Okay, dropping the book chat for a change of direction because this has been on my mind for days, building into–appropriately–a fever pitch!
1975 I attended my first Sheffield United game. 1976-77 I got my first season ticket. I’d be hard-pressed to find a reasonable defense against the charge that this apparent positive gesture wasn’t in fact child endangerment. I was, as the club nickname dictates, a Blade. As a 7-year old how was I to understand the psychological trauma and torment (mixed with admittedly occasional euphoria) that 32 years later would still be so ingrained, so infectious, so potentially…yes, euphoric.
On Monday, March 25th, at 7am Pacific Time, Sheffield United will kick-off a game against Burnley dubbed “the 60-million-pound game” in recognition of the possible TV and sponsorship cash windfall that comes hand in hand with a place in England’s top soccer division, the Premiership. I just care about us winning something significant.
Best guess, a dozen other people among the entire population in these United States give a crap. (I know there’s a guy in Florida, one in Chicago, and I saw Blades stickers on a car in a parking lot in Maui that had me taking photos of a sight I never imagined I’d see). Though I’ve developed a great appreciation of “American” football, and though never lived on the east coast (or even Midwest) where I understand the passion factor behind the local teams reaches fever pitch (for all of those 16 games, whoop-di-doo), it’s impossible to explain what it means to feel like you do bleed your team’s colors (in my case a handy red and white stripes, but doctors would still be freaked).
One of the reasons I adore Nick Hornby’s brilliant book Fever Pitch is that—in his description of the lead character’s reaction to Michael Thomas nicking the First Division title from Liverpool…at Liverpool…with virtually the last kick of the entire season—he manages to put into succinct words the, yes, euphoria, that I could never similarly convey. Because really, you can’t describe it. You can’t explain how two total strangers, two young lads bred of harsh northern England stock, two comrades in colors who had likely never shed a tear or exuded a true emotion in any kind of company, even among the tightest family, could suddenly, spontaneously, embrace in a clinch of jubilation that, if you looked closely enough, would certainly have also featured the shedding of real tears.
Alan Cork, Wembley, 1993, just before half-time, sliding a weak shot past the hapless Chris Woods, and the evil Chris Waddle unable to catch its seemingly endless role into the corner of the goal. That moment was “football euphoric,” which is to say, it’s euphoric to a mathematical power unfathomable by scientific computations. Euphoria to the power of deep, deep emotion. That’s powerful. That’s what happened between me and a total stranger sat in the seat in front. I never got his name.
So when I saw this video, compiled by a YouTube poster known—and I understand why, but only other Blades will get the gag—as SirBobBooker it captured in simple statements and video compilations the emotion Hornby puts into words in Fever Pitch. But this time it’s for my team.
And I know, if I wasn’t that same stoic Englishman underneath, I’d have balled like a 7-year old less than half way through.
Monday, May 25th, 2009 at 7am I’ll be on my couch, in my red-and-white striped shirt, kicking every ball, yelling at every decision, and hoping, just hoping for the right breaks. And I know, if the same situation occurs May 25th, 2059 I’ll be just the same way (but probably a little crankier).
Come On You Red And White Wizards.