The following is an extract from the new e-book from the good people at Surreal Football, which you can buy here or from Amazon here. It features contributions from F365's very own Nick Miller and Andi Thomas, as well as The Guardian's Rob Smyth, Callum Hamilton, Ethan Dean-Richards and Alexander Netherton. Enjoy...
My name is Gareth Parker. And this is my goldfish.
When I was seven years old my favourite goldfish died. His name was Tom. Tom's timing couldn't have been any worse, for his floating fishy corpse was discovered on the morning of an assembly where we were to bring our pets in to show the rest of the school. I was inconsolable.
My father said that he had only ever seen me this upset once before, when he had to drag a hysterical me from a cinema screening of Ghostbusters. Apparently my screams were guttural. As a matter of interest, this cinematic hysteria had not been brought on by fear of the supernatural; more my personal pain at the social autism of Rick Moranis' character. That sh*t was tragic.
Although I struggled to see this through my streaming tears, there was an obvious solution to my peer presentation problem. It came in the shape of my other goldfish, a pitiful specimen called Jerry (I was seven, get to f*ck). After much cajoling, my parents convinced me to substitute the late Tom for the less-than-impressive Jerry, so I sloshed him into a jar and trudged wearily to school. I composed myself as Rachel Altman blithered on about her sh*tty little kitten and Andrew Lavery rabbited on about his creepy-looking bunny. What then followed was a lesson in innocence loss as seven-year-old me screamed a pained soliloquy about death at my bemused schoolmates. It wasn't until Mrs Drazil ('Lizard' spelt backwards, just never gets tired) led me off stage and back to my classroom that some order was restored.
Time went on and I grew more and more attached to Jerry. In fact, it got to a point where I really loved that little orange c*nt. Then he died too.
When I was eight I really wanted a Soda-Stream. Almost as much as I wanted a Millennium Falcon. My best friend Nick Lowe had both. We once made champagne with a bottle of Blue Nun and drunk it with our plastic Star Wars figures. Good times. But my parents never bought either, and so I was left to stare wistfully as Mrs Lowe whizzed up yet another luminous fizzy delight. I also bitterly, and more than a little intentionally, broke Nick's Falcon. I've never admitted to this before.
I am now 35 and this year, sixteen years after I left my parental home, I decided to buy a Soda-Stream. It was sh*t.
Last time I wrote for Surreal I was asked to write a season preview for my club Arsenal. I told an interwoven tale of my Grandfather's death and my first ever session of self -pleasure. The latter taking place in a hotel in Darlington. I finished my piece with the line "There are many parallels between this story and the state of Arsenal going into next season, but I'm not going to patronise you by drawing them."
Turns out I did, and this is symptomatic of the problem.
Football fans are, almost without exception, idiots. Idiots who have not learnt the simple life lessons often so harshly taught them in childhood. Even Pavlov's f*cking dog got to grips with the whole conditioning thing. Coincidentally, Jason McAteer's entire playing career was built around a simple 'bell and reward' approach.
Fans, despite frequent warnings, become very attached to certain players who wear the crest of their club. Unfortunately these players do not share the fan's love for this badge. Yes, even the ones that make a big show of kissing it. I am not denying that they are disappointed when they lose, after all, they are professional sportspeople whose natural desire is to win, but their pain is personal, selfish even. Put simply, modern footballers are transient. They care little for us and will move on in a heartbeat.
Getting the name of your favourite player on a replica strip should be reserved for pre-pubescents who still need to learn important lessons about life, loss and despair. Plus there's something creepy about a paunchy middle-aged man wearing an ill-fitting shirt with the name of his teenage idol across the shoulders. Having said that, I would go through Jack Wilshere like a train, and there is something undeniably arousing about Olivier Giroud. You've all seen that GIF, right?
The second story's motto is that certain things don't come with a lifetime satisfaction guarantee. One of these is a Soda-Stream. Another is your football team.
When I look around me at games, I see countless faces twisted and contorted into shapes of rage and hatred as they rain expletive-strewn epithets down onto their false idols. This sense of apoplexy is more diluted at home games, drowning in a sea of contemplative apathy, but the fact remains that these expressions are more suited to those of a spoilt child who has broken their favourite toy (get over it, Nick), than a grown adult watching and supporting their football team.
Football fans should learn important life lessons in their early years. They should realise that, just like my goldfish, the good times won't last forever. And just like a Soda-Stream*, your team will not always provide you with satisfaction.
But they don't. They are like children. Ignorant, spoilt, whiny little children. To paraphrase my dear old Gran: things die, get over it and be grateful for what you have, you miserable little pricks. (Just be glad I've not quoted one of her racist ones).
* A Soda-Stream machine is also a pertinent analogy when looking at the modern issue of instant gratification. But that would've involved another story from my youth, and I've already opened that particular window wide enough. Plus I promised not to talk about w*nking this time.
Gareth Parker - you can follow him on Twitter here.