07 February 2012
I was at Gillette Stadium a few years ago watching the New England Patriots play Indianapolis. A Sunday evening game. A cold night in November. Tom Brady threw four interceptions, the Pats lost by 7.
At some point I could hear the guys behind talking and realised that one of them was from the west coast of Scotland. It might have been normal at this point to turn round, engage the fellow and say something Scottish along the lines of Help m’boab! or Jesus sufferin’ fuck! But I didn’t. I sat there thinking, Bugger off! I know there are a stack of Patriots fans in the UK, but I’m the weird bloke from Glasgow who travels thousands of miles to watch this, I don’t want there to be someone else. Not in my vicinity.
I’ve been following the Patriots for about twenty-five years or so. Maybe a bit more now. A long time ago we were natural bedfellows. Being Scottish I grew up accustomed to sporting failure. I had a season ticket for Meadowbank Thistle. Watching sport was synonymous with defeat, despair, dejection and heartache, all of which was, crucially, tempered by incredibly low expectations.
In 1990 the Patriots won 1 game and lost 15. The next year they recovered slightly to win 6 games but fell back to just winning 2 in 1992. Those were the good old days, when any triumph was extraordinary and defeat was the norm. Supporting this team was natural.
Ten years later it all changed. They started winning. They won the Superbowl three times in four years. They’ve won more games than they’ve lost every year since 2001. They enter every season as one of the favourites. They’ve become Manchester United. They’re big and they expect to win. Everyone else hates them. Their coach is a miserable bastard, who probably makes people hate him even more by electing to be affable every now and again.
I see him as a role model.
Watching the Superbowl wasn’t fun. It was nerve-shredding, it was ugly, it was uncomfortable. I was in such a general state of gloom and ill-humour, that if Rob Gronkowski had somehow come up with the Hail Mary pass at the end, I wouldn’t have been excited or ecstatic, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. I would have been relieved, and I wouldn’t be feeling rubbish right now, but I was too shredded at the time to feel much else.
This power that sport has, this capacity to wrap your head in wretchedness and sorrow, is something that television drama can never achieve. TV drama can suck you in, it can make you laugh, cheer you up, make you feel sad. But it just does not have the capacity to make you feel the utter depths of long-lasting soul destroying misery.
The worst thing I can ever remember happening in TV drama was the death of Blake in Blake’s 7. That was 1981. I remember feeling bad, I remember being annoyed, but it’s not like it bothers me anymore. I am, however, still pissed off that Ally McLeod was so unprofessional that he ruined a perfectly good Scotland team in Argentina in 1978 with shockingly poor preparation. Really pissed off. These things never leave you.
So I know I’m going to feel bad about Sunday’s Superbowl for years to come. I still feel bad about the last one four years ago. I still feel bad about other recent years when the Patriots failed to get to the Superbowl. That’s what sport does. It creeps under your skin. It eats away at you. It punishes you for being so stupid as to care. It scrapes away at your brain, bites savage chunks out of your soul, then vomits you out and leaves you spewed across the pavements of dejection.
You don’t get that with Holby City. Or Sherlock.