I'll never be welcome among Real Men again

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
A bit harassed, thank you for asking. Work, don't you know. Piled up. Late. Impossible schedules. Disturbed sleep. Recurrent nightmares, in particular an amorphous, menacing one featuring a shadowy character of nameless evil. It's the evil that's nameless, not the character. The character is called Mr Baxter, which is about as wet a name for the embodiment of evil as you could shake a stick at. It doesn't really stack up in the hierarchy of malevolence. Satan, Beelzebub, Ashtaroth, Mr Baxter? I think not. Perhaps my brain has been taken over as a test-marketing site for Carlton Television. But more likely it's just work.

What a foolish idea it is, work. I put myself to huge inconvenience and go through terrible stress and anguish in order to get money so that I can buy things I neither want nor need, and so do you, and so do all of us. Dog eating dog, endless competition, hunting for business you don't really want. I actually put in a bid to write a really terrible, guns 'n' violence, whop-it-up-me-big-boy commercial feature film the other day, for no better reason than that a friend of mine was also pitching for it. I bet you've done exactly the same thing. Peaceful coexistence? Pftui! Exterminate the competition, annihilate your domestic life and peace of mind, press your lips together, behave like a borderline psychopath, lose your friends, and why? So that somewhere, at the end of the money- chain, a fat ape in a cashmere blazer can pork two bought-and-paid-for Burmese table-dancers in the back of his private jet.

It is not a sensible way to go on, and I blame sport.

Sport has been on my mind of recent days. I think it was the combination of the news that there's going to be nothing but sport on the television all summer; of a radio programme I used to like having been replaced by two men talking about sport; of popping out for a packet of fags and getting stuck behind a knot of razor-cropped young policemen just back from some sporting activity; and of a man ringing me up and bullying me to play in a football match which his company was organising against another company. It was as though God was putting me to the test; as though He was saying: "Michael, this week you have to decide, once and for all, where you stand on the question of sport," which simply confirms the lesson of human history, which is that God doesn't have enough to keep Him occupied.

It was not a test which gave me much cause for thought. Where I stand on sport is, quite simply, as far away from any of it as possible, preferably with a good book and a bad woman. I have hated sport for as long as I can recall. Some of my earliest memories are of hating sport. Not that I was particularly bad at it. My performance in goal for the winning team of the inter-house five-a-side competition is still spoken of today, and I well remember the afternoon when a former Olympic sprinter put his arm around my shoulder and said: "Jolly well run. Damn good race. Well-earned victory. Good lad."

It was just that ... well, what was it? I think it was perhaps the mud. Or maybe it was the hideous Sports Clothes you had to wear, the naff shorts, the shoes with spikes, the shoes with studs, the terrible awfulness of the rank human jockstrap. It could have been the weather, although cricket (summer) seemed no better than rugby (winter); both were Purgatory, but without the hope.

On reflection, I think it may have been the sweating, or perhaps the liniment, or the gritty splintery floorboards of the pavilion, or the carbolic soap in the shower. It could have been the forced enthusiasm; exhortatory cries of "Come on! Come on! Harder! Yeeees!", which are enchanting when delivered by an amorous woman, lose their charm when blurted out by a jut-chinned gym master with a spotty back.

Maybe it was none of those things. Perhaps it is that sport exalts brainlessness, encourages - in fact, embodies - partisanship and violent conflict. Perhaps it's the awful shouting yobbo inarticulacy of sports commentators, the womanish shrieking of that race commentator Murray Thing, the man who advertises that scary pizza with the smegmatic tube around the edge, you know the chap. Shrieking! Absolutely squealing, about men driving cars. Dear God. Perhaps it's the endless lists of names, of scores, of numbers; the dispiriting sight of highly educated men flourishing their bogus Laddishness by pretending to like footie; the fact that talking about sport is an excuse to avoid talking about anything at all.

Or perhaps it's just that I'm a snob, a poof, a wet and a weed and a girlie. I don't care. In the end, sport is a bad business because it is all about competing for its own sake. I can see the point in trying to be the first to produce a Grand Unified Theory, or to write a better novel than the next chap, or make the most delicious zabaglione in the world, because, at the end of it all, you've got your theory, your novel, your pud. But sport? Pooh. What have you got at the end? Sweat and mud.

Of course, that's it for me. I'll never be welcome again among either Real Men or among media weeds who couldn't lift a cucumber but like to pose as sports fans in their Paul Smith suits, or even fearful Business People, with their sporting metaphors about Kicking the Opposition Into Touch and their whining about Level Playing Fields.

This is the Information Age, and there is no longer a place for sport. It must be banned at once. It has nothing to teach us, except that competition for its own sake is what has brought us to our current condition, and if you expect me to justify that remark, you can whistle. I see no reason to engage you in intellectual combat. It's not how I work. I'm not that competitive. I'm not competitive at all. In fact, I'm probably the least competitive person you will ever meet. OK?

Comments