It was with a jolt that I flicked on page 302 of Ceefax on Monday morning to find that they had already done away with their special Euro 2008 index. Way to punch me in the solar plexus, guys. It's been so nice to indulge for a few weeks without having a great big headline about a hot new Peter Crouch transfer rumour clobbering you over the head and dragging you back to its cave. I know the party's over, lads, but couldn't we just pretend, just have "BEAUTY IS TRUTH, TRUTH BEAUTY" on the top of the page for a few days?
Of course not. We haven't even been allowed the grace of that hazy minute between dream and reality when the two magically merge. Instead, the radio-alarm of life shakes violently with the din of a Five Live newsreader blaring "DECO HAS COMPLETED HIS MOVE TO CHELSEA".
It occurred to me while reading Brian's latest piece on The Run Of Play - particularly "'remembering' is a hybrid act that marries suspicion to the consultation of an external repository" - that I had not recorded a single minute of this tournament for posterity. For as long as I can remember, I've videotaped the final of major international tournaments, plus re-runs of particularly fine matches. My supposition was that I would, on some dreary day, feel an urge to transport myself back to an evening filled with drama, passion and no little splendour. Perhaps I would one day show my grandchildren how football used to be back in the good old days by digging out the old video machine from the attic and playing them the 2006 Germany-Italy semi-final ("would you believe me if I told you that this chunky 'cassette', we used to call them, could only hold three hours of video footage?").
But I honestly can't recall the last time I did actually fire up the wheezing VCR to watch one of these classics. The attraction is just not there. You can hardly marvel at the way the script was written before your eyes when you've already seen the ending. It would be patronising to act surprised at the twist in the plot when you've been silently reciting the preceding lines to yourself. If you're honest with yourself, you just want to see the explosions (and nod sagely at the expertise of the pyrotechnicians, of course). I have more than once accidentally inserted the tape of the Spain 4-3 Yugoslavia game into the machine; on discovering my error, I would resolve to watch the whole match, but after five minutes would grow restless and fast-forward it to the 88th minute.
I knew all this, yet would persist in my efforts to cryogenise these events. It may have been a pathetic hang-up left over from childhood, where these things really did seem to matter, because your worldview was defined solely by your own perceptions and feelings. If you were lucky enough, as I was, to have a blissfully untroubled youth, you could easily live in the fantasy that sport was the most important thing in the universe. I was just a bit slow in growing out of this (though traces remain and occasionally surface) and accepting, in Brian's words, "that even at its greatest, it’s one part of your daily life, something you make room for, something that fits in with everything else"; or as someone else may have put it, it's a TV show.
Looking at photos of some past special occasion is an unsatisfactory experience. It's a natural impulse to want to capture the spirit of a wonderful day in a way that you can later conveniently recall, but a photograph never succeeds in this. It can never present what you really felt, only generate a second-hand copy that doesn't match the purity of the memory that plays back when you close your eyes.
So, this time I didn't do it - not through prior resolution, but simply because it never crossed my mind. One could say that being all broadbanded up now means I have no need, seen as I can access these Precious Moments at the buffering of an embedded clip whenever I choose. (Also, throughout the tournament BBCi showed highlights of the previous day's games plus a loop of every goal in the competition thus far - instant nostalgia!) I like to think of it as a belated acceptance of the transience of sport, and indeed (adopts voice of Jim Hacker when giving a self-important speech about freedom or some such to Sir Humphrey) life itself. It's also to recognise that even though a football match is a slowly unfolding drama built on ebb and flow, on the tension between stuff happening and not happening, your recollection of it usually consists of a coalescence of the glory and the boring (even the best games normally have some dead air in them) into something perhaps even more beautiful that the original, and that it's probably wise not to disturb it. After all, it's the party that stays in your mind, not the trip to the off-licence.
Photos by chasing twilight and maddiesnapsthecamera