On the Shels MB during the close season, I was bemoaning the fact that pre-season friendlies were not necessarily fan-friendly – Athlone on a Tuesday night, Newry on a Monday night etc. A Pats fan mildly admonished me with the words, “If you really wanted to go, you would.” This same Pats fan had previously claimed that he hadn’t missed a Pats game for fifteen years.
This got me to thinking about the nature of football support. Compared to this Pats fan – if he were to be believed – I was a very poor supporter. I miss a certain amount of games every season for a variety of reasons – awkward match times, holidays, family occasions etc. But I justify it by saying that every game I can feasibly attend, I do.
Mr. Pats fan obviously takes the view that it is feasible to attend every match. And theoretically, he is right. I could take half days and go and see us playing in Derry on a Thursday night, or Cork on a Friday night. If I won the Lotto, or worked for a company that gave me 30 days holidays a year, I probably would. But I only get 20 days, six of which have to be taken at Christmas. I have a wife who, perversely, likes to go away on a summer holiday. It is not feasible for me to use up the couple of days on football.
During Euro 88 and Italia 90 and USA 94, much was made of the good old boys who’d got money out of the Credit Union, left the wife and kids at home, and gone off for the craic. These were the heroes of the media, and the ones who had made the biggest sacrifices were the most in demand. When, in the latter two competitions, we qualified for the next round, these same heroes vowed to stay on, despite the risk to their jobs and their family finances. The lads would do anything for Ireland.
Strangely enough, there was scarce little reporting of the views of the wife at home, stuck there by herself all day and all night with only one and two year olds for company. Wondering if they could afford the rent at the end of the month, worrying if he’d still have a job at the end of the month. Trying to soothe the baby while he’s drunk in a bar in Gelsenkirchen.
I’m not having a go at single people with no responsibilities here. They can do what they like. I did the same myself, back in the hazy mists of time when I had nobody to think about, but myself.
Let’s do a few “supposes”. Suppose you’re travelling down to Sligo to see your team play, and, going through Boyle, you see a car plunge into the river. You know that to stop and help will mean missing the match. What do you do?
Suppose you’ve had to work extra hours recently. The wife has been at home for six days minding the kids. You have one day off and Shels are playing Bohs. Do you go?
Suppose there are two Cup Finals on the same day. One involves Shels. The other involves your son’s under-eights. Which one do you go to?
If any of the answers to the above are that you would go and see Shels, then I would gladly hold up my hands and admit that you’re a better Shels fan than me. However, being a better fan might not necessarily make you a better person. In fact, if you would go and see Shels in any of the instances above, I would maintain you are a thoroughly selfish person.
To come back to the Pats fan that hasn’t missed a game in fifteen years [the words salt and pinch keep springing to mind, for some reason], I can only suggest three possible reasons for such a claim.
Firstly, he is lying. But of course Pats fans don’t even exaggerate, never mind tell lies, as we all know.
Secondly, he leads an incredibly sad existence, in which football is the only criteria. In the past fifteen years, nothing has ever happened to cause him to miss a match – a holiday, his wedding, his mother’s court appearance, his grandad’s funeral, his wife giving birth, a nephew’s baptism etc etc
Thirdly, he is an incredibly selfish person, who, in choosing between the match and any of the above, has chosen the match. He would doubtless see himself as a great supporter and would get respect for this from his mates, but the cost of this would have been to trample over the feelings of his nearest and dearest. Great supporter, shallow personality.
As Bill Shankly should have said, “Football isn’t a matter of life or death. It comes behind your conscience, your family and friends and your moral responsibilities.”