Today is World Poetry Day and, as some of you will already be aware, for the last few weeks, Monday night have been literature night here on Twohundredpercent. We are delighted to welcome Football Hobo’s Alan Smithy back to our pages this evening for the final part of his seven part epic which traces the life of the football supporter in relation to the celebrated monologue from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”, which is better known as “The Seven Ages Of Man”, or “All The World’s A Stage”. This evening: The Second Childhood.
Death – it comes to us all, and is a recurring theme throughout both football and the works of the Bard. Ex-players and managers sadly depart us, and even clubs come and go, more often than not through the work of unscrupulous types running them into the ground. Beware the smiling assasin as he marches in with promises of untold wealth – one may smile, and smile and be a villain, whether Premier League grandee or Non League pauper. Alas poor York, we knew them well.
I’m sure Shakespeare would’ve been more than tempted to knock out a football play if he were still around today, but perhaps he was more prescient about the beautiful game than we give him credit for. If you take one of his most famous soliloquys and half-close your eyes while tilting your head sidewards looking it, you might find that it was written about us fans all along. I’m referring, of course, to Jaques in Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It, and his seven ages of fan.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
Finally, Jacques introduces us to the final age:
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
And so it comes to this. After countless hours spent at the ground, and many more watching the game on television, you move into the final age of fan. Hundreds of thousands of minutes spent, sometimes wasted, in pursuit of footballing happiness. For more than half a century since your salad days you’ve followed your side through thick and increasingly thin – winning might not be the be all and end all, but the occasional bit of silverware wouldn’t have gone amiss. Still, despite all the advances made in your years on earth the game remains at the same time both the crushingly simple one with which you first fell in love and yet almost completely unrecognisable from the games which first captured your imagination as a school-boy.
The game was better in your day. The players were harder. The technique and speed weren’t the same, but the game was still somehow better for it. A game for the common man, and not overpaid prima donnas. The atmosphere’s died off, too, when you come to think of it; although you do little to counteract that particular alteration, unless anyone’s of the impression that incessant tutting is a new form of terrace expression.
Yep, you’ve become one of those unashamed and unabashed moaning old gits, now, for whom you used to have so little time and so much contempt. Those ones who sit up in the main stand with their blankets on their laps who occasionally burst in to incomprehensible (but presumably tactically astute) loud yells directed towards the pitch. Nobody asks them what they were saying, because they wouldn’t understand anyway. The only problem now, of course, is that now you’re one of them you know that you’re right and everyone else is wrong. Whereas the first six ages you passions were so pure and for the love of the game, now it seems that you can’t help but have a good time only when you’re complaining.
The archetypal grandad figure, you’ve turned into one of those who bring along their own thermos to help keep them warm on a cold day. In fact, it’s not inconceivable that the prevailing weather conditions could be enough to keep you from attending; you could never before have thought of missing a game because ‘it’s a bit cold out’, but while the mind is ever-willing, the flesh is increasingly weak. Those bitter winter evenings that once you enjoyed so much, spilling out of work, straight into the pub and on to the match have now become potentially more hazardous to your health than the damage you used to inflict on your liver. Where your aching bones once came from over-exuberant celebration they are now the occupational hazard of climbing the stairs to your seat.
When you do turn up you find that it’s difficult to sit through a half of football – the contents of your thermos dictate that you need the toilet 10 minutes before half time, much to the chagrin of those around you. When you do attend you’re you spend your time repeatedly telling your stories to anyone who’ll listen, about what it was like in your day. It’s not just the children and the grand-children who are subjected to your ramblings these days; those unfortunate enough to sit within earshot at the match are burdened with your repetitive tales, too. Their only comfort? That they are equally as likely to trot out their own, similarly banal stories in return that drift up in to the ether and are equally ignored by all and sundry.
Seventh agers, if pleased themselves, others, they think, delight in such like circumstance with such like sport: their copious stories, oftentimes begun, end without audience and are never done. Still, for your own part, you are well content to entertain the tag-end of your life with such quiet hours. Fate dictated your seven ages of fan, your own strange eventful history, would end this way. It might not be exactly how Jacques describes it, and everyone’s seven ages won’t precisely follow the path that’s been trod on these blogs over the past seven weeks, but we all have our parts to play in the seven ages of fan. All the world’s a stage, after all. And all the men and women are here to watch the players.
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