|Richard Ayoade as 'Moss' and Chris O'Dowd as 'Roy' in 'The IT Crowd'.|
The image and quotation above are taken from cult comedy series The IT Crowd. I am a big fan of the show, and of this episode - but the way this picture is being spread around the internet at the moment irritates me no end.
Of course, in the middle of the World Cup (the biggest footballing event in the world), we might expect the usual detractors of the beautiful game - those who take a certain amount of glee in describing football as "just twenty-two overpaid neanderthals chasing a leather bag of air up and down a field" (or something similar) - to shout louder than ever. And isn't that just intensely annoying?
There's nothing wrong with not liking football, of course. Every individual is free to like or dislike whatever he or she wishes - and that's as it should be. There's not even anything wrong with saying you don't like football. Or even saying so over and over again (although that can get a little tedious). What irks me about these particular kinds of people is the way they go beyond a mere disliking of football to an attempt to belittle and dismiss the entire concept of football. I imagine the grand arm-gesture and the sneering tone-of-voice; "football? Oh, it's just a bunch of men running about."
It isn't, though, is it? It's quite a bit more than that, as we all well know.
The fact is, it's possible to describe anything in such a way that you reduce it to a couple of disparaging sentences of sheer disdain, distilling the most fundamental essence of a particular activity and then expressing it in a way calculated to imply that it requires no skill, training, practise or hard work whatsoever.
You're an Olympic gymnast? Oh, that's just a lot of leaping about in tight lycra clothing.
You enjoy fine food? Oh, that's just making stuff warm and then putting it in your face.
You like fishing? That's just dangling some string in the sea.
You're a mathematician? Oh, that's just writing down numbers.
You're a Formula 1 driver? Oh, that's just driving 'round and 'round in circles.
You've written a bestselling novel? That's just choosing some words over others.
You're an opera singer? Oh, that's just making sounds with your throat.
You played the lead rôle in a production by the Royal Shakespeare Company? Oh, that's just saying words while wearing a silly ruff.
…see what I mean?!
Not liking something doesn't mean you have to show complete and utter contempt for the whole idea. I don't particularly enjoy watching (or playing) darts - but I can still appreciate that it takes a huge amount of skill and precision to be really good at it. Indeed, I'd have thought that much was self-evident.
Not liking football doesn't make you any 'better'. It makes you different from people who do like it - and there's nothing wrong with that! But if you're the sort of person who derives a perverse delight from denigrating something which brings so much joy to so many people, maybe you should look first at why that is…