It’s a question that’s been put to me a number of times in the past month. Truth is, I can’t decide.
If you take the concept to mean ‘the fear of missing out’ then, no, I don’t believe I’ve closed myself off to a deep well of inspiration, joy or stimulation. The fact that I don’t know who scored what, or who’s been sacked, or where Everton are in the league, really doesn’t bother me.
I also don’t feel as if I’m missing out by no longer having to relentlessly follow the footy scores on my phone or delicately needing to engineer ways of watching Match of the Day over the weekend.
My chats in the pub or over the dinner table haven’t once been harmed by my total inability to talk about footy either. I have simply become slightly more adept at spotting the approach of footy-talk and diverting the conversation in another direction.
Yet at the same time life has definitely changed. These days I read the newspaper from front cover to back, so that I can judge when the football news is approaching by folding over the top corner of the last few pages.
I also can’t listen to the radio at any time near the hour mark and need to have my headphones primed at all times when working beside other blokes, just in case they happen to start talking about the fates of Liverpool or Southampton (in case you’re interested, Jimi Hendrix is brilliant for this).
When watching the TV news I’m essentially as jumpy as a seasoning cat and constantly sticking my fingers in my ears or thrusting my hand out to block the screen while loudly barking ‘la, la, la, la, not listening, not listening’ and pacing out of the room.
But here’s the rub: in recent days I have found myself increasingly drawn to the snippets of footy-related news to have defeated my radar. It’s only been a couple of very tiny stories about Rooney and Hodgson, and neither has actually contained any information. They’ve basically just been plugs for news features inside The Times and Independent.
The difference is I’ve looked. I’ve wanted to know. A few weeks ago I wouldn’t have considered this and instantly turned my head. But I looked and wanted – actually wanted – to know.
In psychological terms this can be written off as ‘compulsively trying to engage with rewarding stimuli’. Essentially, I am trying to shave the edge off my footy withdrawal with a short, safe burst of Rooney news.
If that is the case, however, then surely I must be missing footy to some degree? How else can you explain my decision to want to read about Rooney, when I’ve now clocked up a month of totally avoiding him and his ilk? The only way I can accurately describe it is to say that I don’t want to look but can’t stop myself. As the head shrinkers say, it’s a compulsion.
Or is it? I actually believe it goes far deeper.
One thing I have learned from this lunacy is just how omnipresent footy is in our society. From the TV to the Internet, to advertising hoardings, the signs outside pubs and children’s clothing, there’s hardly anything that hasn’t been touched by the Premier League to some degree. Don’t believe me? Walk into a shop – any shop – and see if there’s anything footy-related on show.
Put it this way: this week I discovered that England beat San Marino 6-0, with Rooney equally Bobby Charlton’s all-time scoring record in the process. This is despite not knowing there was a game beforehand or looking at the sports news. How did I find out? Through reading a website recipe for butter-steamed Greens and quickly glancing at a sidebar.
So do I miss footy? Not on a conscious level. But subliminally, I fear there truly is no escape.
Now I need to find out why.