Sunday, May 20, 2012

Football: All human life is here. And also in Hampshire

Schroedinger's BartonIn 1944, when he wasn't messing about with cats in boxes, the philosopher Erwin Schroedinger wrote a book asking the eternal question: What is Life? In my advancing years, I find life is far too short to read what he said, but I doubt it had anything to do with Association Football, which is where he went wrong.

Being a man of both a scientific and philosophical nature, I spent the climactic final Sunday afternoon of the Premier League football season surreptitiously observing the reactions of my next door neighbour, a recent school-leaver who was taking a rather animated view of proceedings.

The subject in question was a follower of Manchester United, this being the United heartlands of North Hampshire, and, as it became clear that the Reds may be pulling off the impossible and winning the Premier League title, he became noisier and noisier until his mum made him watch from outside the patio doors.

It was at that point that I had to pretend that my pen and clipboard was being used for an audit of garden flora, but these are the sacrifices one has to make in the name of scientific enquiry.

Then, with pure, undiluted elation filling his heart, the impossible happened: Arch-rivals Manchester City scored in the ninety-first and ninety-third minutes to wrest the title away from Old Trafford to a team scraped together on the pitiful budget of one million billion pounds. Instead of dancing on the streets of Hampshire, they would be dancing on the actual streets of Manchester.

Elation gave way to disbelief (expressed through the medium of very loud swearing), followed closely by resigned silence as the grim reality sunk in.

And there, in those brief two minutes of hope and joy followed by crushing despair, was a timely reminder to this young man - his whole life ahead of him - of what the next five decades or so has in store. I should know, I support Arsenal, for whom despair has been a frequent bedfellow.

The entire human condition exists in football. Triumph, frustration, teamwork, tribalism, defeat, greed, love, hate, and being Joey Barton. If Schroedinger had put a Chelsea fan in that box of his, I should imagine we'd have the meaning of life by now.

On a strictly personal note, I pin my faith upon my subject's hope-despair cycle not being extended to the next stage, that being realising that his creepy clipboard-wielding neighbour is writing about him on the internet, and launching his own little experiment called "How many pine cones can a man fit inside his mouth before he dies of pine cone poisoning?"

I'm hoping this will not come to pass, as there has been a lot of column inches in the press this week on how my home town has emerged as the kinky sex capital of the UK. In my youth, spurred on by the letters column in a certain gentlemen's monthly, I trudged the streets, trying to find where - exactly - these bored housewives in dire need of odd jobs being done around the house might be.

Now, after several house moves (none of which were to escape court orders), I have found them all in the quiet dormitory town and Manchester United heartland of Fleet. As a noted man of science, this is far too good an opportunity to miss, and a full study is clearly warranted. This is a field where I believe Schroedinger was also found wanting, his studies being limited to the mad cat women of Berlin and Dublin. I mean to right this wrong.

I'm starting at the library, clipboard in hand. Wish me luck.

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