West Ham and All That

My last navel gazing session saw me compare an Olympic athlete with a PHD scholar. I came to the conclusion that they were almost one of the same. I guess the reader had better settle down with a cup of coffee and a biscuit because I am engaging in a spot of navel gazing again.

I am a West Ham nut. I read and watch everything I can about West Ham. Last year I got Pay TV, almost solely so that I could watch their games. I live for midnight Saturday night so that I can watch them. Two of my three sons are West Ham nuts too. They both watch with me. One never shuts up even when I tell him too. The other, being just seven, falls asleep after ten minutes, wakes up five minutes from the end, sees the score and then denies he was ever asleep at all. Next week I will get a tattoo of the legendary Bobby Moore on my forearm.

I recall watching my first ever English football match back in 1972. It was Arsenal and Leeds FA Cup final and I was 7 years old. Alan Clarke scored the winner for Leeds. I was heart broken because I was going for Arsenal. For six months of my life I was an Arsenal nut until I learnt that I was actually from West Ham. From that day I was hooked. I was a complete Football Nut. At one stage, courtesy of Shoot magazine and watching two week old versions of the UK football show the Big Match I could tell you every player of every team in the English Division 1, now known as the Premier League.

Unless you are a football nut like me none of this will mean anything to you. But watching the game on Saturday made me reminiscence about the days I was hearing.  I vividly recall that first match I ever saw. Arsenal vs. Leeds at Wembley Stadium.  The crowd sing and chant and the atmosphere is electric. It still sends tingles up my spine just to remember. In my mind I still hear it – the rhythm and crescendo – ARSSSSSEEEEEEENALLLLLLLLLL CLAP CLAP CLAP, ARSSSSSEEEEENNNALLLLL CLAP CLAP CLAP – Sung over and over again by 50 000 Cockneys, it is just awe inspiring. Then of course you have the 50 000 Yorkshire men at the other end all singing LEEEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDS CLAP CLAP CLAP. All singing in unison, all trying to be heard above each other – 100 000 voices, it is awesome.

I am not hearing now, I have been Deaf for almost 40 years. I no longer hear these chants nor feel the vibe of the crowd. More is the pity because thinking back, the crowd was at least 50 % of the entertainment. Now I am a purist. I speak of one touch play, of zones and through balls. I speak of changing to  4 3 3 because 4 3 2 1 is too defensive. But I miss that atmosphere. Give me a pill so that I can be fixed and hear it again and I would take that pill tomorrow.

It is not just the fact that they cheer on their team; football fans are a witty lot. Last week West Ham played Newcastle.  West Ham and Newcastle are in turmoil at the moment. Newcastle have lost their manager. West Ham have a new manager and their sponsor has gone bust. My son tells me that the West Ham fans broke into a chant that targeted the old Newcastle manager, Kevin Keegan. The West Ham fans broke into a chant, ” KEEGAN, KEEGAN, KEEGAN where has your KEEGAN GOOONE – FAR FAAAAAAAAR AWWWWWWWAAAYYY.” My son thought it hilarious.

Not to be out done the Newcastle fans apparently made up their own chant. West Ham scored a goal. The scorer, as footballers do, went into hysterics. He spread his arms out like wings and began to run all over the field in mock impersonation of an aeroplane. Now the West Ham sponsor that went broke was, ironically, an airline company. The Newcastle fans broke into a chant – ” YOU’RE NOT FLYYYYYYIIIINNNNGGGG  ANNNNYMMOOOOOORE … YOU’RE NOT FLYYYYYYYING ANNNNNNYMOOOORRREE” – All this spontaneously sung by thousands of fans. Apparently even the West Ham fans found this one funny and laughed along with the Newcastle fans.

Generally I am over being Deaf. It’s part of my life. I often say it has given me as much as it has taken away. It has given me a living, friends and a different perspective of life. BUT when I was watching the football on the weekend I was reminded that I will always be culturally hearing. My values are hearing and I realised that I actually miss many of the things that I valued when I was hearing.

Life goes on and it is not a bad life that I have. But that Pill to cure deafness. Even if it could only last for 90 minutes from midnight on a Saturday just to experience that atmosphere again – I would take it like a shot.