Wandering past the Trinity College rugby on Sunday afternoon after a swim the lady and I are nattering away to each other. There's a smattering of folks along the sideline, most of whom turn to glare at us like we've just farted do-re-mi during the Pope's funeral. I look at the pitch; some stocky, cocky gobshite with stupid hair is taking an aeon to line up a kick at goal so straighforward that my dead granny could casually backheel it over. The glarers think our chatter from 30 metres away might cause him to miss. These eejits, whose rugby knowledge begins and ends with Munster's Heineken Cup matches on the telly, have decided that all kicks at goal must be met with reverential silence. They do that at Thomond Park, every time their boy ROG steps up to the tee. The wankers. They pride themselves on it there, and on how they're such a respectful rugby crowd that they even do it when the away team are having a shot at goal. Except when it's a kick that might mean Munster could lose, like.
Anyway, yer man blunderbusses it through the posts and the crowd singularly fail to erupt in jubilation. They don't even clap, they just put their hands back in their snug, smug pockets.
Later on, I ask if she'll join me in the pub to watch the football. Or to read a book in the pub while I watch the football. It doesn't interest her, and I've always appreciated that she admits this and doesn't feel it's her girlfriendly duty to pretend to be into it. I just want her company, as ever.
"Nah, I'll just get the shopping done."
"We can do it tomorrow. Or I'll do it on Tuesday, it's not like I don't have the time," I say, sounding far more wistful than any grown man should.
She joins me a pint and a half into a rather dull match, in which Arsenal have coasted into a 2-0 lead without even playing remotely well. She launches into the Irish Times crossword whilst I sup my pint, grunt at the match and chuckle at the wildly varying approaches to flirting within the group of cadets sitting in front of us. Just as I help her finish up by deciding that 12 down is 'secede', chaos descends onscreen and Arsenal contrive to swiftly turn a two goal lead into a draw. I thump the table, swear incessantly, mumble vague threat against both the referee and Alex Song, and become thoroughly unpleasant company for a Sunday afternoon.
"This is why I don't like watching football with you; you get so stressed."
I hate it when she talks in semi-colons. But she's right, I do.
What I most remember about reading Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch (a book, incidentally, about supporting Arsenal, but which contains universal truths for any football fan) was an observation he made about the one and only time he was able to pick his face out of the crowd when watching match highlights later on TV. He noticed that he looked completely miserable, and realised that he tended to be tense and serious at matches. So concerned by the idea of his team losing that he never really enjoyed the games at all. Concerned by profligate finishing. Concerned by how evenifthey'vegotawaywithdefendinglikethatthistimetheywon'tgetawaywithitagainsttop-classopposition.
And that's the nature of the beast. Watching a sport that you've somehow conditioned yourself into being highly emotionally with means that you're likely to feel unhappy for large amounts of it. The subhuman roars fans emit when their team scores against some particularly hated opposition are as much about relief that the other cunts aren't winning as they are about joy at their own team's prowess.
This shit isn't reasonable, and I know it. Emanuel Adebayor's obnoxious behaviour towards his old club a few weeks ago had me far more riled than John O'Donoghue's obnoxious behaviour towards his country, upset me more than any news from Darfur and made me ask more questions about the inherent evilness of man than the Fritzl case. If media coverage is proportionally representational then an awful lot of people must feel that way. I really don't know what to make of that.
Of course, you might reasonably argue that the tension and stress of watching sports leads to a such a massive high when things eventually do go right that it's all worth it in the end. But I'm beginning to think that that's a little like suggesting that it would be a worthwhile leisure pursuit to hire someone to hide all of your most precious belongings all over the country, just so you could enjoy the rush of finally finding them all again.