This blog post is clean as a whistle. Absolutely no swearing. Completely granny friendly, in fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s nun friendly, so feel free to tell any nuns you know about this.
I’ve written in a previous blog post about my scheme for taxi companies, whereby passengers and taxi drivers can be matched based on certain criterion. When you call the taxi company you will be asked a series of questions about your taxi driver preference. This would avoid any awkward conversations with some of the more right-wing or bigoted taxi drivers out there, unless you were a bigot yourself, in which case you could cheerily notify the operator that you’d prefer a straight down the line, no-nonsense, spade’s-a-spade, sun / daily mail reader.
“I’m an avid Sun reader. I have a poster of Donald Trump on my wall, and I believe that all Muslims should be sent home. Oh, and I’m also partial to a spot of gardening.”
“We’ve got the perfect driver match for you sir. We’ll get her to pick you up right away.”
“Hang about. A woman? A woman driver? I don’t think so my friend. I’d rather be driven by a lefty, or even a gay, or even a gay lefty. A woman indeed. I shall take my custom elsewhere!”
The driver I had today would have been unlikely to have driven me if this matching system was in place.
“Do you like football mate?” he asked.
“Not really,” I responded. I told him that I used to go to Hartlepool matches when I was younger, but lost interest when I left for uni. This was far from the conversation killer that you might expect. He started attempting a discourse about Hartlepool united in the early 2000s. It quickly became apparent that, despite living in Sheffield and being a life long Sheffield United supporter, he knew a great deal more about my local team than I did. I knew enough to join in, but it was clear that he was an oracle of knowledge when it came to football.
After we’d exhausted all my knowledge of early naughties Hartlepool United, he continued through the decade up until present day, by which point I was completely lost.
However, fortunately I have had experience of having to busk football chat. Even if you barely have any knowledge on the subject, there are certain tricks of the trade that I have discovered in order to hold a convincing conversation with a football fan. Firstly, it relies on the fact that, as a rule, most football obsessives have enough knowledge themselves to carry you through the conversation. They have opinions, stats and cliches enough to carry you both through. Your job is to take a passive role. As you get more experienced, you can start to stretch yourself a bit and take a few chances. But, for the novice, stick to these basic tenets and you shouldn’t go wrong.
“What about that Ronnie Moore, eh?”
Ronnie Moore is the current Hartlepool manager, although, I didn’t know this at the time.
“Aye, tell me about it.” I thought that this was quite a good response. It kept the options open, and didn’t tether me to a particular viewpoint, but it had the bonus of sounding like a confident statement. I kept the tone of my statement neutral, so that my “tell me about it” could be attached to a number of possible meanings. If this Ronnie Moore was an asset to the team, then my “tell me about it” would be perceived as an positive agreement. If he was bad news then similarly my “tell me about it” would be interpreted as a negative response. Once I had gauged his reaction to my “tell me about it,” I could follow it up with an appropriate response: a weary sigh, an enthusiastic nod, or even – and this is where my tactic shows its true genius – another “tell me about it,” only this time I can add some emotion to the phrase, suggesting that he had just essentially corroborated my point entirely. Four simple words, yet they offer so much flexibility.
I was proving really good at this football chat blagging shtick, and I was starting to enjoy myself. He proceeded to bat rhetorical question after spurious statement at me, and I think I returned serve admirably.
“He was asking for it though, wasn’t he?” To be honest, I’m not even listening properly. We’ve been chatting now for nearly ten minutes. I don’t even know who he’s talking about now. I think we’ve moved on to a completely different team, but it doesn’t matter, I am skilled in the art of busking football chat.
“Completely asking for it,” I retorted. Our exchange had been going on for some time now, and I was feeling so confident at my ability that I’d stopped even paying attention to the content of his words. I decided to take my blagging routine to the next level. I was feeling a bit adventurous, so I thought I’d be extra cocky and added, “anyone could see it mate, I mean, seriously, what did he expect?”
Had I gone too far? Did this even work within the context of what he was talking about? I didn’t even know who was asking for it, why he was asking for it, or what he was asking for, but I’d started getting bored by the ease of blagging, and wanted to give myself a bit of a challenge. Plus, if what I’d said caused controversy and rankled him, or didn’t actually make any sense, I could simply shrug my shoulders dramatically, laugh derisively, shake my head vigorously and explain that I’d over heard some buffoon in the pub yesterday spouting nonsense on this very subject, and that was the very idiotic phrase that he had come out with. Thus, the potential awkwardness would have been evaded, and we could both be united in laughing at the moron who’d come out with that absurd statement. But I surmised that if he was asking for it, which he apparently was, then my follow up, suggesting that he was an idiot for thinking he could get away with it, certainly had the potential to work as a response. Plus, I was no novice at this game, by which I mean the football chat blagging game, whereas I am a complete novice when it comes to football knowledge.
It was a few years back when I first stumbled upon the football chat blagging challenge. I was in a pub with some friends, and they’d all gone to the bar to get drinks, so I was momentarily sitting alone. The man on another table was seemingly in a similar situation, as his friends had also temporarily left him. There was a big screen above us showing a football match. The crowd on the TV grew louder and more excited. The man turned to me, assuming that I was also watching the game, and said, “surely he can’t miss this.”
“Surely not,” I responded emphatically. And sure enough, we were both right, even if one of us didn’t know why we were right. The player scored.
“Yes! Goal! Finally,” he shouted, still addressing me. I realised that I needed to respond. There was only him and me here, and we’d started bonding over the football, even though I was just being polite and pretending to care or know what he was talking about. But I was in too deep now to tell him that I didn’t know anything about football. What would be the point anyway? Our separate sets of friends would be back soon, so why ruin this nice brief moment between two strangers.
“About bloody time mate,” I said.
“Too right mate, too right.”
I felt a positive surge of energy jet through my brain. I felt powerful, I felt knowledgable, and I felt a sense of comradery with this man. We had bonded over football, and I had passed the experience with flying colours, even though I didn’t have a clue about football, and, being blind, had no idea what was happening on the screen.
Since that time I have had several more experiences like this, and each time I have busked football chat, and done it impeccably.
There was one time when a man turned to me after someone had just missed a sitter, and shouted to me above the noise of the crowd from the TV, “How did he miss that?”
“Bloody typical mate,” I retorted, quick as a flash, no messing about. I felt as if I’d mastered the art now.
“What?” asked the man. I assumed he just hadn’t heard me and so I repeated.
“Bloody typical mate.”
But the man had seemingly heard me. His “what” had been an expression of uncertainty as to the efficacy of my statement. I was taken aback. I felt that “bloody typical” was a fairly innocuous response, given that this player had apparently just missed a sitter. Perhaps I needed to re-evaluate my abilities as a football chat blagger.
“What do you mean, bloody typical? He’s the most prolific goal scorer in the league?”
Ah, so that’s where the confusion had come from. No problem. This was surely easily remedied.
“Exactly mate. Bloody typical. The league’s best goal scorer, and he misses a sitter like that. Bloody typical. If he’d had a load of players around him, kicking at his ankles he’d have bloody put it in the back of the net. Bloody typical.”
“Exactly mate, good point, exactly. Bloody typical,” came the response. I felt the positive chemical surge in my brain. I’d found my sport.
Back in the taxi, I awaited the driver’s reaction to my cocky declaration that “he” (whoever he was) was a fool if he thought he could get away with “it” (whatever it was).
“Too right mate, too right. Couldn’t have said it better myself.”
My goodness, I was a master at this. I felt a tinge of sadness when, at that moment, I arrived at my destination. I was really starting to enjoy myself, and we were both clearly getting on very well, even though I had no idea what either of us were talking about.
If my taxi driver/passenger matching scheme had been in operation then me and this driver would have never taken this journey together, and I might never have learnt the valuable lesson that it is sometimes fun and spiritually beneficial to chat with people who, on the surface, you might not have much in common with. Surely we are in danger of stunting our emotional growth if we only communicate with people we know we’ll agree with. So, next time I am picked up by the Trump-loving, anti-Islam, Daily Mail / Sun reading driver, I will try and find some common ground. I shall welcome him into my life with open arms, although perhaps not literally, as he’s also homophobic, so that gesture would backfire. However, I draw the line at gardeners. And women drivers.