In 2006, I made my position absolutely clear about the World Cup. I wasn’t interested. I was aggressively uninterested. I actually walked away from a couple of conversations when they started to vector in towards discussions of Beckham’s metatarsals. I posted a big sign on the door of my suite at work, a long screed in florid prose. I considered myself the geek equivalent of Martin Luther, birthing a new and radical third way through my protest.
The end result was pretty much what you’d expect. People thought that I’d either flipped out, or that this was the first sign of a new anti-football policy at the lab. My sign seemed a little too official for it’s own good. I was approached by several colleagues, concerned that this was the thin edge of a wedge that would cut internet privileges and outside phone calls. I tried to explain that this was my way of protesting about the pervasive nature of the game, and the way it just got into everything. I was told to get a grip, find a spine and stop whining. This was for one month every four years, after all.
My arguments withered on dry ground. I gave up, took down my sign, and in a gesture of goodwill donated a pound to the office sweepstakes. Taking myself down a peg. A little monetary sacrifice.
I drew Italy, and won £50.
A lesser person would have crowed and flaunted this, celebrating the victory of the geek over the footy-loving majority. But I’d made enough of an arsehole of myself by then. I quietly donated the cash to Sport Relief, and walked away from the whole experience, treating it as a lesson learnt. I had been a passive-aggressive jerk, and I got what I deserved.
Consequently, I’m staying quiet this year. I nod and smile at the work conversations on the state of the teams before gently steering them back towards a subject in which I have an opinion. I embrace the cheap beer and grub offers, and remember to stay away from the pubs with the big screen tellys (actually, this is a rule of thumb that works well at all times of year for me).
The World Cup becomes a month-long retreat for people like me. It’s a time to catch up on your reading, on those DVDs you always meant to watch but are still on the shelf in their cellophane. It’s a time to write, to think, to keep the telly off. The choices offered by the mainstream media seem to be either the footie or the chick-flick/reality show equivalent. I do not identify as a World Cup Widow, I’m afraid.
That’s fine, though. I’m happy to be ignored. It just gives me more time to watch, and think, and write.
Coming up: football, fandom and why sports geeks are still geeks.