A long time ago, I used to subscribe to a mailing list called the Level 42 Digest. I think I joined it in about 1998, by which point Level 42 had in effect been defunct for four years. Even so, there were somehow enough contributions to support daily mailings for years to come. One of the people on that mailing list was a complete Level 42 obsessive. Not only did he own everything they’d ever recorded (naturally), he owned it in umpteen different formats, and in versions that might differ by as little as the country of manufacture on the cover. What was especially weird about him was that he owned no other records. None. Every piece of recorded music he had was by Level 42. Occasionally he would offer his thoughts on other musicians (I recall he had a particular hatred for Robbie Williams), and I used to say, without meaning any real malice, that his opinions carried no weight because he was not a music enthusiast, he was a Level 42 enthusiast.
That’s almost how I feel about football now. I love supporting my team, and I love going to see my team, but the rest of it, I find it more and more of a struggle to care. Maybe it was always this way, but it feels like the incredible influx of money and attention has slowly defiled the game, stripped away the simple pleasure of the appreciation of its artistry. The personalities involved are so often vile, the managerial mind games so churlish and petty, the lack of respect so flagrant, and the cheating so endemic, it’s hard to see past it all to the beauty of a 40 yard pass landing inch perfectly, the elegance of a chip floated over a goalkeeper, the precision of a perfectly timed tackle.
Maybe it’s just a sign of maturing, or of getting old, which of course are different things. Even the Level 42 obsessive, in the end, broadened his horizons and started buying records by one other band – Deacon Blue. Like I said, not a music enthusiast.