One thing I know for sure about being a fan is this: it is not a vicarious pleasure, despite all appearances to the contrary, and those who say that they would rather do than watch are missing the point. Football is a context where watching becomes doing . . . When there is some kind of triumph, the pleasure does not radiate from the players outwards until it reaches the likes of us at the back of the terraces in a pale and diminished form; our fun is not a watery version of the team’s fun, even though they are the ones that get to score the goals and climb the steps at Wembley to meet Princess Diana. The joy we feel on occasions like this is not a celebration of others’ good fortune, but a celebration of our own; and when there is a disastrous defeat the sorrow that engulfs us is, in effect, self-pity, and anyone who wishes to understand how football is consumed must realise this above all things.
The players are merely our representatives, chosen by the manager rather than elected by us, but our representatives nonetheless . . . I am a part of the club, just as the club is a part of me; and I say this fully aware that the club exploits me, disregards my views, and treats me shoddily on occasions, so my feeling of organic connection is not built on a muddle-headed and sentimental misunderstanding of how professional football works. This Wembley win belonged to me every bit as much as it belonged to Charlie Nicholas or George Graham . . . and I worked every bit as hard for it as they did. The only difference between me and them is that I have put in more hours, more years, more decades than them, and so had a better understanding of the afternoon, a sweeter appreciation of why the sun still shines when I remember it.
— Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby
I’ve long scoffed at people who recount their team’s exploits using the personal pronoun “we”. What’s this “we”? You’re not the person out there doing anything, you’re sitting in the stands, or more probably on your couch at home watching TV.
But in my more recent, soccer fanatic years, I’ve had the impulse to speak this way myself, though I’ve fought against it. After reading the excellent passage above, no more. “They” may not understand it, but it truly is “we”.