a reliable source.  And so while this does mean that i am fairly cynical about how truly opinion-based many football fans' 'opinions' really are, i am still unwilling to enter this particular fray myself.  [Also, note how i used the word 'cynical' in that sentence, even though i did not use the word 'tackle'.]

But i wonder how i would feel if i encountered a music fan who knew as little about music as i do about football; how i would want them to act, according to my apparently rather vehement views on what is and what isn't acceptable.  According to the above, it would be consistent to judge them harshly if they regurgitated whatever they'd read last week in Gramophone or went 'Ah! how wonderful!' every time you mentioned someone they'd heard of.  But if they didn't express any opinions at all then they would simply be 'annoying', in the same way that i am probably annoying when i watch football, desperately trying to avoid committing to any view or revealing ignorance in any way.  And, needless to say, if they went 'ooh' and 'oh' and so on all the way through a concert then that would definitely be yet more annoying still.

If this fictional music fan genuinely had no original opinions about music, which is obviously completely fair enough, then i don't know what a good way for him or her to behave would constitute.  Which definitely isn't fair at all.  That is, my own opinions are not fairMy opinion is wrong.  Which conclusion seems extremely unfair on me.  Perhaps that's why i like football anyway, because it eats my opinions and lets me be.  Hypocrisy is pretty damn difficult when you are completely devoid of thought.


  1. I probably know about as little about music as you know about football. But then I'm terrible at holding strong opinions about anything.

  2. On the other hand, you're not annoying. Confusing...

  3. That's exactly how I feel about music. And football.