Watching your side lose is never a pleasant experience but watching them be thrashed by your fierce local rivals is a leading contender for one of the worst ways to spend an afternoon alongside shopping during the sales or watching anything involving Piers Morgan.
As a Sunderland fan, yesterday’s match was probably the worst Tyne-Wear Derby in my lifetime, worse even than the 4-1 defeat in Alan Shearer’s last game in 2005. I know that it is only three points and that there is a chance in January to at least restore some local pride but yesterday was horrible. And I completely blame hope.
That most alluring of feelings is what football fans breathe. The hope that this season might be the one, the hope that today we might just beat them. It is the reason we all get so excited in the middle of August and on the first weekend of January. Hope is the reason that we keep following our team, even though all logic suggests that we have no chance.
Yesterday I honestly hoped that we could beat Newcastle. I woke up fairly positive, we have the better side, we were seven unbeaten and had the second best defence in the league. Surely we could at least expect something out of the game? By the time the final whistle had blown I had left the pub I was watching the game in with the feeling that I had been duped.
Hope, and the subsequent theft of it, can make football fans do some strange things. I have seen grown men cry because they honestly believed that now was their time. I have seen people swing from feelings verging on hero worship to hatred in the space of 90 minutes. As is so often the case, football brings to the surface emotions and processes that society often teaches us to quell. We watch football as an escape from real life and when that dreamlike state is threatened then we struggle to cope.
As I walked out of the pub where I watched yesterday’s game I was in a bit of a daze. The transition back into the real world was an uncomfortable one, far removed from the hopeful way in which I escaped it. My vision of the perfect Sunday afternoon had been laid before me before being snatched away and trampled all over.
Does this mean that I care too much? Does the fact that I was genuinely shocked that my team lost to a team that I have seen them lose to on a number of occasions mean I am going slightly mad? I don’t think so. I think that sometimes the best part f football can also be its downfall. The hope, the escapism is all well and good until it goes horribly wrong. But then again, it can’t be all that bad can it? After all, I will almost undoubtedly be watching my team again next weekend and I am certain that yesterdays trick by hope will have been forgotten and I will enter again into that slightly surreal and certainly irrational world that is being a football fan.