Sunday, 27 March 2016

At the Football (more new fiction excerpts)



In the office, Gavin tells me "I hate Fucking Arsenal," except he says "I ate fackin arsniw" in his ridiculous faux cockney voice, "I have since I was a kid". He can't name anything about Arsenal that he hates. He can’t name any Arsenal traits or attributes that justify his 'lifelong hatred'. Of course he can't. The players have all changed, the manager, the stadium. Nothing is the same. The style of play. All are completely different. Only the name is the same. In the end this is all he hates - a name, a phantom, a signifier. "It's in the blood," he says, "It’s in the family. It's part of being a Chelsea fan," as if it's something primal, something pre-rational. But Chelsea too is just an empty name. Only the name exists.

The following month I'm taken to a corporate event at Stamford Bridge. A congregation of castratos, of cretins, borrowing their balls from the pack, from the crowd. A gravelly voice cracks a joke and the pack laughs, like turning on a light bulb. A female steward called Karen walks past.. "Show us your tits Karen" a tumescent cretin shouts, flicking the switch once more.  Another one, pig pink and breathing smoke, is pointing and chanting "Ka-ren, Ka-ren.." and the pack follows suit. Each individual cretin has plugged himself into the pack, each feels empowered by the pack, and yet the pack is only the mathematical sum of all the cretins. Pitchside, the redfaced castratos borrow the bass roar of the crowd, their voices dissolved into threatening thunder. They delight in roaring and bellowing, the pretend atavism of the stockbroker and the painter and decorator. Not "Who are you?" but "oo-r-ya, oo-r-ya". Chanting in a barbarised-cockney voice that no one has ever spoken, thug behaviour rolled out on a Saturday, the pseudo regression of those with a "wife and two kids" and a car, stuck and pinioned in the world of "a wife and two kids" and "the pub" and "the car", fenced totally within this small world, this tiny mental province, but allowed a foray into the amphitheatre to swell-up and spit and shout for 90 minutes. All for the empty name of the team.  They think that the team is the Thing, but the team is only the front-facing part of the company that exploits them week by week, giving them license to be part of a pack, chanting and shouting, wobbling with hatred, spilling their bottled rage in public for all to see, like 40,000 Fuhrers.

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