For many people who don’t love sport, it’s often difficult to identify with the hardcore fans. It’s puzzling, the way they manage to feel such very strong feelings about something they’ve not been directly involved in themselves, and probably can’t even do. As Jerry Seinfeld had it, the appropriate retort to ‘We won! We won!’ is “No, they won. You watched.”
But not so for me. Because when I see sporty people getting themselves in a happy tizz over people they’ve never met doing something successfully several hundred miles away, I just think to myself: 1997. Dublin. Katrina and the Waves, Love Shine a Light. I understand.
I taped the whole of Eurovision 1997 off the telly on a VHS, which I then watched daily for a fortnight afterwards, savouring every moment of the glorious victory. I memorised the dance moves, I chuckled at what I understood of Terry Wogan’s pithy commentary, I marvelled at the Riverdance interval entertainment. I can still, if really pushed, sing you three bars of the Maltese entry. That is how big I went on Eurovision ’97.
I went slightly smaller on Eurovision ’98, but only slightly (Imaani, ‘Where Are You?’ and what do you MEAN you don’t remember the red pleather coat?) then kept up more or less the same pace for the subsequent 14 years except with the eventual introduction of alcohol and more elaborate snacks.
Because the beautiful thing about being a Eurovision fan is pretty much the same as the beautiful thing about being a sports fan, or a Joe McElderry fan – it’s the hope. The lovely hope that can’t be diminished by a million nil points, or all the neighbourly Balkan voting in the world, that one day we will win again. That day might, MIGHT just be Saturday.
And so to help you all enjoy the event as much as I do, here is your official* Eurovision bingo card:
1 point: White suits; plastic suits; tin foil suits; a lady in a dress that opens up into a small marquee upon a strategic key change; a song ostensibly sung in English but consisting entirely of phrases never uttered on British soil; a tambourine.
2 points: Teeth so white they are almost blue; a man with a face that looks shiny like moist Tupperware; lyrics that include “balloons”, “the moon”, “wolves”, or “biscuits”; anybody repeating the Bonnie Tyler sat nav joke (unless it is you).
3 points: Anybody giving the UK more than 3 points.