After five months spent living in a ski resort, completely outside the football bubble, Jamie Hamill reflects on the changes that have occurred during his absence.
‘Roads go ever on
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.’
“Yeah man, did you see that edit by Candide, he sends that rodeo 540 over the gap! That guy is like Poseidon, master of the deep, bro!”
My first thought: this is not football chat. My second: is this even English? I look back at the guy who’s sat in the bar the booth over from me. He’s wearing a hoodie down to his knees, even baggier trousers, and is practically prostate on the bench, his ski boots bucked up like a cowboy seven shots into a tequila meltdown in Tijuana. The only thing more horizontal than his sitting position is his bright turquoise beanie, which is slanted dramatically across his face. You could say he’s wearing it like a beret, an effete nod to France, the country we’re both sat in. I would just say that he’s hammered pissed.
There’s a football match on in the background, but atypical of this ski resort, it’s being contested between two nondescript Spanish sides. I’ll make a (polemical) claim here: Spanish football is boring. Not ‘Stoke 0 – 0 West Ham’ boring. I mean watching paint dry, ‘Junior Chess Championship’ at the local church hall, “We’re spending the weekend with the Grandparents” levels of dullness. The goalkeeper passes to the right-back, who looks up-field, then turns back and returns the pass, ad infinitum.
The guy in the booth behind me chatters on. “…and then he jumps through a chairlift, steals a horse and takes off in a helicopter. I’m telling you man, next level.”
Now this, this sounds interesting. Something I could get behind. The barman clearly feels the same way, as suddenly the channel on the screen flicks over from football to a ski film. Now, a snowboarder is drifting down a spine above a couloir, practically riding aloft a cloud somewhere deep in Alaska. I hear the guy behind me whisper “gnarly” and suddenly he’s gone, full horizontal, pint, importantly, still left on the table.
This was the start of something new.
So, five months later, what was life without football like? I can tell you that it’s not, as Sky Sports would have you believe, incomplete. I haven’t found myself staring gormlessly out of my window, empty and lost, bereft due to the lack of football every Saturday and Sunday. I have been oblivious to one of the most exciting seasons to date and I’ve lost nothing due to it. I can always catch up when Jamie Vardy – The Movie comes out anyway.
Skiing makes an excellent substitute. It is an honest, hard-core sport. Professional skiers are relatable: they’ll chat to you in the street. But by no means can you ever do what they do. There is no Titus Bramble in the ski world. Skiing itself is like no other sport – it’s the closest you will ever feel to flying. The bluebird days dropping in on untouched powder fields make for the best hours of your life. I implore you to delve into the scene: look up Jesper Tjäder on YouTube, follow every revolutionary step taken by Candide Thovex and, if that all seems too much, just watch GNAR and revel in how much fun skiing can be.
I thought the time without football would be unbearable. In fact, it turned out football had been a bit of a burden.
So how long did this new perspective last once I was back in the UK? How long would I be able to resist the allure of football?
Super Saturday. Game Over: I’m chasing the dragon again.