I like most kinds of sport. Unlike almost every other aspect of life, sport has structure, rules, meaning. When you play or watch a game, you can briefly shed the knowledge that everything else you do is pointless and accidental and, until it ends, enjoy performing or observing actions which make sense, which are deliberate and aim to achieve a specific, designed and agreed result. Golfers who thank their Lord Jesus for helping them to guide that little white ball into a hole don’t get it. If, when they lost matches, they heaped scorn and derision on him for his failings or claimed that he’d missed the team bus, that would be more consistent and make more sporting sense, but invoking his name introduces an element which is not covered by the rules and is thus extraneous. Games have a beginning, a middle and an end. They are self-contained pockets of significance in an otherwise absurd continuum.
But modern life is moving so quickly from the values which used to inform it that some games are breaking out of the straitjacket of their codes and seeking to become as unstructured and chaotic as mainstream living. The experience, for example, of watching football has become philosophically far more challenging. By the way, the Americans call their version of the game soccer, because they already have a game called football, one in which the ball is passed and controlled with the hands, which, in an absurd universe, makes complete sense.
So what’s happened to football to bring about the change? In a word, money. It’s a clear fact that paying men grotesquely inflated sums can potentially ruin their health. There’s a distinct statistical correlation between the size of the weekly pay cheque and their pain thresholds. When fouled, female players, who earn relatively little compared with their male counterparts, get back up and get on with the game. But the lightest of touches (and sometimes even when there’s no contact at all), has men writhing in agony, often compounding the injury by doing several rolls along the turf. The neural pathways are also affected because, from whatever anatomical location the contact or near-contact occurs, the pain shoots immediately to their faces, which they bury in their hands, emitting through their fingers agonised cries which are pitiful to hear.
The same distortion occurs in their moral equilibrium too because, while women accept the referee’s decisions with rarely any signs of protest, men see injustices being perpetrated at every whistle blast and crowd round officials to help them understand how the rules of the game are being distorted by their interpretations of them.
So football seems to have changed irrevocably. It’s moving closer and closer to the situations penned by Ionesco, Beckett and that famous goalkeeper, Albert Camus. To complete the progression, all it now needs is for the ubiquitous gender gap to be closed. My contribution to the debate about the future of our national sport is simply stated: if we want to see women playing the game as it should be played – with histrionics, simulation, immaturity and an awareness that the ego is more important than the team – we need to pay them much more.