Tuesday, December 15, 2009

London Fields Part Two: Socratic Methods

Oh and that's a bad miss...


There's something about English football culture that manages to permeate the whole of the country whilst still remaining somewhat under the surface. In North America, your average sports stadium will be visible for miles around, with garish signs directing you to pastel-coloured, officially-licensed merchandise stores, and box restaurants to get your feed on before "the big game."

In England, there is a sense you could arrive in the country, stay there for about six years, and leave without really knowing anything about football whatsoever. Perhaps this is a remnant of a once severely demarcated class divide on what is a relatively small island; better for everyone to have Stamford Bridge neatly tucked away in deepest Chelsea so the rugby-following bankers might never have to see it/hear it/know about it, ever. Meanwhile last week, after logging in quite a hefty number of hours watching British basic cable, I could have walked away from my cheap Kensington Hotel thinking the whole country was mad for snooker and nothing but (a twenty-four snooker channel desperately exhorted me to just press that damn red button to be whisked away to yet another table, a whole lot of misses, and crowed-in references to someone named Peter Ebdon).

I spoke a bit about some of this, and a hell of a lot more besides (mostly on the benefits of a parliamentary system of government, dear American friends) with Terry Duffelen—he of SPAOTP and the uproarious Onion Bag—in advance of the Socrates blogger football meet-up last Wednesday (you can see me in the vid provided chatting with Twofootedtackle's Chris Nee). The blogger meet-up too felt a bit like coming out of the cold, as if football were a banned subject whose followers were reduced to meeting in secret. We met in a room in what seemed like a former munitions factory in Vauxhall, south of the river. While I stuffed my face with free edibles, various people whose beliefs about football I'd been reading for the last two years cautiously introduced themselves like French resistance pen-pals after the war. And neither were these writers of the paranoid, gimme-a-sports-writing-job-world! variety; most were quite happy to keep plugging away when they had the time, the blogs providing a beloved hobby many could not imagine being without.

It was a blast actually, cut short only by my paranoia about my Royal Academy audition the next day. And from mid-week on, England (unlike my own country which forces Canadians to remind themselves to pay fealty to our national game, hockey, the repository of all our hopes and dreams, day-in, day-out forever and ever, amen) was content to let me forget the football, outside of some full colour pics visible on overturned Evening Standards lying on tube train floors. All this got me thinking about my own relationship to the game...

Conclusion tomorrow...

1 comment:

Just Football said...

Good to finally meet you at Socrates, Richard and I've enjoyed reading your impressions of this place we call home.

Good luck with the auditions too :-)

your French resistance pen-pal,
Jonathan