Fiona McCade: Rules of male game need to be broken

Picture: Ian Rutherford
Picture: Ian Rutherford
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WHEN my husband-to-be first met my father, Dad took him to the pub to play snooker and ask him some important questions, the first and most important being: “Do you like sport?”

Future Husband played a bit of shinty and enjoyed the odd rugby international, so he said: “Yes.” Little did he realise that, as far as Dad was concerned, that meant nothing less than: “Iove all sport. I dedicate my life to it and I will discuss it with you to the exclusion of almost all other subjects. I will buy season tickets and gladly spend my weekends watching football, rugby, cricket or horse-racing with you. When I’m not physically at a sporting event, I will pore over the analysis in the newspapers, on Teletext, online, or in any form of media I can find. Sport is the most important thing in the world and nothing, not even your daughter, will distract me from it.” It soon dawned on my hapless fiancé that he was doomed to disappoint.

There are lots of men out there like my father. Or are there? Talking, watching and supporting sport has become accepted as one of the unassailable male bastions, but what if – I hardly dare say it – what if it’s all a big, fat sham?

OK, the survey I’m about to quote is not quite as scientific as I’d like, but I feel in my bones that it’s telling the truth. An online car supermarket asked 500 British males about their love of sport and 90 per cent of them – yes, you read that right, nine out of ten – admitted to pretending to like it, so they would seem more acceptable to their friends, or, in 30 per cent of cases, to fit in better at work.

Doesn’t that just break your heart? Most of our men are living a lie. So 61 per cent fake interest in football, while 52 per cent say that Formula 1 bores them rigid, but they think they should show enthusiasm, or they’ll become social pariahs. And 34 per cent said they only bother with golf because it might help them get a promotion.

I’m sure that there are many red-blooded males reading this and snorting with derision, but maybe they’re only doing it because they think their boss is watching?

Lads, it seems that loathing sport has become the hate that dare not speak its name. However, now we know for sure that most of you are suffering for no good reason, can’t you find the courage to stop pretending and break your bonds?

If someone says to you: “Coming to watch the match?” just say: “No. I’d rather gouge out my eyes with soup spoons.” All it takes is for one, brave man to be true to himself, and he can liberate almost all his friends.

Think about it. In any group of ten guys talking sport, only one of them is having any fun. The rest are miserable as hell, but they’re going through the motions because they’ve been conditioned to believe that somehow, liking sport comes as standard with a Y-chromosome. Why not leave the genuinely dedicated 10 per cent to it, and find something else to talk about?

In my husband’s office, they have a fantasy football league. For a while now, my husband has secretly believed that most of the blokes taking part are going home and Googling football information, so when they’re at work, they can sound like they have a clue. Armed with the results of this survey, he quietly cornered one of the least convincing fantasy footballers and promised him total anonymity and lifelong fraternity if he’d just ’fess up. Finally, the man broke down. “It’s true,” he trembled. “If I could, I’d have baby rabbits on my screen saver, but I’m too scared. So I’ve got Theo Walcott, and I don’t really know who he is.”

Non-sporty men, don’t be ashamed. We women have long suspected that your hearts weren’t in it, and after all, there are other ways of bonding.

Remember, you have a 90 per cent chance of success, if you can only find the guts to say out loud: “I don’t understand the off-side rule and I hope I never will. Would you care for a conversation about something interesting?”

And just think what you’ll save on season tickets.