You shouldn't expect football to be any less preposterous than life, but a growing number of football folk are beginning to look at the extraordinary situation at Chelsea with a gnawing feeling of awe and alarm. I'm tending that way myself.
When Roman Abramovich first arrived at Stamford Bridge and started throwing his money around, most of us looked on in amused fascination. We'd seen big spenders before, but none capable of pulling out a wad the size of the London Eye whenever a player took his fancy.
I don't intend to list his £111m worth of signings because it gets boring, but each was a little more spectacular than the one before, and achieved at such a rate there couldn't have been any haggling. Once the price was named, he seemed to stump up without complaint. The same with the wages. Imagine what it would have been like if the transfer barriers hadn't been lowered at the start of the season. Imagine what it's going to be like when the transfer window is opened in January. He's already lining them up, and money continues to be no object.
All this was fine, funny even, when we could nudge each other knowingly and recite the old mantra about money not guaranteeing success. Chelsea's 4-0 victory over nasty Lazio in Rome was accomplished in such style we are now asking questions which begin with the words "What if..." Perhaps the welter of scandals and spats that have been dominating the game has served as a distraction but, suddenly, Chelsea have put down an impressive marker in the Champions' League and are a whisker from the top of the Premiership.
We've heard little from Chelsea's rivals, but one of them cracked last week. Everton director Paul Gregg pronounced that Abramovich had "ruined the Premiership". You can understand the frustration of someone whose punchless side had more than enough chances to beat Chelsea at Goodison Park but still lost 1-0 to a dubious Adrian Mutu goal. Gregg, who is reputed to have a personal fortune of £150m, might also feel that the Russian is setting a bad example.
Unusually, we have yet to hear from the more vociferous Premiership men, but that may be explained by the fact that Manchester United are accusing Chelsea of violating the rules by poaching their chief executive, Peter Kenyon, without prior permission. It could cost Chelsea millions and, while the wrangle goes on, Kenyon is twiddling his fingers on gardening leave. Not only outsiders are concerned. Tony Banks, the former sports minister and high-profile Chelsea supporter, has called on Abramovich to make his long-term intentions clear. He wants the Russian to reassure Chelsea fans about his motives for investing in the club with such unprecedented gusto. Banks has already called for an investigation into the benefactor's affairs, but emphasises that he is not critical, just "quizzical".
It is a fair point. Whereas every Chelsea fan is delighted as the club's owner pours more and more of his money into the transfer market, they are entitled to ask what would happen if he was suddenly to depart, leaving the club with a heap of deadly contractual millstones around their necks.
It has not gone unnoticed that a fellow industrial entrepreneur has recently been subject to investigation by the Russian government. No one is suggesting that Abramovich is similarly vulnerable, but he comes from a volatile part of the world of which we know little.
There is a saving grace in that he is so plainly enjoying himself. This is no absentee lord of the manor who keeps but a distant check on the harvest. He is with them every kick of the ball, and his enthusiasm could well last a long road. We have yet to see his face after a run of defeats, but he takes such obvious pleasure in his club's success.
Why should we take exception to Chelsea's swift expansion to cosmic proportions when clubs such as Manchester United and Arsenal have been also mainly collated via the transfer market? It is a matter of speed. For more than a century, our clubs have recruited from outside their catchment areas. True, the circle has widened to cover the entire globe, but it has been at a pace we could handle - drafted in one by one to fill a particular role and be assimilated slowly into the local scenery. Abramovich has hastened the process in a grotesque manner, flooding the place with so many newcomers they have to take it in turns to play. This is force-feeding the goose that is supposed to lay the golden egg, and something must suffer eventually.
What if four others with Abramovich's inexhaustible wealth decided to buy Premiership clubs? They could hoover up the majority of the world's best players. We would have clubs that would represent a footballing equivalent of a handful of harems - all the beauty of the game confined to a few sultans.
I'm not sure it is meant to be like that. But I'm equally at a loss to suggest a solution. I mean no offence to Abramovich, nor do I begrudge Chelsea fans their long-awaited place in the glow of glory, but someone in authority has to consider where all of this might end.
Further blows to dignity
As a gentle reintroduction to public life after his mental breakdown, it was good to see Frank Bruno climb through the ropes last week to lead the England amateur boxing team into the ring at the York Hall, Bethnal Green, for their annual fixture against America.
It was a particularly apt appearance, because leading the American team was Tim Witherspoon, whom Bruno was meeting for the first time since they fought for the world heavyweight title in 1986 at Wembley. It would not have brought back happy memories for Bruno, who was battered into defeat in the 11th round. I was at ringside, sitting beneath the very corner into which Bruno was finally deposited. How he put up with the number of blows he took before succumbing was tribute to a level of bravery I still recall with admiration.
He had promised to lead the England team before he was sectioned on 22 September, and was determined to honour the commitment, although it was only two weeks since he had been released from a secure psychiatric hospital.
What was much less rewarding was to see Bruno appear on ITV that night in the programme Tonight with Trevor McDonald. It is one thing to have a walk-on role at a boxing tournament, but quite another to be paraded for inspection for half an hour on peak-time television. Any attempts at seriousness were surrendered when McDonald donned boxing gloves and did a bit of comic sparring with Bruno. He was presented as a curio, and very rarely did the show ascend from the type of slapstick interview Bruno has given a hundred times.
That he should be drawn into one when he is still under treatment for the mental condition that brought him such humiliating publicity was unfortunate. Sometime in the future, Bruno may care to look back at this sad stage of his life with a touch of philosophical objectivity that may be helpful to other sufferers. Now is certainly not that time. He should be left to relocate the rails of his life with a little more dignity and privacy.Reuse content