A moment that changed me: when I stopped obsessively wanting my sports teams to lose

Sport and music were ways for me to express the grief I felt about my mother’s illness and death. They also, finally, helped me to process it

I am 14 years old, scarf wrapped to show just half of the club’s crest through my zipped jacket, standing a third of the way up the terrace of the Hammersmith End at Craven Cottage. With every passing season, I’ve been creeping back a few more rows of concrete terracing. On each step, I get a little bit closer to the depths of the stand from where the sound of singing – I have occasionally given myself permission to join in – is coming. In between my half-whispered attempts (I am over-analytical of my efforts to find the exact pitch of Fulham fans’ reworked versions of Hey Jude), I notice a strange, recurring sensation. Every time the ball approaches our goal, giddy excitement overcomes me. It tingles, as if a metal detector is finding its range. The nearer the opposition gets to our net, the stronger the feeling becomes, before subsiding as we snuff out the attack and launch the ball away from danger.

Every week, this feeling grows, until it becomes too hard to quell completely and I am letting out involuntarily hopeful sounds whenever my team is under threat. Afraid of being caught out, and my passage up the steps towards the massed congregation thwarted, I turn each of these noises into a pained grunt. Who me? Nah, I definitely want us to win, mate. Just nervous they were going to score then, that’s all.

I am, of course, outwardly supporting my team. I spend all week dreaming of the game, before turning up two hours early on the day to watch the players warm up, collecting autographs, living every second of the rhythms of a match day. It’s a lot of effort for someone who is praying that the ground be momentarily engulfed in communal hurt. I eventually admit it, very privately. I do want us to lose. And I solemnly swear never to share this unforgivable feeling simmering beneath the surface.

Continue reading…