Every generation has its ‘where were you when’ moments: the assassination of JFK, the fall of the Berlin wall, the death of Lady Diana. For football fans, there is a second set of moments like these: where were you for that amazing match you decided not to watch?
Bar the finals Liverpool played in in 2005 and 2007, I can’t remember where I was for any Champions League final, but I remember where I was during the one I didn’t watch. I bailed out on the 2008 Champions League final to go and watch Animal Collective at Brudenell Social Club, and so missed what would have been one of my most cherished football memories: John Terry prefiguring Steven Gerrard by slipping on his f**king arse to cost his team a trophy. Just to compound matters, the gig was terrible.
There are many reasons even the most ardent fan might end up missing a game – but which one is the worst?
‘Better things to do’
Wigan 1 Man City 0 in the 2017/18 FA Cup – because I was watching Eintracht Frankfurt v RB Leipzig
— Sachin Nakrani (@SachinNakrani) February 20, 2018
Worse even than that 2008 Champions League gaffe was missing Liverpool and Arsenal’s 4-4 draw in April 2009 to watch a pretty crappy WWE taping in London. I went with my Arsenal-supporting friend, and we spent the entire show excitedly exchanging goal updates, wishing we had instead opted for the football.
Somehow, football has a way of knowing about your cheating heart and punishing you for your disloyalty by upping its game, like how sperm up their game if their creator catches their partner doing it with someone else. (What? It’s a thing.)
That’s the trouble with football: we dare not say it, but most games just aren’t that exciting, and the chances of getting an absolute belter are low. Unless you’re an obsessive of Daniel Storey proportions, the temptation of other, more reliable forms of entertainment is going to be too much against all but the biggest games. You at least know what you’re getting into with this one.
The not-so-foregone conclusion
I switched off the last 30 minutes of Barca v PSG last season cos I thought it was over 🤷♂️
— Tim Stillman (@Stillberto) February 20, 2018
Liverpool v Dortmund. 4-3.
I was in a meeting, checked the score as it ended and thought ‘na, I’ll go to the gym.’
I was on the treadmill and YNWA came on through my headphones.
‘I’ll just check the score’ I thought, and then I cried. https://t.co/X2k3fdkRcM
— Ceylon Andi Hickman (@ceylonandi) February 20, 2018
With two-legged games where away goals are a factor, in particular, there is always the temptation to write off a game as being as good as over.
Interestingly, should their team lose 6-0, people will quite happily do that weird hybrid complaint-boast about disgustedly leaving the ground at half-time with their team three goals down. Yet nobody will ever admit to having left in the event of a thrilling comeback from the same deficit, even when TV footage shows floods of people leaving the stadium before the break as the Match of the Day commentator intones “and who can blame them?”.
This phenomenon may have implications for quantum theory; much as the act of observation seems to effect whether light behaves as a particle or a wave, so too does the result of a match seem to retrospectively decide whether the departed fan is a fickle plastic or legitimately disgruntled. I put this question to the physics department of my local university, who told me that they “have better things to do” and to please stop calling.
The poorly-timed distraction
Moments, not matches, but I missed BOTH Manchester United goals in the '99 UCL final because my mother came home from bingo. I went downstairs to open the door, she kept talking, I went back upstairs….
— James Galbraith (@galjduk1) February 20, 2018
Reading that tweet is the mental equivalent of stubbing your toe or stepping on Lego.
Thanks a lot, MUM. We’ll just call it even on that whole ‘pushing me out of your vagina’ thing, yeah?
The social pressure
Barca PSG. I turned it off with ten minutes to go as I was trying to ration the amount of football I made my wife sit through, and it seemed like it was game over.
— Alan O'Brien (@alanpobrien) February 20, 2018
Some very fortunate couples – like my parents – are both sports-mad and will watch anything that involving balls and rapid movement (thus potentially upping their sperm count, I guess).
But many of us are not so lucky, and have to carefully portion out their football in the name of social harmony. I ran afoul of this myself on Monday: after spending most of the weekend away, I decided not to watch Wigan dump Manchester City out of the FA Cup.
The stupid thing is that this is entirely self-defeating, as should the match take a turn for the interesting, the non-football-loving partner ends up hearing about it anyway, and has their evening ruined by your constant phone-checking. You, meanwhile, grow resentful that you haven’t been able to pursue your most passionate hobbies and interests.
Depending on your perspective, this is either an absolute necessity for a happy life filled with love and mutual respect, or serves as a reminder that even at its best, life is little more than a series of miserable compromises, and thus the most frustrating reason to miss a great match.
Alternatively, you can watch all the football you want and die alone, you selfish prick.
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