BY ALLY MONCRIEFF
This article originally appeared in Issue 1 of The Football Pink magazine. Available HERE
Contrary to appearances, football at its very heart is nothing more than a game, and as with all games the object is to win, to defeat your competitors and emerge triumphant, bask in the glory of success and enjoy the spoils of victory my friend for you have won, you are a winner. It stands to reason, then, that winning is the most important thing, maybe even the only thing that matters. Football and reason however, are not natural bedfellows, winning is not the only thing that matters; it’s not even the most important thing. Winning is overrated, winning is boring.
I can hear your objections from here (so stop shouting it’s very rude), “How can winning be boring you moron?” and “oh aye I’m sure all those trophy presentations and open top bus tours get really tedious”. I’m going to let the moron thing slide for now but let me assure you winning does get boring and it does get tedious. The reason I am so confident in my assertion is that I speak from a position of experience, as a Celtic fan success and silverware has become the default, with the demise of Rangers we are now the only horse in a one horse race, and quite frankly it’s no fun.
There are few greater moments as a football supporter than when your team exceeds your expectations, that rare occasion when the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. When your default expectation is victory then you are robbed of those moments. Where success should be a blinding beacon of light in the drudgery that is our existence it becomes nothing more than a slightly brighter shade of grey.
At this point in the article you have probably mustered up some pretty hostile feelings toward me. That’s fine, you wouldn’t be alone, I’m not well liked. I freely accept that what I am saying ensures I come across as spoilt and ungrateful, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
There is another downside to this obsession with ultimate victory that is relevant to us all, not just whining little shits like me; in fact its ruinous effects are evident at every club in the land. When winning becomes imperative then our morals become skewed, our judgement is clouded and we say and do some very strange things.
If a player is deemed to be integral to his side’s chances of success, then no matter how despicable his conduct, he will be admonished. Men and women of normally sound mind will indulge in ‘moral gymnastics’ of quite stunning complexity in order to somehow justify behaviour that is quite clearly unjustifiable. The lesson seems to be that it’s okay to be a cheat or a racist as long as you’re very good at kicking a ball. Winning is more important than being a decent human being.
You know all those fans getting screwed over by their clubs? The ones getting fleeced at every possible opportunity? Ever wondered why they haven’t ‘risen up’ and done something about it? Blind loyalty is of course one perfectly understandable reason; another however is that that the ‘screwing’ is usually preceded by wild promises of some future glory. The desire for success is so strong that these promises, (no matter how clearly outside of the realms of reality they are and the hope they foster) blind fans to what is clear to the rest of us. Winning is so important that even the merest hint of it on the horizon is more important than the long term sustainability and long term traditions of an old and distinguished institution. I shall return to Scotland once again for an example to furnish my point. When Rangers were bought by Craig Whyte (at best delusional, at worst a criminal (allegedly)) he claimed he could deliver the earth.
Many fans clung to those claims and were unable or unwilling to see that the club itself was being dismantled. As we all now know, this story ends with a once mighty club languishing at the bottom of the Scottish football pyramid.
It’s not just the ‘soul’ of football that winning corrupts but the spectacle as well. How many times after a truly turgid encounter do you hear the victorious manager spout something along the lines of “we got the result, that’s the most important thing”? The answer you’re looking for is, almost every bloody time.
Football is meant to be entertaining; it is after all, a form of entertainment. And whilst it is arguably acceptable to occasionally ‘grind out’ a win this is not an ideal to aspire to. The idea that the end result trumps the means of achieving it is a dangerous fallacy. Take this as a lesson in life my friends; the end never justifies the means. Securing whatever shiny trinket that is currently the object of your desires by playing ‘percentage football’ (which comes in many guises) is the very definition of a hollow victory, win that same prize (or even fail gloriously) by playing unburdened, uninhibited, joyful football however, and you will, quite rightly, be remembered as heroes in the annals of the ‘beautiful game’.
If winning was the only thing that mattered, even if it was the most important thing, then most of us would have given up on football long ago.
Here’s final thought to send you on your way. Next time your team suffers a soul crushing defeat take a moment to remember; it could be worse, you could be winning.
YOU CAN FOLLOW ALLY ON TWITTER @AllOrNothingMag