by Jack Heaney
As the shadow of Deja Vu sauntered onto our TV screens – with a final whistle cementing the oncoming penalty shootout which resembled Moscow 2008 – I found myself lost for words. And being lost for words is brilliant. For it is usually indicative of an event or spectacle so brilliant that one cannot accurately describe it. Drogba seals the Cup for Chelsea with perhaps the last kick in his Blue career; Di Matteo, a man sacked by humble West Brom lifts the Champions League after a series of decorated managers before him failed; John Terry dons his kit (shin pads and all) to confirm his alarming lack of dignity. All contributing factors, I’m sure you’ll agree.
We are always lost for words as football fans, in success or failure. But one thing which apparently knits us together is ‘hope’ or ‘belief’. Paper pictures and headlines will depict nail-biting fans with thickly painted faces the same colour as their clubs kits and the old ‘never give up’ and the ‘twelfth man’ cliché will always sprout when describing fans. Bleached through our media and news outlets are stereotypical images of those who pay to watch their clubs do battle.
However, what it must be remembered is that not all fans are hopeful and optimistic. Not all fans even believe that they can succeed and – frighteningly – at times fans even seem as though they want their club to fail. Deep down they do not; yet on the surface they appear jaded and pessimistic. This sounds strange – yet it is true. You see, cynical football fans are much more prevalent than one would think. In fact, you probably know one; your old Granddad who laments the extinct cleat wearing, cigar-puffing part time factory workers of the forties, or an embittered England fan who criticises the three lions at every opportunity.
We ain’t all hopeful, you know. Some of us are football nihilists. For some of us, it is our nature to sneer and foreign to even contemplate believing in success when the face of adversity is head butting us to the ground.
Why, I hear you cry. Why would anyone want to wrap themselves in cynicism and bat away belief with a squint and a fistful of downbeat angst? It’s because football is the greatest wind up merchant in the world. She’ll give you a good nipple-twist now and then or cruelly snatch away hope when one hand is wriggling away to enclose upon the handles of a silvery trophy. Just ask Arjen Robben or the banana-shoed John Terry. Football can be the enemy; the rewards keep us entertained but we all know that upon embarking on the adventure of a new season, there will be heartbreak. Football is a risk; a gamble; a scary game to play. And football cynics – are too scared to take part in this game.
They are scared to lose control or be directed by a force other than the very free will they possess. They believe they can beat football: invest no other emotion apart from cynicism and how can the game wind you up? It cannot for you will never be disappointed. Before a Champions League final, convince yourself that Chelsea will lose and when it happens you won’t be let down. If they win, you have an added bonus. These cynics do not want to be a football pawn but a vacuous, uptight, walking talking folly of a fan who sits on the sidelines of the sports luscious game of chess, only joining in when there is nothing left to lose. We all know one; that tw*t in the pub who criticises EVERYONE, or an annoying uncle who cannot see the bigger picture. You see, being a football cynic is fruitless and tedious. It opposes the succulent essence of the game and pitifully runs from the haphazardness we revel in.
Remember, when watching football we are reminded of a drama. Not everything should go perfect for us because A) it isn’t realism and B) it only emphasises the moments when things go brilliantly right. And that can only come about through rejecting the idea of being a cynic; pessimistic fans will never know how sweeter success is when you have had hope snatched away before because, well, they have no hope. A cynic opposes what our game centres around; unpredictability, the goosebump-arousing adventure and the brilliant premise of teetering on the edge of an emotional cliff. One fell move from your dodgy left back and off you go, doomed to a Saturday night of drowning your sorrows. One fell move from the oppositions left back and you stay on the cliff, drowning your delight and drunkenly waking up the next morning with a lampshade on your head.
Trapped in 90 minutes, we enter a range of crazy emotions that no other sport or event can give us. Chelsea fans for the summer will feel every bit happier with their win because of Moscow 2008 and how their hope was snatched away so cruelly. Sadly, the cynical cluster of football fans will never be entertained like those Blues who allowed themselves to be systematically controlled by the game. But for God sake, tears of pain or joy; this is why we love football. Who wants to be a cynic and refuse the games schizophrenic nature? Sitting there and expecting disappointment?
Most of our lives our boring and rigid and made up of things we have a duty to do. Football is different because it requires just one duty; to go with the flow. You score? Go nuts. You let one in? Pray that you can get one back. But without hope and mixture of dynamic emotions – not just tepid cynicism – the very point of riding football’s reckless roller-coaster slows to an unbearably indifferent halt.