Phoney fandom

The World Cup and Star Wars can make bystanders into fans - unlike the Queen and Tony Blair.

Ray Crowley

Topics Politics

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Every four years, the World Cup turns those who do not watch football into pint-clutching supporters.

I am one of the most hated kinds of sports follower. I decide on a football team who I like early on in the season, follow them sporadically until the season has ended, then forget they ever existed. I know the difference between Rugby League and Rugby Union, and sometimes join my Cardiff-born dad watching Wales get beaten, but I have no idea about being offside when playing with the egg-shaped ball.

I do understand the offside rule in football (probably better than most members of the Spanish team), and I did find myself with a sore throat after the Ireland game. But I’m not exactly dedicated. It’s just nice to join in with the havin’-a-Bud-and-watching-the-game thang that’s so popular at the moment.

My boyfriend, on the other hand, is dedicated to having nothing to do with football at all. A few weeks ago, he asked me why the World Cup had started twice, and it took me a while to work out that he didn’t know England weren’t playing in every match. Instead of having a beer and watching the game this summer, he’s been smuggling his beer into the latest sci-fi blockbusters. While I’m cheering Rio Ferdinand in a distant country, he’s cheering Mace Windu in a galaxy far, far away.

It’s not only Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones that has grabbed audiences this summer. Spider-Man has been crawling all over the Sunday supplements after its recent release, the sequel to X-Men is on the way, and the release of The Incredible Hulk draws ever closer. Like the World Cup, the new Star Wars and Spider-Man movies have drawn non sci-fi fans into the web of science fiction.

It’s not just comic-reading geeks who have been tempted out of their bedrooms into the cinemas. My Mum may have been lost when it was explained to her ‘Yoda trained Count Dooku, Count Dooku trained Qui-Gon Jinn, Qui-Gon Jinn trained Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Obi-Wan Kenobi trained Anakin Skywalker’. And she still calls the droid C3PO ‘UB40’. But she was also among the first to phone up and book tickets for the Spider-Man preview (yes, I did see it a week early, ha ha), and mused for ages over how the little spider hooks on Peter Parker’s fingers could work through his Spider-Man costume.

My 13-year-old sister (who doesn’t even know who Wonder Woman is – can you believe it?) shouted at me all the way home from the cinema that I had been making the wrong shape with my hand when pretending to shoot webs across the bus. (Little finger is not tucked in, apparently.) It reminded me of the conversations you’d overhear in pubs after Lord of the Rings was released, when some pseud would mutter: ‘well, I did start reading The Hobbit when I was younger.’

Of course, I’m not one to talk. I called the character of Qui-Gon Jinn – played by Liam Neeson in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – ‘the Dude’ for six months, because of his resemblance to the Jeff Bridges character in The Big Lebowski.

I have been suckered in to the land of geeks and the land of football fan alike. Two big fan fests I have not been drawn to were the Queen Mother’s funeral and the Golden Jubilee. As far as events to have a Bud and watch go, the palace concert was possibly even more miserable than the mourning of the Queen Mum’s passing – no mean feat. I’m surprised people didn’t vomit up their free half-bottles of champagne.

UK prime minister Tony Blair, who sat through the concert pretending to have fun, has now got himself into trouble over allegations that he pressed for a more prominent part in the Queen Mother’s funeral. The Black Rod debacle provides a source of endless crude jokes about the prime minister, but it is understandable that Blair would want a prominent role at the funeral. While the funeral was seen as a traditionally historical and British occasion, he is just some random bloke floundering about in the emptiness of politics today.

It is nigh impossible for Tony Blair to pull it off as a national figurehead. So long as the Labour Party deals in administration rather than politics, he can only hope to make it as a popular office boss. If the prime minister wants to become a prominent part of a national shared experience, he should get tickets to one of the England games – or he should have turned up at the Attack of the Clones premiere. At least those things are fun.

I’d prefer to mourn the death of master Yoda than the death of the Queen Mother any day – though they were of similar age and appearance.

Read on:

Star Wars: Tears of a Clone, by Sandy Starr

spiked-issue: Sport

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Topics Politics


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