Apologies if it’s self-indulgent to write about myself in consecutive articles. Especially when I’m supposed to be taking a break. Yet I’m home alone for the next three nights and I had some things to say and this, really, is the only platform I currently have.
As I noted in my previous piece, I feel like I’ve had my fair share of disappointment as a fan. The thing that truly ignited my interested in English football was a crushing defeat in a huge game for a local team. That moment, as difficult as it was, ultimately sent me on a path to becoming a sports journalist and broadcaster. It’s a bittersweet moment with hindsight, yet in the immediate aftermath there was only bitterness.
Without experiencing the pain, would I have ever truly felt the impact of what sport is capable of? Would I have thought to myself, ‘this is what I want to do for the rest of my life?’
We all treat our teams differently. For some the perspective of it all just being a game wins through. I remember doing a podcast with Robbie once where he mentioned the ease with which he gets over a Sunday Seahawks loss. As my wife will happily tell you, I’ve been know to be a real misery guts for days after a bad or unexpected loss.
The Super Bowl defeat to New England was uniquely challenging. It produced a range of emotions. Disbelief. Heartbreak. Frustration. Anger. Sadness.
I remember, three days later, forcing myself to watch the final drive again with my wife — explaining through tears (she wasn’t really interested and was simply allowing me a venting session) what had gone wrong.
I recall listening to Brock & Salk on the Monday and Tuesday and it being some of the best radio I’ve ever heard. They captured the moment superbly, with callers coming on to express their own experience of that game. It felt like strength in numbers, a radio support group. Yet everyone was also trying to work things out in their own mind — what had actually happened? How was it allowed to happen? And what now?
As silly as it sounds, I didn’t really get over that game until 2018. The reset for the team afforded me a personal reset from that moment too. I suspect some will never get over it, while others moved on quite quickly. As I said, we’re all different.
So why am I banging on about this?
It’s that England game last week. Eight days on, I just can’t stop thinking about it. On Sunday night, while watching highlights of the Open Golf, all I could do was keep looking at the time and imagining at what stage the game against Italy was at the previous week.
‘We were 45 minutes away from being European Champions’ was a thought that popped into my head at about 8:50pm.
I worked through in my mind how I wish I’d enjoyed the tournament more. That I was so ‘in the moment’ that it kind of passed me by. Now I missed the nightly games, or the excitement of anticipating the next England match. I wish I’d had a blow out after the semi-final against Denmark to celebrate, rather than keeping the champagne on ice for Sunday (it’s still on ice now).
Every time I see an England flag defiantly remaining outside a house or shop, or a crate of Bud Light donning the players’ image (the official Beer of the England team apparently, even though I doubt many Brits drink it). Every time this song comes on the radio because it was used as a bed for one of the TV broadcasters.
All the memories flood back about what could’ve been.
If they’d won we’d still be partying now. Instead, I’m stuck in this melancholy which feels even worse than the Super Bowl loss. The fact is it took England 55 years to return to a major final and at 37, I’m starting to wonder if it’ll ever happen again in my lifetime. Was this the only chance?
Yet strangely I love the fact that only sport can really make me feel this way. And that very few people I know will be able to relate to the sadness of losing ‘a game’ — yet I know those people are out there, going through this. And that people similarly would’ve had the same feeling as I had after the New England game.
‘You’re taking this too seriously’ is a point of view, I suppose. But to those of us so invested in this, you really wouldn’t want it any other way.
Occasionally I wonder if I need a reality check and some perspective over what is actually important. And don’t get me wrong — it’s family first all the way. Yet having something in your life that makes you feel truly alive — even if it means suffering more than celebrating — who could ask for more than that?