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The VICE Guide to Sport

Oh, so you like sport? Let us tell you how to behave.

You either give a shit about sport or you don’t, and the delineation between these two types of people is usually pretty clear. Just so we’re all on the same page: Hosting an FA Cup final party or casually rooting for your home team is not the same thing as actual fandom. Real fans check sports sites (used to be the sports page on Teletext) constantly, buy shirts, talk back at talk radio, experience for-real emotions when their team loses or wins big, and WILL kick your arse if you make fun of their favourite player for long enough.


If you don’t “get” sport, extreme fandom seems like a psychological disorder – like, why are you so happy and jumping up and down and screaming because some guy kicked a ball? And if you are a fan, you respond to these questions with a response like “YOU DON’T GET IT, PUSSY! THAT MAN WHO JUST KICKED THE BALL GOT US INTO THE SEMI-FINALS AND HE IS GREAT LIKE GHANDI, AND OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO CREAM MY FUCKING PANTS RAHHHHHHHHHHH!”

As a service to the world, and in an attempt to prove that, like laughter, sport can serve as a universal language, we’ve written a handy guide that, with any luck, will help bridge the gap between these two groups, like the great relationship Bill Clinton fostered between the Israelis and the Palestinians. (A fair comparison, because fans and non-fans are two groups who will never, ever understand each other. For now, we’ll just make fun of both.)


Plenty of fans use “we” when referring to a team: “We played well on Tuesday; we were this close to getting promoted; we saved money signing this rich arsehole for slightly less money than the other arsehole who wasn’t as rich.” Don’t do this unless you: 1) work for the organisation; 2) are semi-regularly making love to someone on the team; or 3) are on the team. We understand that you like your team a tonne, watch every single game intently and are convinced you would be a far superior manager than whatever idiot is currently in charge, but as soon as half your team get bought up by the next status-obsessed oligarch to roll into town, you’ll be cursing yourself for imagining a bunch of stupid strangers actually had a stake in your sad, little walled-in life. They won the game. You sat on the sofa, devoured a bag of Cool Original Doritos and half-heartedly tried to masturbate to the annoying lady in the insurance advert.



“Now, son, I have some bad news for you: You’re a Crystal Palace fan. There’s just no two ways about it. See, I’m a Palace fan, my father was a Palace fan, and just like my alcoholism and crippling inability to discuss my feelings, I’m passing my fandom down to you. I’ll take you to Palace games, school you in Palace history – we were really good in the early 90s for a depressingly short amount of time – show you my VHS tapes of games I recorded, and force you to play Saturday league so you understand the game. Even if you try to reject your fandom, some of it will stay with you, so that one day you’ll be in an airport bar, see the highlights of yet another Palace loss on Sky Sports 2, and curse the Lord Jesus Christ under your breath. Sorry. I am aware this makes no sense, but you are definitely going to have to live this way.


Lots of male sports fans wear their team's strip, because wearing an expensive, garishly-coloured shirt that chafes your nipples is always in style and it goes with anything because, really, it goes with nothing. More recently, teams have started to market to female fans, offering them shirts designed for people with boobs, and wincingly lame stuff like Chelsea-branded furry gillets. You can wear this stuff if you're at a sporting venue because all kinds of rude behaviour is tolerated at those places, including painting your fat, shirtless body in team colours and yelling stuff about wanting to fuck Mike Tindall's wife. If you’re not watching a game in person, here are the acceptable items of team-branded clothing you can wear: 1) baseball cap.



Sky Sports is nice if you want to avoid eye contact with everyone at the pub, but have you ever watched Sky Sports News until it cycles all the way through the stories of the day and starts repeating itself? It’s horrible, like jerking off right after you ate a stack of chicken wings and having to clean the disgusting mess of barbeque sauce and semen off yourself while muttering, “Jesus Christ man, I’ve got to get it together.”


In our society, athletes are avatars of youth, discipline, sexuality, nobility and strength. They are also incredibly boring. There are maybe five athletes in sports who have engaging personalities, mostly due to psychological issues from being hit on the head very hard one too many times. Most athletes are super boring since they’ve been going to tournaments and scouting combines and camps since childhood and never got the free time to get into cool shit like pottery or hardcore. (Emmanuel Frimpong is considered a renaissance man for an athlete because he contributed some guest bars to a Lethal Bizzle track.) The other reason athletes are boring is if they actually express what’s going on inside their heads with words (“That was an awesome shot I did. I don’t care that we lost because I make a lot of money either way, and now I am going to go get drunk as shit and have sex with a woman with giant boobs and hair extensions.”) the press yells at them and they have to apologise. That doesn’t mean they’re not smart; all athletes at the pro level know intrinsically more about the sport they’re playing than the entire press box; even if they can barely express themselves, they can be geniuses and do amazing and creative stuff on the field. That is, of course, if you believe that bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is a real thing.



Go to as many as you can, whenever you have tickets, and try and see at least one real sport live in your lifetime. They are all awesome forms of entertainment. Rugby offers the shittiest live product out of the big three UK sports, but pre-game barbeques are normally awesome – they're a sausage-fest in more ways than one, and it’s totally acceptable to be too drunk to stand up. Football is 1,000 times better live. Cricket is great because you don’t have to pay attention and you can just fry in the sun while sipping a Stella. Too bad the price of tickets keeps going up and you can’t afford to actually attend any of these events, huh?


Almost anyone who still has a column about sports for a newspaper (hahaahahahaha, newspapers!) writes boring garbage. This is because of the system that they came up in: They started out as beat reporters who had to interview athletes who hated them and gave the same canned answers (“It was a good game, we’re going to just take it a day at a time and improve.”) and wrote the same game summaries (“London Irish lose, again”) over and over again, until after a while they landed the highly-prized “sports columnist” gig, because the old columnist died of alcoholism from too much brown ale. Secure in their job, and worn out from covering one of the most soul-crushing beats in journalism, these columnists inevitably stop caring and churn out the same tired bullshit that has been churned out since ancient Olympic discus throwers were called out for not having enough “heart” by scribes. The fact that these guys are being replaced by bloggers who give a shit and know the sports they write about is reason enough to cheer the ink-on-dead-trees industry’s demise.



Not a crime, also not a sport. This applies to anything else done on boards.


It’s sort of sad that we used to fantasise about being professional athletes and now we fantasise about being professional managers. Playing fantasy sports is a lot like having another job, only you don’t get paid – though it is sort of fun, in the same sense that “having a vested interest in Accrington Stanley's defensive midfielder" is fun. You know what’s not fun? Telling other people about how your fantasy team is doing. Even though you find it exciting that you won from a last-second header, crossed in by Scott Parker, getting your team, the Sidcup 69ers (LOL!), into the final, is not exciting anyone else on the planet. Playing fantasy sports should be like masturbating – a vaguely shameful activity that you don’t tell anyone about, but everyone knows you do it.


A lot of people talk about the good that sport does for society: the self-esteem and values that are fostered by youth athletics, how Viv Anderson's place as the first black, international England player was awesome, how many women have been pleasured by Ashley Cole's penis, blah blah blah. But if you are going to talk about how great sports are, you should at least mention the relentless culture of homophobia in locker rooms. Besides Justin Fashanu and Gareth Thomas, there aren't any other openly gay British athletes in any sports that people actually care about, which I feel might be a slight underrepresentation of the real amount of gay men and women, who don't feel comfortable sharing their sexuality with the cretinous homophobes who pay money to watch them play sport. There's been zero examples of openly gay professional athletes in America, but at least one example of a guy feeling comfortable saying he hates faggots publicly. In San Francisco. C’mon, guys. Not cool. (There’s also lots of racism in sports, but you already know that, don’t you, smartarse?)



Every four years (or two if you count the Winter Olympics), the Olympics reminds us that there are a whole bunch of sports that aren’t shown on TV all the time. Ones you never, ever think about if you are a decadent Westerner: that thing that’s like volleyball but you use your feet, that thing that’s polo only with a dead goat, and American football, which no one actually cares about, except Americans and roided-out jock dudes who think rugby's for pussies. These are sometimes fun to watch when you're hungover (except for the dead goat one), but without the emotional content and rooting interest, these sports just seem like an odd ritual you don’t quite understand. Meanwhile, in Thailand, a million people are watching Sepak Takraw and going, “OH SHIT DID YOU SEE WHAT SUEBSAK PHUNSUED JUST DID?”


Sorry, you guys are in the minority. Maybe you think sports are just for meatheads and you’d rather go to the ballet or a poetry reading (with your boyfriend, right, you pussy? Sorry, sorry, we really do have to deal with homophobia in sports) than watch a game. That’s fine, but most people like sports enough to cheer for the home team and go nuts when something important happens, like a Premiership win. Mock and disdain football louts all you like, but if Arsenal win the league and there are parades, old men crying tears of joy and people celebrating in the streets, you’re just going to have to deal with that inconvenience. If you say something like, “Oh, why are you so happy? Did the millionaires do something good with the ball?” you are just being an arsehole. The thrill of victory and agony of defeat are real things. That said, you are correct when you say, “If all sports statisticians quit studying fucking silly games and instead focused on our global economic woes, the world would probably be a better place.” But guess what? It ain’t changing, so you’re just going to have to deal with it.



Watching sports as an adult involves a complicit understanding of and acquiescence to boredom. There is a game every day, and every day sports fans watch that game instead of doing something else – this includes reading a book, watering a garden or watching The Wire again. Sometimes something transcendental happens, like a ballboy catches the ball with the reflexes of a ninja on adderall. More often, something merely cool happens, like Mario Balotelli. Sometimes, the game you’re watching turns out to be the most forgettable 1-0 snoozefest Liverpool and Spurs have ever played. But that’s true about everything in life: It’s not the greatest all the time. But it’s still sometimes the greatest, and that’s pretty fucking good.

Photos by Tom Johnson

The world of sports isn't the only thing we've crammed into a handy guide:

The VICE Guide to Eating Pussy

The VICE Guide to Adulthood

The VICE Guide to Being Gay 

The VICE Guide to Dating Rich Girls