"I don't like football. Oh no. I love it!"
Except: I don't.
I'm merely ambivalent to football. I've no interest in it, outside of the World Cup. And even then I mostly feign interest just to feel normal. I get loving something, the euphoria, the chance to let off steam by screaming abuse at people. I just don't get why it would ever be football.
Please don't misunderstand: I don't judge you for liking it. I tried to like it myself when I was younger. All the men in my family are seriously into their football (these days, even one of my nieces plays for West Ham's youth team).
I mean, it's such a brilliant tool for conversation when you don't have much else in common with someone, be they taxi drivers, waiters, or cousins. And I'm envious of those who can do the football talk. But I've tried, and failed, to actually like it.
I collected the Panini Stickers. I used to have a Watford FC kit and scarf. I went to see them play half a dozen or so times... but it bored me so much. So very, very much.
And, of course, after school I ended up working for Ladbrokes, and then Wembley Stadium. On the ruddy scoreboard, of all things. So, maybe the more the universe pushed me towards football, the more I resisted. Or maybe that's just me romanticising it, and not facing up to the obvious: I just find it dull. And it isn't just football. It's 90% of all sports.
Some years back I went to watch a baseball game in New York (ooh, hark at her). I never knew that they go on for about eight hours. It was so tedious there's little wonder that they blare out rock music every time something happens, no matter how insignificant: they're probably trying to stop the crowd from falling asleep.
But! Football video games... now that's a different matter.
I actually pre-ordered FIFA 17 and the new Kick-Off the other day. It has been years since I've played any football game, and I've rarely not liked them.
A lot of the attention-to-detail is lost on me, a lot of the language just goes right over my scalp, I don't have a clue who any of the players are... but treating them as a video game works for me. I can enjoy a football game without being a football fan.
Going right back to the Mega Drive... the first many of us ever got to a sort-of-football game on a console was EA Hockey. Not only was it the closest we had to the old kicky-ball-oh at that time, not only was it quite good, but it was also possible to instigate fist-fights between the players: a feature dropped shortly afterwards, when EA signed a deal to brand the flesh of the franchise with the NHL logo.
Championship Manager became a game that we spent a lot of time playing in our Digitiser cubicle, though most of the enjoyment came because you were able to change the players' names. Presumably this feature was intended to allow you to build a team on which you and your friends all played. Instead, we had an Arsenal squad captained by a player called Stink Penis.
When I appeared on Channel 4's Gamesmaster at the rectal-end of 1993, I had to review some Super NES football game, the name of which escapes me.
As with most of the games I reviewed for that show, none of them were the ones I was told to prepare for. Consequently, I'd never played it prior to turning up to the studio, and was given approximately five minutes to form an opinion.
Once shoved in front of the camera, I reacted like a hen facing off with a combine harvester. I didn't know what the hell I was talking about, and my bloated gob ended up describing the game as having a "Constantly rotating Mode 7 pitch". Which I'm sure wasn't true as that would've been terribly distracting.
Actually, now that I think about it, I'm not sure I even played it at all - maybe I just watched over someone else's shoulder as they had a go. I dunno. And they talk about ethics in games journalism these days...
Whatever that game was called, I know it wasn't Konami's International Superstar Soccer, because I loved Superstar Soccer. That was the one for me, the football game I sunk the most time into.
FIFA was fine if you were a football nerd, but Superstar Soccer had that arcade edge, which made it perfect for football casuals like myself. Plus, if I remember, FIFA came late to the Super NES, and I would've always chosen playing something on the SNES over the Mega Drive.
Yes, that's right: I was biased. I was biased because the Super NES was better.
These days, the only football games I own - for now - are on my phone. Flick Kick Soccer I highly recommend, with its procession of one-finger penalties, and an EA-published Chillingo game called Headshot Heroes. Which is fine, but rather unforgiving.
I'm looking forward to Dino Dino's Kick-Off reboot arriving later this month. It appears rather cheap and cheerful, and I'm under no illusions that I'll like it: I was never a fan of the originals. Never knew what I was meant to be doing. Yeah, I know. Amiga heresy.
FIFA 17, on the other hand, I'm hoping to enjoy. I'm intrigued to see how things have changed for the series since the last time I played one, probably 15 or so years ago. I'm betting this: it will have changed quite a lot.
Also, fingers crossed I'll pick up some top football bantz so that I can finally have a conversation with my father that's about something other than the new drive I had put in last year, by some Travellers who just started hacking away at the old one with pickaxes, without me even asking them to.
I suspect I may have drifted somewhat off topic there. GOAAAAAAAL!!!!