Like many other people, I’ve been using this lockdown to catch up on TV box sets, starting with The Sopranos. There’s a scene in which Tony, the titular mob boss, angrily dismisses the point of talking about the past. Over a ‘family dinner’, he admonishes a colleague for his nostalgic chat: “‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.”
Soprano clearly wasn’t a football fan. One of the unexpected benefits of the shutdown is the chance to pause and look at how we got here. Football seldom stops. As ‘consumers’ (that awful word) we spend so much time in the present. We watch highlights of games we’ve just been at, we waste hours reading about transfer rumours, club gossip and the circus around the game which, when stripped back, means nothing. This even extends to the close season where, if anything, it gets worse.
This feels different. As ‘content’ (another awful word) runs short, clubs and broadcasters are delving into their archives and giving us gems from yesteryear. The BBC are showing classic Scottish Cup ties, clubs are ‘live tweeting’ significant games and the SFA have added to YouTube a number of celebrated Scotland matches from an admittedly small collection.
I’ve been particularly enjoying the Scotland games, not least because my first-hand memories of many are, er, somewhat hazy (I’m looking at you Norway away in 2005, despite the price of a pint in Oslo.) Other highlights including brushing aside a Ukraine side fresh from the World Cup quarter finals and, as a Celtic supporter, the full, crazy glory of the 5-1 victory against Rangers in 1998.
Perhaps we should seize the chance to take a break from the never-ending story that is modern football. Much of what we love about the game comes from a shared past. We don’t just care about our team’s current manager and the 20-odd folk who might pull on the shirt on a given Saturday. We care about what they represent, and that stems from what has come before.
Every club has its glorious victories and heroes, its European nights or cup giant-killings. Maybe now is a good time to strengthen our bonds with the past. Embrace your team’s online offerings from the archive, seek out grainy black and white footage on YouTube, explore old match reports on Google News or the National Library of Scotland.
This virus is making us look again at every aspect of our lives, from the way our economy is structured to how we care for our most vulnerable. Scottish football is not exempt from this; it will be changed, perhaps utterly. Instead of worrying about tomorrow, maybe we should use this down time to appreciate all that football has already given us.