Isn't it beautiful, this silence? This precious void in our lives. Last week England lost 1-0 to plucky Northern Ireland, who, despite a shortage of limbs and three of them never having played the game before, easily outclassed Sven's pampered boys. The following day you would have expected the newspapers to be full of vicious articles excoriating this pathetic excuse for a national team, and sure, there were one or two. But was anyone reading them? Did anyone care? No, like Tony Blair, we'd moved on.
Strangely enough two friends of mine had similar experiences in pubs a couple of weeks ago. Both had gone to their locals to watch the cricket on the big screen. And into both pubs some young people ventured, and said (in slightly different accents and idioms) "Oi! What's this shit? What about Manchester United?" which we can safely presume was on the other side. And in both pubs the barmen and customers told the young people to piss off.
That cricket has done this is all the more thrilling for those of us who have loved it since childhood. But let's not be exclusive about this. Hating football has a broader constituency than that. For years we have had to stay silent. For years we have drifted off into our own thoughts when talk has turned to Reading's undoubtedly excellent promotion prospects for this or any other season. We have had to tolerate sports pages in which football dominates beyond all sense, TV news programmes which now regard minor footballing stories as of greater significance than all foreign events bar major disasters and, worst of all, advertisements for shoes sucking up to football fans by pandering to the received opinion that football is more important than anything else. In the meantime we are meant to applaud when this pointless activity calls itself "a global brand". The huge sums it generates are directly proportional to the gullibility of its fans - and that's supposed to be a good thing?
It can't last. If it did we would soon have the pleasure of hearing the Prime Minister reminisce about seeing Wally Hammond score 336 not out against New Zealand in 1932-33, when he was nobbut a lad. Sadly, though, this is just a blip. Cricket is enjoying its day in the sun, but let's not forget that we are witnessing one of the most exciting Test series ever played. We can't expect that to happen every year. Like Microsoft or Wal-Mart, football has the sheer heft to dominate its market and obliterate all competitors. Nothing can challenge its supremacy. It's the Dalek of sports. Resistance is useless.
For a moment, though, we can try to imagine a world without football. Is it not a more beautiful place, in which no one wears bright shirts emblazoned with this year's sponsor's name because last year's sponsor's name would be too sad for words? In which Victoria Beckham's boast that she had never read a book would be greeted with a hail of bullets? In which we would never have to hear Sir Alex Ferguson speak again? This is a world worth fighting for, and some of us will fight for it to our last breath.
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