chapter  1
The character of football
This is Anfield
WithSteffen Borge
Pages 60

Football is an extra. It is added onto the ordinary world and involves a decision to play a game that would otherwise not happen in our everyday trouble and strife. Football is extra-ordinary and unnecessary. We make football matter by making-believe that it does. Football is fictional in character. The game is played as if it mattered. Part of the psychological basis of this make-believe notion that winning football matches matters is the activation of a fight-or-flight state when faced with physical confrontation and struggle, which a contact sport like football does involve. This reaction stirs the emotions and readies us for a fight-or-flight response. Yet we do not act on this mental state. Footballers and spectators do not fight or take flight, but instead play or watch the game. We engage in the game, while also clearly being aware that our excitement does not track a real-life, ordinary world, fight-or-flight situation. This is the essential make-believe involved in playing and watching football. The make-believe in football, as we play it, involves the basic proto-pretence of certain types of social play, like rough and tumble, which we share with other nonhuman animals. This is football’s fictional character.