I’ve always thought that it isn’t absence that makes the heart grow fonder; it is abstinence.
Way back in the mists of time when football actually stopped in May and started again in August, football disappeared from our consciousness to be replaced by cricket. The pools coupons were full of something called Australian rules and we all tried to guess whether Corkhat City would beat Woollyshagbag United (other national stereotypes are available). Some of us even adopted an Australian rules side to follow.
Because there was no transfer window, the summer didn’t seem such a big football deal and you could safely file the game away for three months and return in August chomping at the bit again. There’s nothing like a period of abstinence of anything you really like to give you a hunger for it again.
It’s like when you decide you’ll detox for a month or two and don’t let a drop of booze pass your lips. When you do taste it again, it seems like some golden elixir of life and the act of getting a bit drunk seems fabulously exotic, whereas normally, being a bit drunk is virtually the same as being sober – jjust part of everyday life.
The same goes for carnal relations. Any time on that particular wagon makes the first time back in the saddle feel almost infinitely magnificent. Too much of it and it starts to feel more like an exercise you do at the gym, which is presumably why adult movie stars always look so dead-eyed. Maybe you burn out your pleasure glands. Your dopamine receptors need a rest, or, like a crack addict, they just become numb.
It’s counter-intuitive really. If you really like something, surely having it all the time will increase the pleasure in your life? Depriving yourself of things you like will surely make you miserable? But this, it turns out, is only partially true. Permanently not having access to things you enjoy diminishes life, but just not having them for a short period of time actually increases the enjoyment when you resume.
For this reason, I find myself wanting to ignore football in the summer, but so much is invested in the game that all media outlets – including us – have to try and drag its entrails out across June and July, desperately looking for something to discuss or mull over. I listened to a long discussion recently about Raheem Sterling. The whole issue of his transfer, his character, his qualities as a player and pretty much everything in between were raked over and over, when really, there’s just nothing more to say about him that has not been said many times. But still, it was about football and it was on the radio so I listened – helplessly addicted.
And then there’s the TV. It’s hard to deprive yourself of something when it’s sitting there in front of you giving you the big come-on, even if it is just some meaningless pre-season competition from Thailand, or, as in my case last night, an U-19 Euros game between Spain and Germany. Spain won 3-0. Every night I find myself at the dusty end of the televisual fretboard, looking for football to have on the TV while I listen to music and write. And there’s almost always something from somewhere. I can’t let it go anymore. It’s an itch that constantly needs scratching even though I’m now starting to hurt myself.
Cricket is, of course, just the same. It used to be strictly summer fare, now it’s on 12 months a year from somewhere on earth and the sheer volume of games is overwhelming. Test matches no longer seem special simply because so many are played.
It’s ironic that sports which people absolutely adore are fed to us 24/7/365 precisely because we adore them so much, only to, in the process, make us sick of them.
But there’s no way back. Who is going to pull the plug on football now? No-one. There’s always someone playing somewhere in the world in front of a TV camera, even if it’s the Greenland Premier League or the Siberian fourth division play-off.
The key to happiness here is to exercise an iron will. If you don’t shut off to football a little bit, by the time the new season starts, you’ll already be exhausted by it all. But then, you’ve just read this…about football…and I’ve just written it…oh dear, we’re both hopeless addicted, aren’t we?
Johnny writes novels here and rock ‘n’ roll blogs here