England are out of the World Cup. In one of the most atrocious displays of defensive ineptitude that I can remember, they were torn apart by a young, vibrant German team. Yes, there was a disallowed goal in the first half, but I doubt the result would have been any different had it been allowed to stand. England were beyond terrible, a disgrace.
One of our nightly rituals is that Christina and I take it in turns to lie on the bed with Hallam for a couple of minutes before he goes to sleep. Last night it was my turn. As we lay there I apologized to him for being in a bad mood that day. ‘That’s OK, dad,” he told me kindly. “I know England lost to Germany this morning.”
I wish I didn’t care as much as I do about eleven men running around a field, chasing a ball, but I do. During the regular Premiership season I watch almost every minute of every game that Arsenal play. I suffer through their triumphs and miseries just as much as I did when I turned up at Highbury every week. Christina watches my histrionics and kindly says nothing, but I know that my obsession with this stuff baffles her. It baffles me, too, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I have often envied my wife her complete indifference (this is putting it mildly) to sports. Why should my happiness depend on what happens on a rectangle of grass thousands of miles away? Why should my children have to creep up and anxiously check the score to see what sort of mood Daddy will be in for the rest of the day? On many occasions – yesterday just being the latest – I have found myself wishing that I just didn’t care.
But I do. And while it perplexes me, I’m not going to apologize for it. Almost as soon as the final whistle went yesterday morning there was an eruption of mean-spirited cyberspace guffawing as people began to mock the English supporters for their delusional hopes of victory. Well, yeah. How easy it is to stand back and be coolly ironic. While I appreciate there may be more sensible things to care about than the fate of a team of over-paid professional athletes, give me passion over bored cynicism any day.