The English season finished in May. The Champions League finished in June. There was going to be a soccer shaped hole in my life for a few weeks. However, in the words of Tom Petty, it [soccer] never goes away, but it all works out.
June turned to July, and there was still soccer to be watched. It was a Women’s World Cup year, and the Copa America took place as well, not to mention MLS was in full swing. And suddenly the qualification for the European Championship started looking more interesting. Then there’s the USL streaming every game if I wanted to keep up with Sacramento Republic, or maybe I could check out NASL games and take my American soccer fandom to the next level. Of course, it was also a Gold Cup year. And preseason is just about finished before the English Premier League kicks off; West Ham’s season never seemed to have ended.
My point is that this goes on ad infinitum, or as Mitchell and Webb put it, the football is officially going on forever.
As soon as the champions have been crowned, it’s preseason. And we begin again, omni fine initium novum. What good is it being champion if it only lasts for a few weeks? A. E. Housman wrote that the laurel withers quicker than the rose, and as a Chelsea fan, the pleasure of seeing the team crowned champion in May was already tempered with worries about next season. For centuries, when a new pope assumed the office, his procession would be punctuated by the master of ceremonies halting him, burning flax, and shouting mournfully that thus passes the glory of the world. I personally think that would make a fantastic addition to every champion’s victory parade.
Perhaps as a supporter of another team, it might be better to have the hope of improvement. With the new season, comes a fresh start – a belief that THIS year, it will be different. If not this year, then definitely next year, and so and so on. If there is never an ultimate winner and with hope constantly, damnably springing eternal, doesn’t that cheapen every league title? With enough perspective, every season, whether good or bad, becomes meaningless. Recently, a gamer simulated 1,000 years of English soccer on Football Manager; I was intrigued and read the article hoping for… something. Surely after a 1,000 years there would be a champion of the football! There wasn’t. It went on, interminably.
If I accept that this whole sports thing is without objective meaning – and I suppose on a rational level I do – then that means every game I watch or play has the potential to be either exquisite or excruciating. The fact that I’m genuinely excited as the new season begins leads me to believe I find it all (the pleasure, the pain, the worry, the fear, the anger, the joy, Diego Costa, etc…) exquisite. I have chosen to participate in the playing or viewing of the game knowing it is ultimately meaningless, but existentially marvelous. It’s a willful act of authenticity pursued to the end of time.