Football: a piece of flash fiction

‘Football and the Reading Classes’ is a collection (now out of print) of essays by Greg ‘Stan’ Bowles composed over a number of years and originally published in various peer-reviewed journals on his subject of study: football as an index of connectedness, the term he famously coined to signify those members of the intelligentsia who were truly in tune with both popular culture, typified by media reporting on Premier League football (where, for example ‘Match of the Day’ producers have started using lurid tabloid-style punning headlines superimposed on images of players, and crude caricatures, with pop music accompaniment, when introducing the next match on the programme), but who were also at the cutting edge (a cliché he shunned in his own work) of high culture, unashamedly elitist, highbrow and academically rigorous.

You could not, in Stan’s view, be properly considered sage if you were not well-versed in critical theory as well as possessed of an encyclopaedic knowledge of the assist rates and goal averages of the Premier League strikers, or did not hold strong opinions on the (de)merits of the foreign oligarchs who now ran, to his dismay, all the top clubs.

Stan kept a database of all the written texts by mass-media football reporters, and updated every week his corpus of transcripts of all the broadcast media commentators.  These he subjected to sociolinguistic analysis, the synthesis of which he published in his blog; the cream of these became his published academic articles.

One of his most successful essays (judging by Google hits) he’d developed from an undergraduate dissertation years earlier, in which he assessed the linguistic characteristics of five successive football commentaries on the Liverpool-Man Utd game broadcast on Radio 5 Live and ‘Match of the Day’ over five seasons, with particular attention to metapragmatic markers and metaphors from the lexical field of warfare.

His tone in such pieces was academically lofty and objective; he never condescended to the football fan, player or reporter, and was therefore flattered when he was quoted by Gaby Logan on the Saturday early-evening football results programme on BBC 1.  As she introduced a full-time report on a top match, she made reference to his paper ‘Moneyball: statistics and the decline of the Premier League’s football empire’; it was a theme he’d revisited several times since, paying particular attention to the transfer policies of Liverpool FC.

He had been an indifferent player himself.  Stan’s proudest moment came during a five-a-side match when he’d received the ball directly from his goalie, his back to the opposition goal, spun as he allowed the ball to bounce off the side wall, and hit a looping, rasping shot with his wrong foot – the left – that flew into the net unseen by the custodian.

This feat was never repeated in any subsequent game.  But he liked to tell anyone who’d listen that he had invented the now fashionable practice of playing right-footed players on the left wing, and vice versa.

Stan did not have many friends; he was unmarried, and sometimes wondered if he might be missing something in life.  He was considering acquiring a cat, which he would call Rooney…

Welcome to Tredynas Days!

This is my first entry after a few trial posts over the last few weeks.  If you follow me on Twitter – @TredynasDays – or view my Facebook page with the same name you’ll have an idea what kinds of things I’m interested in: books, literature, creative writing, mostly, but also football, dogs, cricket, Cornwall (where I live); sometimes all of these at the same time.  My first piece reflects the wonderful material the internet can throw up; I came across earlier today a wonderful site called Public Domain Review.  It’s a free online journal showcasing the most interesting out-of-copyright material available digitally.  There’s a wonderful article, for example, on Dog Stories from The Spectator by J St Loe Strachey (1895), which contains stories of dogs who could shop for cakes, distinguishing halfpennies from pennies (two cakes for a penny; he wouldn’t leave the shop until the second cake appeared after he’d eaten the first); a dog who would bury live frogs in his garden; hospital dogs, syllogistic and sermonising dogs…you get the picture.   There’s a link to the original text: highly recommended.  Check out the article on Mary Toft, a Surrey woman who in 1726 claimed she’d given birth to a litter of bunnies.  It’s an absolute treasure-trove of the kind Walter Benjamin would have loved; and yes, there’s an article about him and his posthumously published masterpiece, the fascicles (he called them ‘convolutes’) that make up The Arcades Project, a MS of which he had in his bag when he committed suicide at the border town of Port Bou in 1940, having been fleeing the Nazis. Here’s an image from the article by Anca Pusca of a ‘passage’ mentioned in the book; many of Benjamin’s writings have now entered the public domain, and there are links to them after her piece on him.

Arcades Project: Galerie Vivienne c. 1820

Galerie Vivienne Paris