To be printed 17/06/10.
Another four years, another World Cup, another month as the Great Pretender. There are loads of us, all across the world. We are the ones in the corners of living rooms standing at the back of pubs, woofing all the crisps and coming in a second too late on our grunts and groans. We're the ones who ask hopefully if "that's it" at half time, make sardonic remarks every time a pundit uses bad grammar and need to be reminded at frequent intervals that David Beckham isn't actually playing.
But at least we're trying. We're not that other network of people, the ones holding poetry readings in basement bars and making posters for craft fayres with "football free zone" on them. Those other people would probably call us cowards, for faking it while they're proud to stand up and be counted, but the way I see it, we're contributing to national morale. Simply by turning up, doing some half-arsed whoops and taking advantage of the chance to drink beer at arbitrary hours of the day, we're adding to the collective positive energy that will swoosh across the ocean and possibly make our boys win (I have it on good authority from a football fan that This Is How It Works).
Besides, we're not total liars. Most of us Great Pretenders practise a form of football agnosticism, flitting between moments of abject dismissal and moments of steadfast belief, when we think, "They've kicked it in the goal! And I feel happy! This must be what pure joy is like."
But when we are faking it, we're faking it for a number of different reasons. The first one is the same reason we lie about having seen Citizen Kane and liking tequila - we don't want to be left out. It is human nature that when there is a room full of your friends, all laughing and cheering and eating greasy snacks, with the possible exception of a World of Warcraft tournament or some sort of ritual cult sacrifice, you will want to be a part of it. They ask, "are you coming to watch the match?", you internally shriek, "what else am I going to do, stay home and knit while you all bond without me??" and say, "yes, lovely. I'll be there with appropriately-coloured bells on."
Then we fake it because we don't want to be a cliché. This applies largely to women, but also, I reckon, to gay men, sciencey men and men with artistic haircuts. I pretend to enjoy football because I already wear pink, have blonde hair and catch a ball like an arthritic platypus. My feminist barometer (or femometer, if you will) doesn't leave much room for such dreadfully girly behaviour as not liking football. So I go, I chant, I cheer, I break a nail during a goal celebration and I say NOTHING about it.
Then lastly, we fake it because, one of these days, there is the tiny niggling chance that we might actually win. Ad wisely, we are well aware that what you don't see in all those pictures of the victorious team in '66 is a little huddle of people, just out of shot, quietly reading books and wondering what all the fuss was about. Before being trampled by a crowd in Chelsea boots with wooden clackers.