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August 7th 2020

These are times to pity those who do not understand football. Their saving grace, of course, is that they also do not understand their own ignorance, baffled as to why anyone could enjoy (not the right word; let's revisit it later) watching strangers play a game. "To say that these men paid their shillings to watch twenty-two hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink." Not me; JB Priestley, a man who was blessed with understanding in such things.
I write this having, last night, watched Wolves reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League by beating Greek champions Olympiakos 2-1 on aggregate over two legs spread so far apart as to be the fixture-list equivalent of doing the splits. This, while exciting, is merely the most recent step in a whirlwind few years for Wolves fans: our team finished the 2016/17 season 15th in the Championship, before winning the division the next year, finishing 7th in the Premier League the year after (as well as reaching the FA Cup semi-final), and matching that finish again this season. And, as I say, we're in the last eight of the Europa League.
Times to pity those who do not understand. Times also, I think, to pity those who are accustomed to such heights. Support Manchester United and what's another trophy? Even after a few barren years - where 'barren' means never finishing outside of the top seven - you can't really understand what it's like to experience these delights for the first time in your life. I've been supporting Wolves since my eighth birthday, and until last season we'd had four years in the Premier League, never finishing above 15th. European quarter-final? We might as well have hoped to win away on Jupiter. So, now, when I muse on how likely we are to get past Sevilla, the team that just finished fourth in La Liga, or if we'd accept Ł50m for Adama Traore, I have to pinch myself. It wasn't too long ago that I went to see us lose at home to Walsall.
These joys cannot last, surely, so I'm making the most of them while I can. Because - as hinted above - we fans don't enjoy football. Not really. At least, not most of the time. I didn't enjoy the last, ooh, 70 minutes of the match yesterday. I didn't enjoy the three relegations, or losing 5-1 to West Brom in 2012, or throwing away an FA Cup semi-final last year, or missing out on promotion in 2002 after having a 10 point lead. The biggest category error of sport is the view that it is entertainment - or, I should say, that it is just entertainment. I'm going to watch Manchester City vs Real Madrid tonight, and I hope to be entertained by two of the best teams in the world and their roster of garlanded stars, but it won't mean as much as seeing Wolves nick a last minute winner at Ashton Gate. Or, to put it another way, I love film and have taken great enjoyment, recently, in re-watching Scott Pilgrim vs the World, but you can tell it's not quite the same, because of the pronouns. I will never say "we were great" after watching a wonderful film, or "we were dreadful" after watching a bad one. It's not the same. After all, "I'm Wanderers till I die", as the song goes. I'm not Scott Pilgrim.
Of course, it doesn't really matter. And, more than some football fans, I do realise that. If I ever feel masochistic enough to write my top five painful memories, Wolves defeats won't make the cut. Maybe that's part of the joy of it - hitching your emotions to something that cannot be your fault - but I doubt it. Because, as well as the highs and lows of following a team, it's impossible to ignore that it's just a flippin' beautiful game. Again, not always - I've been to enough lower-league matches to know that not every 90 minutes is going to live long in the memory - but, of course, that just makes the most beautiful moments stand out even more. I was there to see Ruben Neves score a wonder-goal against Espanyol, and my love of that moment wasn't just because he did it in gold and black.
So, if you don't understand, then I'm sorry. But, as I sit in front of my television on Tuesday night, hoping that my Wolves - led by Nuno Espirito Santo, the man named after God - can overcome giants once more, I'll just be glad that I do.

what was I listening to?
Forrest Gump soundtrack - various artists
what was I reading?
Anne of Green Gables - L. M. Montgomery
what was I watching?
Green Lantern
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