Finance: The Trader: The opposite of love's not apathy, it's sport

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The Independent Online
"AND THEN he said he couldn't see me on Wednesday either because of the football." Jane is gazing morosely at the limp slice of lemon in her vodka-and-tonic in the way you do when your romantic dreams have been shattered. "Thursday and Friday he had to watch the snooker, and when I suggested lunch at the weekend, he muttered something about the grand prix. I mean, what's more important to him: me or sport?"

Well, we both know the answer to that, but I don't see the need to upset Jane more by pointing it out at this juncture. Besides, I'm genuinely sorry for her. Still, she should never have believed Tom when he told her he didn't watch television, hated football and couldn't see the point of racing.

"I mean, that was a first date," I remind her. "I suppose he said he thought computer games were a waste of time, too."

Jane looks sheepish - "Wishful thinking" - and then we both sigh into our drinks because the truth is almost too sad to contemplate. And it's this: that Jane's is not the only love affair to come to grief on these particular rocky shores. In fact, I'm beginning to wonder if we haven't been barking up the wrong tree all these years looking for reasons for the inexorable rise in the divorce rate. More sport on television, more relationship breakdowns: is there any connection?

As men see it, the problem is that women can't understand how important sport is. What they fail to realise is that this presupposes that sport actually is important. Women, on the other hand, know that sport isn't important at all, and don't understand how men can think otherwise.

"Not quite true," Jane says, raising one eyebrow. (Oh no, I think, she's been watching Roger Moore films again.) "Women can understand lots of things, and the crux of this particular matter is that men don't distinguish between `important' and `important to them'. That's why the Boys' Broadcasting Corporation thinks it's perfectly fine to cancel Star Trek if the sports programme before it runs on."

I know what she means. My computer's thesaurus has "work" as the opposite of "sport", but you wouldn't know it from a survey of the trading floor. I've lost count of the number of times I've thought one of the boys has gone deaf when they're actually listening to the cricket on a discreet radio earpiece. Every computer screen is rigged to flash up sports headlines as well as the financial news. If it looks as if the next market crash is going to coincide with a Test match, they'll just have to cancel the crash.

I wouldn't mind so much, except the boys sneer at the women who leave work at six so their children don't end up thinking some foreign teenager with a 40-a-day chocolate digestive habit is their real mummy. But if those same men concentrated on the job in hand, instead of running books on whether it's Man U or Arsenal for the league, they could leave the office at six as well.

"Be fair, though," I say. "There are compensations for all this sport obsession. It keeps the men out of the shops at weekends. You'll never have a boyfriend who insists on coming clothes-buying with you and then looks bored after the first 10 minutes."

Jane brightens. "I've got it!" she says. "The answer to all our problems - foreigners. All we have to do is only ever fall for men from countries that are so obscure even the most desperate cable and satellite channel won't televise their matches."

"Good thinking," I say. "We'll go home and look at the atlas right away."