14 November 2019, The Tablet

Top-dog angst: soccer success makes a fan's life more stressful

Top-dog angst: soccer success makes a fan's life more stressful

It’s tough being at the top. I write this now, because I know West Bromwich Albion will still be top of the Championship table when you get to read it. This isn’t overconfidence or complacency, merely factual: as I write, club football has stopped for a couple of weeks for internationals to be played. Two whole weeks at the top, guaranteed. How lovely. If only I could find a way of enjoying it.

It’s stressful having such a long way to fall. Things could be worse, you might argue, quite reasonably. To which I would respond, that’s precisely the point – things can only get worse. What a dreadful position to be in; the only way being down.
I believe this is what therapists call stinking thinking. After all, if we were bottom of the table I’d be just as miserable, for obvious reasons. And if we were mid-table I’d be miserable too, because there I’d have to worry about climbing higher and also falling lower. I wish I didn’t frame it like this. I wonder if there’s a passage in Scripture that could help me? Something along the lines of, Thou shalt not be an idiot.

I think I’m like this with all sports, with all life possibly. I used to do a lot of cycling, before everyone was cycling, before the roads were rammed with middle-aged blokes in too-tight Lycra perched on bikes generally more expensive than the cars trying to get past them. Some of my best friends are middle-aged cyclists in this mould. I love them all, but my word, they can be boring on the subject. Sprockets, gears, cadence, blah, blah, blah. They’re a funny breed to be sure.

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