It doesn't get any easier the more I have do it. Embarrassment, demasculation and isolation engulf my body each time I break the news to someone or worse still, a group of people: I can't play football. I don't know how to play football. I never have. I have come to terms with it, it's fine. I have other skills. Admittedly they are less traditionally masculine and more artsy, but its the differences in all of us that make up life's rich tapestry. The problem arises when I have to tell new acquaintances my situation. The effect of dropping that particular bombshell is akin to castration:
"So do you play with this lot too?"
"Erm, no...no I don't"
"Oh, who do you play for then?"
"I don't play for anyone actually"
"Oh right...dodgy knees I suppose?!"
"Erm....no, just...don't...play. Just don't play it."
That's pretty much the text book exchange, followed invariably by an awkward pause as one of us tries desperately to move the conversation on to something more mainstream. I instantly drop at least 10 per cent in people's estimations. Men especially, then begin talking ever so slightly louder, using simpler words and smiling a lot as if all of a sudden they've realised they are actually talking to a child, dog or foreign person rather than a proper fully grown man. Admittedly I probably do the same thing when I discover someone over the age of 20 who can't drive or still plays World of Warcraft.
I don't know how it happened, how I got here but I never played organised football as an under 8 and all of a sudden I am staring 30 in the face and am still in the same position. I mean, I would love to start playing but it somehow feels too late to start now. Just imagine me going along to a training session for the first time aged 29 and having to ask basic questions about shin pads and deep heat. I would look like someone who had just come out of a coma or whose body was inhabited by aliens. Its not as if I completely have no idea, I can kick a ball relatively well and am physically adequate, its just that I am not aware of where I should be on a football pitch and when to run and when not to run. Poor Titus Bramble never let that stop him I suppose (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6Drrc1--vY).
I suppose it doesn't help that I hang around with a lot of people that play regularly and in the days leading up to seeing a live game I gobble up the Sky Sports News yellow ticker in the hope it may contain a snippet of injury news; it may create undeserved expectations. Maybe if I was into WWII re-enactments or online RPGs people would be mentally prepared for me not playing Sunday league but, just my luck, I'm not.
In a way the fact that I am a football eunuch might allow me to derive more pleasure from watching it. It can be the case that a professionally trained musician can spot how a piece is put together in the first few bars which in turn removes the mystique and magic of how the sound was generated, reducing a song to the sum of its parts, nothing more. In that respect ignorance can be bliss, if not mildly humiliating and can allow you to fully enjoy gems like this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DNfgibZO5o&feature=related).