Christopher Hirst: There's more to life than football

Many will doubtless regard my viewing preferences as close to treason

Share

YESSSSS!" screamed the telly-viewing crowd from the pub at the back of our house as an England stalwart slammed one past Sweden's hapless custodian. The mood on our sofa was more pensive as we assessed the situation. "Who do you think it will be at the end?" I asked my wife, a formidably experienced analyst of the confrontation unreeling on our TV.

"Hard to say," she responded after some moments of concentration. "But my money is on Richard Briers." In case you are thinking that Briers, R is a new midfield signing by Roy Hodgson, I should explain that my wife was referring to the genial thesp, who indeed wielded the hypodermic filled with snake venom at the end of Agatha Christie's Marple.

Actually, I think that we might have been watching Joanna Lumley in Midsomer Murders – it is hard to differentiate among the genre of grisly doings in impossibly gorgeous settings that has such potent appeal for British females – but we had Euro 2012 to thank. Not only does it provide a feast of footy but also a cornucopia of genteel mayhem on competing TV channels for those congenitally indifferent to soccer.

Many will doubtless regard my viewing preference as at best incomprehensible, at any rate for a man, or at worst close to treason. In fact, I am deeply, deeply English. I discover my visceral nationalism on the rare occasions when I watch England play. Yes, I do want them to win, but I resent the irrationality of my surging adrenalin. I'm baffled that I should care about 11 millionaires with whom I have nothing in common apart from nationality.

For those who say that sporting success is a unifying factor that can produce rewards well beyond the competitive arena, I might point out that I was in Crete when Greece won Euro 2004. The island went collectively delirious. Later that summer, I attended the Olympics in Athens. The ruinously expensive stadium rang to national cheers: "Hellas! Hellas!" No one would now say that Greece's summer of sporting glory produced any long-term benefits. Quite the reverse, if anything.

The fact is that sport on TV is no more than another indulgent entertainment. It is no better or worse than Midsomer Murders.

Yet in a roundabout sort of way, Euro 2012 gave me a transporting experience of another European state. By not watching Russia and Poland get the boot on Saturday, I was able to spend a glorious five and a half hours in the Dublin of June 1904. Radio 4's epic celebration of Bloomsday held me in thrall from "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan..." to Molly Bloom's final affirmation, passionate as any footy fan, "Yes I said yes I will yes."

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor’s Letter: The Sussex teenager killed fighting in Syria

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Actor Zac Efron  

Keep your shirt on Zac – we'd all be better for it

Howard Jacobson
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit