Last night I’d retweeted a comment by Sir Geoff Hurst about the England victory. He’d said "Would have been hard to accept defeat against an inferior team. Relieved and absolutely delighted for the players and everyone watching throughout our country. #ENGCOL #WorldCup
”. I thought it was cool that the star of the 1966 victory was on Twitter at all and a nice passing of the baton for him to be commenting. Inevitably someone came in to fansplain to Sir Geoff that he was wrong and that England had been lucky and Colombia were clearly not inferior. I think we’ve all had enough of experts and experience. I told the guy that you can’t talk to Geoff like that and that perhaps Geoff Hurst knew more about it than him, but the armchair pundit was confident enough in his own opinion to tell me that no one impartial could have thought England had played better than Colombia. It’s sort of irrelevant whether he is right or wrong (though he is mainly wrong), but it says something about the modern world that you’d have the front to make such a statement essentially to the face of a professional footballer.
Anyway Sir Geoff must have liked the fact that I gave this fella a minor ticking off because today, I noticed, he had followed me on Twitter. Sure, he might be the bloke who pretended to be Derek Griffiths, but I think it’s really him.
How strange the modern world is. Imagine trying to explain to the 16 year old me that I would one day interact in this way with a national hero after a random stranger has implied he doesn’t know that much about football. Imagine trying to explain it to the 35 year old me.
Anyway I tweeted that I suspected he was the only person who has scored a hatrick in a World Cup final who is following me, with the caveat that maybe excepting professional Subbuteo players. And that led me down the tunnel of nostalgic reminiscence about my own Subbuteo obsession as a kid. As I have no doubt told you before in some medium, I played long sessions of self-playing Subbuteo, keeping fastidious records and leagues and playing fixtures for all divisions and World Cup contests. It was insane. But it kept me off the streets.
Players got leant on or stepped on and had to be mended with thick glue that totally threw off their balance.
I did end up buying a lot of Subbuteo stuff, including cups, scoreboards, the weird throw in and corner kick figures, referees and linesmen (though I didn’t go as far as buying stands and spectators), plus at least a dozen different teams. I must have spent months of pocket money on the stuff. Mainly to just play against myself and have the team I supported always win. I couldn’t even master the correct technique. What kind of saddo plays a game against himself over and over again?
I had coveted Subbuteo equipment and remember those big box sets you could get with all the stuff you needed. I must have started with one of those, but a basic one. In my memory toy shops were piled up with massive boxes, promising all kinds of wonders, that I could not afford to buy in one go. But I don’t know why I wanted them so much. I already had the basic game.
In the early 90s I still had my Subbuteo stuff in London, but never played it any more and so decided it was time to be mature and get rid of it and gave it all to a charity shop. What a dumbass move that was. I’d love to still have it.
Of course, now I can afford to buy any luxury pack I want and so I went to the internet to see what was available and if they still sold the stuff. There are some modern versions of the game, but I don’t think they have the array of extras that I recall from my childhood - certainly not the choice in teams (I feel like I had a team with the Peru away strip, but I must be imagining it - I certainly had some fucking obscure teams, some in the chunky 70s style, a few in the slimmer and less satisfying 80s configuration. I was pretty old when I was doing this stuff. I am sure some of my contemporaries were having sex whilst I was still making notes about games of table football in a ring binder and presenting a tiny (though proportionately massively over-sized) Jules Rimet trophy to England and an FA Cup to York City. Latterly I became mature enough to play “fairly” by which I assume I deliberately made my own favourites lose games. But I wasn’t mature enough to have the self-awareness to see what a tragic existence I was living.
I didn’t even really like football that much.
It was, without doubt (and self-playing snooker tournaments aside) the happiest I have ever been in my life. Getting married and having kids is fine, of course, but playing the Scottish division 2 fixtures to find out if Forfar would be promoted this season was surely the best it can get for a human being.
How many hours of my life did I spend on this?
The answer is not enough. And foolishly I didn’t tape it all so I could release it later as a podcast. Imagine. I am certain I was commentating all the way through.
I continue to enjoy losing myself in mindless games and am happy (with a tinge of misery) in such solo pursuits.
This moment is as close as I have ever got to being self-aware enough to see how weird I am and how much of my precious gift of life I have wasted and continue to waste (Hungover today I embarked on an excellent game of Civ II). Luckily I am not self-aware enough to really get it and continue to live in the mistaken belief that I am a regular guy. But man, I just came close to seeing through the charade. If I ever truly do then my life is over.
And continue to laugh at me and not contemplate your own glaring inadequacies. Lack of self-awareness will probably destroy us all in the end (as everyone believes they are important or right or have some divine right to be as selfish as they are), but not as quickly as actual self-awareness would.