Harsh but true: I suppose all relationships are transactional in nature. Even the deepest, most complex of connections of romance and friendship can be crudely boiled down into a very basic equation: is this worth my continued investment? Am I getting out the equivalent of what I put in? If I examined any of my own personal relationships and found myself admitting that the transaction just didn’t seem to be paying back anymore, the resulting decision would be difficult. At what point – periods of hardship and giving/receiving support notwithstanding, of course – does the relationship become untenable? If I ultimately decided enough was enough, I guess the options are:
a) nobly and graciously decide to pull back from that relationship with an adult discussion around life being too short and me respecting myself enough to know I deserved more, or
b) quietly and cravenly terminate all social media dealing and mysteriously become ‘busy’, forever more.
(It would be 'b' – I’m a bit of a shit-house with confrontation, and we Brits tend not to be as emotionally open as, say, the cast of Dawson’s Creek).
But the essence is – although we may not always assess our relationships and the impact they have on us from this cold, transactional standpoint, we could pretty quickly sum up a gut feeling on whether they’re worth our while. All you have to do is picture spending a night in the pub, one-on-one, with any given person and the instant feeling you get will tell you all you need to know. Husband – smiley, fuzzy, excited. (Sorry). Best friends – giddy, and a bit fearful of the p-sec headache. Mate who often flakes on you who you always do the running with? Bit pissed off, and increasingly disinclined to bother your arse arranging another awkward ‘catch up'. In time, these feelings around the respective transactions should logically shape your behaviour: awesome friends are rarer than hen’s teeth and are to be retained at all costs; fair-weather friends gradually drift away to become distant figures who exist only in your past tense.
I do have a point to make, I promise. If we accept that the above is true, the question torturing me is this: WHY THE JESUS do I persist with the utter mind-fuck that is Newcastle United? (Non football-fans, please don’t give up here – we won’t be moving into formation analysis and ruminations on the ‘false 9’). Ignoring the mitigating factors around the obscene money and corruption in football and the coincidental fact of Newcastle United’s owner being a bona-fide arsehole, my current beef with this ridiculous club is that I’m getting ZERO out of this relationship. I’m locked in some sadistic emotional contract that seems iron-clad and totally unbreakable. I know we’re going to get beat before we start, every season is like Groundhog day and there doesn’t seem to be any much-needed light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
Now, they say that all love is some form of madness, temporary or otherwise. And yes, the love for your football or sporting club – especially one that’s been handed down for generations and stirs that ferocious hometown pride – does indeed often inspire totally mad behaviour. We Geordies get a bit of a hard time for being overly emotional, but look around pretty much any football ground on cup final, relegation or championship day and you’ll without doubt see thousands of fully grown adults who’ve surrendered all control of their faculties. Weeping, bouncing, hollering, brandishing small children like the trophies that induce this demented state…it’s all there, and just over a game. It’s tribal, it’s potent, it’s all-consuming. When it’s good, it’s life-affirming, but when’s it’s bad (and it’s been overall pretty bad at Newcastle for much of my supporting life), it’s bordering on funeral. Above all, it’s not really logical, which I suppose is why the equation we apply to our other alliances doesn’t work here. And that’s what’s doing my head in.
Anyone who knows me will happily tell you I have zero common sense – but this footballing relationship is just bordering on nonsensical. I haven’t really been getting much out of it for sometime; going to the match really isn’t what it was, there’s nothing to look forward to year after year, and the whole enterprise is bloody expensive. The weekly cycle of anticipation and collapse is wearing. My Dad would be horrified at these adulterous thoughts; he was the one who made me fall in love with the noise and the passion over 20 years ago, but it’s not that club that captured me so instantly and completely anymore. And it’s not just that I was lucky enough to first encounter a team that was winning – the belief and the atmosphere has all gradually fallen away from those ‘heady’ days in the early 90s, regardless of results.
So, where does all of this leave me, and thousands of other fed-up Newcastle United fans? Perhaps it’s unreasonable to ever think we could allow a decision taken by the head to cause us to rethink matters of the heart. Fan to football club, partner to partner – they may both be borne out of passion, understanding and exhilaration, but I don’t know how many perpetual disappointments I would tolerate in my personal life before I walked away. Certainly not decades worth. Maybe another 5 or 10 years will be enough to stop me making any more emotional or physical deposits into the bank of Newcastle United. I just can’t shake a nagging feeling, though, that business logic can’t help me here. I’m going to be in debt with this lot for the rest of my days.