Foopball, foopball, ra, ra, ra

In the wake of the coverage of Andy Gray/Richard Keys, I had  a blog post floating round my head yesterday about the  crushing ubiquity of football and the culture that surrounds it.    Had I got round to writing it,  it would have made some of the points made by Catherine Bennett  in her piece for today’s Observer Forget getting rid of sexism in sport.  Let’s get rid of sport:  an end to the blokey horror if it all, say I, to the absolute  inescapableness of it, to the obscenity of the money (pretty much any story in the Observer’s Said and Done column most weeks is enough to make you want to ban the game completely), to the new social necessity of following a team.

I blame Rupert Murdoch, for enabling the Topsy-ish growth of the Premier League, and Nick Hornby , whose   Fever Pitch made it socially acceptable for football to spread beyond the back pages, wheedling its way into every part of daily life like honey fungus.

Bennett makes another good point in her piece about the pervasiveness of sports chatter in the media: the low percentage of women and girls who enjoy the competitive nature of team games:

the Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation finds that 36% of women “enjoy the competitiveness of sport”, as opposed to 61% of men. Why, then… should the sport-averse be subjected to extended sessions of compulsory sport, as if they were still in class, forced out into the mud to contemplate the skills of the school elite?

Good point.  And why, if this is the case, are the government so keen to promote competitive sport in schools at the same time as they cut School Sports Partnerships to the detriment of sports that girls might actually enjoy?  I played lots of competitive sport at school – netball, hockey, rounders for the school, a county trial for hockey.  All at the point of my PE teacher’s gun.  I hated every minute and gave up sport as soon as I could, only to rediscover the pleasures of exercise years later when – by then pretty unfit – I joined a gym.

Professional sport is entertaining enough to watch,  but it isn’t important.  I do  not feel it will be a national disgrace if “our medal tally” is worse at the London Olympics than it was in Beijing.  I do not care that ‘we’ are unlikely to win the World Cup again in my lifetime.  I was delighted about the Ashes, but no-one would have died if England had lost.  Sport, like most other things in life, is more fun to do yourself than watch someone else do.   Can we get a bit of perspective back please?


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