Sunday, 8 June 2008

Euro Cup Football, silence and tears in the rain

So the Euro Football Cup competition has commenced without us (us being, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales). Adverts on the TV encourage us to get in touch with our inner European and pick another team to support. I presume this is based on the fact that some personal emotional investment in the outcome of a match makes the whole process much more interesting. Watching a game just for the experience of seeing a good game of football between two groups of skilled professional athletes doesn’t appear to be an option. The TV Companies want bums on seats in front of the box and their best bet for achieving that aim seems to be to encourage engagement through a sense of ownership, a sense that this team gives you a momentary sense of belonging to something. The beautiful game is still basically tribal and if your tribe has disappeared what do you do? Find another tribe seems to be the thrust of the adverts, being without one leaves you vulnerable.

I used to go to a lot of football games in the distant past, when there were still terraces that smelled of urine and pies, creaking turnstiles and admission fees that didn’t cost a year's wages and your first born. I am not indulging in nostalgia here, standing up for ninety minutes in pouring rain was never wonderful and footballers were not as well styled or good looking. As a young girl they never seemed to be any pin up material on the field. My posters on the bedroom wall I recall didn’t seem to include half naked, waxed and muscular men staring sexily into the lens. Footballers were ordinary blokes who did their stuff on a cold wet muddy Saturday afternoon not in front of the camera.

The cult of personality in sport is well documented and acres of text has been written by people about ‘the good old days’ of football. All I recall about Nottingham Forest and Notts County matches as a child was that this was a place where working men congregated together and for me it was the first experience I had of a crowd being one animal, having a life of its own. The sum of the parts was practically demonstrated to be greater than the whole. The minute silences held for deceased ex players etc was not unusual and a crowd holding itself in, holding itself still was something exceptional to me as a child. That is why when I came across this Paul Farley poem the other day it resonated. Some poems you can admire for their craft and skill but it is those poems that also seem to call your name in a crowd that you turn your head to.

Silence is a powerful thing, the absence of something that you are attuned to is very unsettling. The use of a dramatic pause on stage can, in the hands of the right actor, carry a whole scene. A silence in a film, especially if not accompanied by huge visual changes and input can be a either brave and significant or ponderous and almost too ‘worthy’. There is a minutes silence (or should I say absence of dialogue) in this famous scene in Bladerunner. In filmic terms this is brave and I believe was edited down in the version first released and only reinstated in the Director’s cut. I think it adds something to just stay with that silence for a minute.

Silence in a poem at first seems counter intuitive but then I think Emily Dickinson’s famous hyphens may have been her graphic way of writing silence. Not a pause as in a fullstop, a comma but a dash to signify some regard for the power of small silences maybe. Small silences may be something we all need more of, a little hush now and then can make the auditory landscape a little more vivid.

Ps I shall be supporting a team that will do quite well, come close to going out in the quarter finals, struggle bravely in the semi's with moments of genius followed by defensive gaffs a primary school second team wouldn't make. They must also deal with defeat in a dignified manner and have a couple of players that you really want to feel better about missed penalties. Any suggestions, I was thinking of an Eastern European team such as Croatia?


Anne said...

Great post - it's good to be reminded of that Farley poem. What an excellent poet he is, and how exercised by moments of silence, suspension, the cusp of then and now. cf
"Liverpool Disappears for a Billionth of a Second"

Writearound said...

Thanks for sending the link to that other Paul farley poem. he is rapidly becoming one of my favourite poets. I thnk his collection Tramp in Flames was a real tour de force and I keep going back to it again and again which is always a sign that it has notonly something to say but different things to say on each reading