You know things are bad when you’re being out-knowledged by your dad about sport. Years of carefully cultivating an image as the sports-obsessive, the one that really cares about knowing his onions rather than just being a partisan, wiped out in a second when he knew more about the new boys in the England cricket team (young Joe Root, it will take years of consistent century-scoring for me to forgive the humiliation you’ve indirectly caused me) than me. “I thought you were supposed to be interested in sport?”
I did, and do, take a bit of pride in staying up on things in the wide world of sport.
But it’s tricky at university. Possibly it’s because at home there’s simply less to do, or less to do that’s within a five minute amble of where you’re sleeping. I get through hours and hours of sport at home in my own version of what a friend once termed his Living Room Stadium (capacity 4, with unretractable roof).There’s less of an opportunity cost – it’s the Heineken Cup or a nap on most Sundays – and it’s also accumulative: once you’ve got back into it you want to keep it up. Quality control and triage also giddily plummet southward, and I’ll suddenly find myself watching a Carling Cup match I have no stake in whatsoever.
When I’m back in Oxford, however, between the work, the actual playing of sport, the fun and the Torschlusspanik (look it up), there doesn’t seem to be time for anything more than a weekly couple of Premiership games and possibly the odd international rugby game. This is also to do with timing, though: in a fairly relaxed 8th week of Michaelmas one could potter in to watch it start, either from an evening’s work or a night out. The only thing you had to sacrifice was the resource everyone here thinks they can do without: sleep.Normally though, it doesn’t quite work like that. Cup finals could well clash with your own finals. What to do?
At least the feast-and-famine routine between term and holidays is only temporary.Moreover, there’s a vast amount of sporting opportunities here aside from sitting in a pub watching the great and the good play on the telly. Rarely will any of us be able to play as much regular sport as this again so easily; at whatever level of rigour you desire, be it ramshackle reserves football or 19 year olds tackling 30-year old lumps of Siberian granite in the Blues vs Russia rugby game, or a United game at the Kassam. Also, perhaps best of all, you’ll sometimes get to write about it.