From J.B. Priestley’s fictional projection in 1929, to 2016’s realities, Laura Jones looks at whether football has become less of an escapism and more like work.
There’s a passage from J.B.Priestley’s novel The Good Companions that I’ve been thinking about recently.
“[Football] turned you into a member of a new community, all brothers together for an hour and a half, for not only had you escaped from the clanking machinery of this lesser life, from work, wages, rent, dole, sick pay, insurance-cards, nagging wives, ailing children, bad bosses, idle workmen, but you escaped with most of your mates and neighbours, with half the town, and there you were, cheering together, thumping one another on the shoulders, swapping judgements like lords of the earth, having pushed your way through a turnstile into another and altogether more splendid kind of life, hurtling with Conflict and yet passionate and beautiful in its Art.
“Moreover it offered you more than a shilling’s worth of material for talk during the rest of the week.”
Although it’s a fictional story written in 1929, the more I read these paragraphs the more I wonder whether anyone one feels like this in 2016? (I’m excluding Leicester City fans from this because you’re still floating around the stratosphere somewhere.)
Football is supposed to be a break from our working lives. It’s supposed to be a light relief. It’s supposed to be fun. When was the last time you felt like that?
Let’s face it, we’ve had bigger things to think about in 2016. The vitriolic EU referendum, the shock of Brexit and America following suit by electing Donald Trump to be leader of the free world. 2016 has even taken a fair chunk of our most talented and beloved musicians and entertainers. Overall, 2016 has been a bastard of a year.
Football is a leisure time activity. In updated Priestley terms, it should be an escape from office politics, stalling wages, increasing rent, universal credit, arguing with insurance companies about uninsured drivers, being ignored by your partner and children whilst they’re glued to iPads and Netflix, and we still have the bad bosses and a productivity problem.
Sometimes it feels like a job in itself to keep up with football. I realise the irony that in writing this I’m contributing to the plethora of opinions, comment pieces, stats, dissection of every element of the game. You certainly get more than a shilling’s worth of content out of a week of football because it’s a fully immersive activity, front and back page news.
Scrolling through the club hashtags on Twitter raises anger levels to a pointless degree. Reading EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey’s press releases announcing yet another rebranding where football is no longer a game but “property”. The Checkatrade Trophy’s backdoor ‘B team’ disaster. A Whole Game Solution.
Football is quite frankly exhausting especially when life is busy and time is precious. Getting sucked into days of discussion about Joey Barton being signed off with stress makes you realise how easily you can fall into a vortex.
I didn’t even watch the England vs Scotland World Cup qualifier. Lying back and thinking of England doesn’t fill me with pleasure. I watched three episodes of Big Bang Theory instead. I’d seen them all before, but after a hard day at work and looking after a one-year-old, it still seemed more of a pleasurable leisure option than a jaded England performance.
Football in 2016 isn’t escapism, it’s a part-time job.