Valentine’s Day is the time to think of those we truly love and to treasure the moments that we spend with them. Think back on all of the highs and the lows of the last year and marvel at how lucky we are to be in a relationship strong enough to last.
Today offers us the chance to spend our time piling our love upon our partner, they probably deserve it for having to put up with us and our bad habits throughout the year, but it also allows us to think about the other loves in our life.
This may lead many of us to give our parents a call, to thank them for their patience in bringing us up, or seeking out close friends, a practice that has become such a common occurrence that many have started renaming the day ‘Palentine’s’.
Yet, when these human relationships have been acknowledged sporting fans are likely to turn their thoughts to the strongest relationship in their life: the one in which they have been through the most. Yes, their mind will turn to their sports team.
From the day that they choose a team to support, no matter what their chosen sport may be, fans enter into one of the most strenuous but joyous, trying but rewarding, tiring yet enlivening relationships known to mankind.
From the first time a fan steps into their team’s stand or watches them play on television, an unbreakable bond is formed. It is cultivated through staying up late to watch their matches, listening to them on the radio instead of doing work and sneaking out on Saturdays to visit their stadium. Such experiences make the follower bleed the colour of their team, pinning those colours firmly to their mast offering unwavering support.
At the same time, there is no other relationship in which a person can be disappointed so many times and hurl so much abuse at their partner but, without fail, turn up to their house the following week to offer their love and support.
Clubs will pull fans through the mire, anger them with their abjectness, frustrate them with their transfer failures, but year after year these same fans still buy their season tickets, still travel around the country to every game, and still chant their support with full voice.
By no means, however, is this a one-sided relationship. In return for their loyalty, fans will receive the pure elation of victory, the bullish bragging rights over rivals and the uniting feeling of community. A sporting team gives you a set of in-laws with common interests and common joys that make every visit a chance to make new friends or reunite with old ones.
Each year the relationship strengthens. The faces on the pitch may change and the team’s results may fluctuate, but the relationship’s roots are buried so deeply that they are coursing through the fans’ veins. This being so, they still turn up with alacrity with hopes of glory filling their minds, knowing that they will most likely be disappointed.
They go through all this: the ups and the downs, relegations and promotions, sackings and signings, in the simple knowledge that this is their team. Wherever they may go, they will be together.
So, yes love is blind, true fans don’t choose because of glory but in hope of it, captivated by their club. Yes, their team will hurt them, they will ruin countless Saturdays but still the fans will come again to be let down again. And yes, the relationship is tough, the toughest that there is but when that glory comes, be it a goal, a try, a catch or a Championship, then the elation will be worth it all.
So, whether you are sat at dinner tonight, staring into the eyes of the beautiful partner ogling back at you or in a dark pub drinking some pints with your mates, take a moment to think about your team. Lift a glass high in the air and think of all those happy memories they have given you, while they will never fail to make you despair, they will always give you hope. And that is really what true love is.
Illustration Courtesy of Sarah Pearce