“In life, you endure hours of tedium and disappointment,” wrote When Saturday Comes’ Ian Plenderleith this week, “but just occasionally you’re rewarded with a treasured moment of surprise and delight.” He wasn’t making an analogy about the Fall’s recorded output over the past decade, but instead challenging the actions of those who’d choose to beat the traffic before the final whistle blows. “Why would you pay £25, £35, £45 or more for a ticket to a 90-minute football match and then not watch the whole thing?” As someone who has walked out of multiple films by James Toback, the phrase “cutting one’s losses” comes to mind.
There are fans who have faith and fans who don’t. The fans who don’t are the ones who leave early. Personally, I’m like the Scotland fans. I just can’t leave, no matter how bored or disillusioned I am. I once tried to leave a Swiss Cup semi-final between Grasshopper and amateur side Red Star ZÃ¼rich “ Grasshopper were 6-0 up, there were five minutes to go and the stadium was seven-eighths empty. But I was still worried I might miss something, like Red Star scoring six goals in five minutes. Or, failing that, a bald eagle landing on the pitch, or the referee dropping his shorts and mooning in the direction of FIFA HQ. You just never know, do you? And so after exiting the stand, I kept stopping at the stadium portals and standing there to see out the game’s dying moments. And I just caught sight of Grasshopper scoring a seventh. Yep, looks like they’re through.
I thought of this again last Saturday as Everton fans celebrated their second goal in stoppage time to claim a draw against Manchester United. I was mainly thinking of all the fans who’d left already, because there were a lot of empty seats. I was imagining what they felt as they heard the first muted cheer from outside the stadium. “Ah, a consolation goal, ah well, 3-1, 3-2, what’s the difference, there’s no way a team like Manchester United give up two goals in injury time¦ [hears massive, unrestrained, gobsmacked roar]. Oh great, we got a point. Hooray. I’m glad for us, I really am. But why did they have to wait until I left before they scored twice? And why did I leave early? [Holds head in hands and collapses to the floor] Why did I do that?”