Only Football can make you Feel Like This

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As I got ready for my day today, I listened to the radio as I sometimes do.  You can imagine what nearly everyone was talking about.

Several commentators remarked that “Only football can make you feel like this”.  Is that really true?

Here are two headlines from popular newspapers this morning:

The Sun “Probably the best feeling in the world” (A play on words referring to the Carlsberg ads)

Daily Star “Is this the greatest dream ever?”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not being a killjoy.  I certainly don’t begrudge the fans who are feeling joy, satisfaction or elation this morning.  I really hope they enjoy the experience.

Sometimes I just wish we hadn’t, as a society, learned to ‘settle’ for … well, so little.

In a world where it is now seen as normal for there to be an ever-increasing epidemic of poor mental health, meaninglessness, apathy and addictions  Where the biggest killer of men under 45 is now suicide.  Can’t we have a greater dream than winning the footie?

Let’s unpack the statement a bit, just for fun.

Only football can make you feel like this: 

Deeper reflection quickly reveals that Football can’t make you feel anything.

Only your thinking can do that.  Your stories about who you are, your beliefs, your values, what you make important, which team you happen to support, and which country you happen to have been born in.  If it was football making us feel a certain way, then there wouldn’t be such a range of individual, widely varying, responses to the same football game.

We are wired for connection – and we need to belong, to be part of a group that we identify with.  I get it – and this predisposition has many positive consequences, such as community, compassion (at least towards ‘us’ if not towards ‘them’).  You could argue that this human trait is what’s ensured our survival to date.

But there are less desirable consequences too, one of which is tribalism, or in the case of countries, a nationalism that can start to look ugly and divisive.

And “Only football can make you feel like this”.  Really?

This is the best we can aspire to as a species?  Not the fact that we are the infinite creative potential of the universe?  Not the fact that we are creative, conscious beings? Not the myriad of achievements, breakthroughs, profound art, music or writing throughout the centuries?  Not the love-fuelled acts of courage performed by so many people throughout our history?  Not the bliss of deep connection with others?

No, only football.  Apparently.

I’ve heard a lot of people saying “We did it!”

In response to which I always think:  Well, no.  Actually YOU didn’t really do anything! You didn’t kick a ball, or score a goal.  I don’t say this out loud of course – I know I’m expressing a minority view here!

I’ve been learning a lot in the last few years about the rise and fall of civilizations, or how societies collapse.  It’s been well studied, and leads me to conclude this:

It wouldn’t be odd if this civilization were to collapse. It would be odd if it didn’t. 

They all do.  Many scholars have characterised the stages of a society – from rise to fall.  Looking at these analyses, it would seem that we are in Stage 6:  the final stage.

Interestingly, one of the features of this stage is that the populace become obsessed with and hero-worship – wait for it – sports, celebrities, entertainers and musicians.  Ring any bells?

Previous societal collapses throughout history have all been relatively local.  There are two big differences this time:

  • Globalisation
  • Planetary overshoot

It seems ironic to me that this victory happened in the same week as the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill passed through Parliament and was made into law. (5th July 2021) This gives the police sweeping new powers, and essentially means our right to peaceful protest is under threat.

Because we must not have anyone disrupting the lawful business of destroying the planet and sacrificing the lives of millions (billions?) for the profit of a few. 

Maybe that should have been front-page news this morning?  It seems sad to me that the vast majority of British people either don’t realise this has just happened, or don’t much care.

Come on, England!

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5 thoughts on “Only Football can make you Feel Like This

  1. Stuart Beech says:

    An interesting read as always Kimberley and you provoke some good thinking. I do feel a sense of collective excitement about what the England football team are doing and like the feel good factor it is creating. Perhaps there is also the fact that it is a positive story after so much negative COVID dominated news. I appreciate your point about the tribalism that football can so often generate/ reinforce and England fans can be notorious for apparently stoking the flames
    All that said I will enjoy watching the game with my daughter (who isnt a football fan but wants to ‘take part’ in Sunday and – for that alone – I say C’mon England!

    • Kimberley Hare says:

      I hope you and your daughter enjoy!

  2. Jody Bevan says:

    Football has been a huge party of my life for the last 30 something years. I dread to think of the working hours I have put into in that time! And for the most parts you are chasing the dream, that moment of unparalleled not that makes all the blood, sweart, years and sacrifice worthwhile. Yet in all that time I can probably count no more than 10 moments I have experienced like that. So I totally get your point and agree. Indeed in the last 10 years I’ve found not in many other things many of which were totally spontaneous and innocuous.
    However in a country which is seemingly hell bent on putting us into a box and labelling us, international sport is sadly one of the few things that can unite tens of millions of people. Hopefully as a population we can learn from the last 18 months, and reassess our priorities and spend more time living life to the full. I hope that Sunday may provide the catalyst.
    Whatever happens for me I had a special moment on Wednesday. Watching the game on Wednesday night with my son, both of us totally immersed in the game. As the game got more tense coming into exta time we were both pacing the room with nervous excitement. When the penalty was awarded I say down on my stool and the next thing I felt was my son behind me with his arms around me desperately hoping for Harry Kane to score. When he did score the joy I saw in his face brought a huge lump to my throat. He’s not been like that for 16 months. Lockdown has been particularly tough on him. That moment for him produced a secondary moment for me that I will never forget and I will always be grateful for. In that moment the football was irrelevant, it was all about my love for my boy, but it was football that provided the stimulus

    As the song goes ’30 years of hurt, never stopped me dreaming. It’s coming home”!

    • Kimberley Hare says:

      Oh Jody – thank you so much for sharing that story. Absolutely beautiful. Big Love to you and all your family.

  3. Hester says:

    Thank you. Exactly what I have been ruminating over all week. There are few things in this society of ours that creates togetherness on a mass scale. Sports: the Olympics, International sports tournaments. Music: transcendental experience of enjoying live music together in concert. Religion: more than ourselves, part of something bigger or greater purpose. I’m not sure why ‘love for life and a liveable future’ has not had the same uniting effect, which is desperately needed. My hunch is because division works for power, and society has been successfully keeping us divided via race, class, ideology, gender, age, health, education and geography, climate chaos instead of bringing us together deepens the divides in our already vastly unequal world. We are simultaneously attempting to surmount global inequality and mobilise as one to have a liveable future. Football let’s people forget their achingly deep problems and live in each second, being present in the moment for 90 mins. In those football moments of acute focus and arousal, nothing else matters