A first today: I accompanied D (aka OCD-Boy) and my dad to a football match (aka, for those of you across the pond, Soccer).
Of a Saturday, I’m usually more likely to attend a nice Matinee performance of a West End show, all eight pound G&Ts, pumped up chorus boys and over miked singers who do the whole thing on autopilot while two thirds of the audience sleeps the afternoon away. I’d, only half-jokingly, asked D whether we could pre-order interval drinks, and whether it was acceptable to refer to the twoÂ halves of the game as First and Second Acts.
“You can call them what you want,” he’d replied; “You’re not sitting near me.” But, in the end, he hadÂ two spare seats next to his annually purchased season ticketed one, and so my Dad and I sat beside him.
The teams were Watford (D’s team) and Charlton Athletic. The rain fell in dull grey sheets, the players did a fair bit of huffing through increasingly muddy ground, and a rather unfair amount of scrambling madly after each other in what the casual observer might have assumed to be evidence of a lack of co-ordinated structure, or, in fact, much of a game plan on either side; the crowd chanted such well-lovedÂ terrace anthems as “You’re not singing any more” (to the tune of bread of Heaven),Â ”We love you Watford (we do),” the moving “Let the fucker Die” when one of the cuter Charlton shaven headed players took a tumble and required medical attention, and the classic “Bang bang bang bang! (Al Bangura).” (which should not be confused with Bang bang as recorded by both Nancy Sinatra and Cher. AÂ fact, the knowledge of which, I should imagine, placed me rather in the minority at Vicarage Road tonight.)
The crowd, in fact, were the stars of the evening. People who care enough about a minor team in a minor league to come out on a cold rainy Saturday night (when they could be watching The one and only on TV), to stand on the terraces with their kids, parents, partners, mates, and shout increasingly loud obscenities at a bunch of strangers. I heard countless Fuckers innumerable Wankers a handful of Twats and a Cunt. It was almost like a day at Feng Shui Towers (the new job had way more ups than downs this week, thanks for asking; it’s still a zoo, but I’m close to being moved off elephant shit clearup duty. Which is nice).
There were times the game resembled a brawl between two octogenarian drunks; lots of shambling physicality, interspersed with long periods of standing around glowering, and the odd bit of damage to each others shins.
And then there were moments when it all came alive, and I heard myself screaming “What are you? A fucking idiot?” at one of the Watford Players (surprise #1 - the supporters direct as many obscenities and jeers at their own team as they do at the opposition; more, at times); My heart rate went up, my pupils, had I had a compact mirror, would have been seen to beÂ clearly dilated (mind you, if I’d attempted to inspect my baby blues with a compact, I might have been the one in need of medical attention), my skin felt - well, I felt my skin; I felt, almost, intoxicated. Not drunk, as such - more one and a half pints of Stella in, the gentle whoosh of a rush pushing through the system, as the crowd surged, leaning forward in expectation, a mass chorus of intaken breaths turning to a single unified moan of disappointment as, together, we jerked backwards, hands holding heads in exasperation. I got into it. And I never thought I would.
And I felt excited, and I had fun, and I loved the camaraderie, even if, as usual, I felt a little of an outsider, a bit of a fraud. I enjoyed it enough, despite the patchy game performance and the disappointing one-all draw, to think about returning.
But they’ve got to do something about that chorus line…