We’re watching the Euros in our house. That’s the European Cup Football Finals, and when I mean football, I mean proper football – soccer.
It’s a bit of dull game, Germany v Portugal, so I’m writing this post while I watch the second half, even though I’ve been looking forward to the match all day.
What it is about writers and sports? Many of the writers I know (and I know loads) are passionate about one sport or another. A well-known YA author I know loves dressage. A TS Eliot Prize-shortlisted poet watches rugby. A great nature writer loves international cricket.
It’s all about international football for me, now, but my first love was baseball. I just read a wonderful novel, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, and it was an amazing book… a world made of words that postively reeked of Deep Heat and sweaty socks. It was written by someone who knew about sports, knew deeply about how sport works; the self-sacrifice, the accommodation every sportsperson must make with terror and pain, the elevated moment when everything depends on you and everyone is watching and it goes wrong or it goes right.
And maybe that’s really why writers love sport. Because we, too, are making our mistakes and having our successes in front of other people. We may think we’re sitting alone in our rooms, but on some level (and much more obviously so once we start publishing) we’re really performing for spectators.
Just like every game is different, every piece of writing is, as well. You can only develop your skills, work hard, hoping that you can manage the technical challenges it will bring. Hemingway saw it as a boxing match or a fishing expedition. I still see it as a green diamond of grass, and a white ball coming down to my glove.
I want to catch it for me. I want to catch it for my readers. And I want to catch it to show all the spectators that I can.
But Gomez has just scored and one of my favourite players, Schweinsteiger, is playing like a dream. I’m going to watch some more; watch how other people do, watch them as they play…as they risk failure in front of other people. Watch them fall down and get up again, watch them sweat and cry and exult.
It makes me feel less alone.