September 15: my history of sport

My interest in sport has reached an all-time low. The football season has started up and I’m not interested. This may be the oversaturation that came with the World Cup mania this summer but it may well be something that runs deeper than that. It could be that I have reached the tipping point on old gits like Mourinho having every priceless word pored over by fawning or brow-beaten journalists. It might be the depressingly predictable selection of sleeve tattoos sported by the players, or their bleak collection of beards and haircuts. It might be the tiresome interviews and their PR vetted responses. It all seems processed, mediated, dull, ridden with commercial preoccupations. It could be that this year is the moment that I switch off. That appointment with Match of the Day no longer plays a role in my subconscious (as a boy it was the main date of the week). This would be part of a pattern. Cricket and I parted company many years ago. The idea of sitting for an entire day at the Oval watching distant young men in white, or in pyjamas, depending on which subset of the game we’re viewing, now seems senseless to me. I’d rather eat biscuits at home or have a walk some place or look at some shop windows. I really couldn’t care less about Anderson’s Figures or Cook’s Average or Broad’s Maiden. They sound more like a set of mathematical laws to me these days. There are other sports. The astounding monotony of Formula One. The dire smugness of golf. The unbearable dullness of the tennis interview. The awefulness of the fist pump. As a boy I was the sporty one. My big brother was the clever one. If I’m sporty now, it is of the Train Alone variety (see post of same name). The culture and communality of sport is fast losing its gloss.

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September 4: a mirror in the park

The other day I saw a man carrying a full-length mirror in the park. It made me think of the line by Stendhal where he compared the novel to a mirror you carry down a road. It was an allusion played on by Nabokov at the start of one of his novels (The Gift, I think), which starts with some removal men carrying a mirror across a street. Objects (household or other) are interesting when pulled out of their usual context. I suppose that was one of the things about Marcel Duchamp’s urinal when it was placed in an art gallery. The context resets our viewing of an object, makes us view it emblematically or mundanely. On the bus this morning a little boy was hammering a kind of plastic soldier on the back of my seat. When he dropped it the mother went to pick it up and I saw it was a figurine of Jesus Christ in the pose where he is holding his hands out to us and his heart, his so-called sacred heart, is revealed to us with the chest bone stripped away. Out of context you are forced to look at objects in a different way. That is why places are sacred. You should not be sexting in a church. One of the last football matches I went to was Fulham v Man Utd at Craven Cottage (this was when United were good) and while the match was going on I was talking about Wagner’s Ring with one of my friends. After United scored their fouth goal (Tevez scored a hat-trick I think) a steward came over and threatened to expel us as trouble-makers. We were bringing unsacred material into a sacred place. We were talking filth in the Holy Tabernacle.

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September 3: train alone

I was walking through the shopping centre next to Russell Square and I saw this gym out of the corner of my eye. It said ‘Train Alone’. And I thought that’s a clever marketing idea, the romance of the solitary trainer, pushing yourself to your limits. And I thought that’s the modern age, people alone with their headphones on their own regime. I was thinking of that film ‘Marathon Man’ from the 1970s and Dustin Hoffman running alone round the gritty streets of New York training for the marathon, with a line I remember from it that he had trained himself for pain and so was able to resist the torture he was put under later in the film. That’s right, I thought. I must get my running shoes out and beat a solitary path round the gritty South London streets again. I moved a little closer to the shop front of the gym to examine their original and off-beat strategy. It wasn’t ‘Train Alone’. It was ‘Never Train Alone’. Ah!

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