I've never exactly been a football fan, but on Tuesday I did start to understand the appeal. Basically, it was a cup match between Crystal Palace and Coventry, which meant that it couldn't end in a draw (one team had to get knocked out). That in turn meant that if it was a draw at the end of the normal game then they'd go into extra time (and then penalties), so I'd be stuck there for ages. About 10 minutes before the end, Palace scored, making the score 1-0. When it then looked as if Coventry might equalise, I was thinking "No, don't! Phew, the goalie saved it." So, similar feelings to the home supporters, even if I had a slightly different motivation.
The behaviour of fans at games does still bother me, because I think that it brings out the worst in people, and I have major doubts about whether encouraging mob aggression is really a good thing. (I'm not particularly impressed by the players either, but there are fewer of them, and I have lower expectations there anyway.) I see young children being taken along, and basically being raised in an environment where hurling abuse is not just tolerated but actively encouraged, which means that the cycle will perpetuate. I was brought up to value good sportsmanship (by my teachers at boarding school), and that's stayed with me, so it seems reasonable that the converse would also apply. (I'm planning to elaborate more on this idea in another blog entry.)
However, I've also found that counter-examples are the best response to prejudice (i.e. I can't say "Everyone in group X is bad" if I know someone in that group who's good), and in this case I think back to one of the college staff from Aidans; I won't name him here, for privacy reasons, but any of my Durham friends will know who I'm talking about. He was (and probably still is) a keen Newcastle United supporter, and often wore a replica football shirt when he was on duty. I don't know how he behaved at matches, but he was a good guy who did a lot to help me, so I can't just write off all supporters as a bunch of yobs. I was also heartened by reading Dom's text piece at MegaTokyo earlier this week (scroll down to the bottom of that page) - that implies that the people who behave badly at games can actually have redeeming features when they're elsewhere. I've committed to doing one more football duty (this coming Tuesday) but after that I think I'll take a break from them for a while; I certainly do my share of hours, and I'll do other duties, so I'll try not to feel guilty about shirking.
On a lighter note, I've been discovering the pitfalls of having a common name. When I was on duty at the duathlon last weekend, there were two Marks and two Johns on the same station. On Tuesday, there were three of each (in the stadium as a whole), and I was paired off with another John at my station. Other people in the division have been muttering about thinking up nicknames for us, to reduce the confusion...
Meanwhile, following gaspodog's suggestion from a while back, I'm now a member of the Royal Institution (the people who do the Christmas science lectures on BBC2). Admittedly, one shallow motivation was that I get to add extra letters to the alphabet soup after my name - my current score is "John C. Kirk, BSc (Hons) (Dunelm) MSc MBCS MIAP MRI". But I did enjoy the Christmas lectures that I saw a few years ago (Susan Greenfield's about the human brain), and I now get cheap/free entry to their events, so it's a bit like being able to go to university lectures again. I just need to squeeze them into my non-existent free time, and clear my magazine backlog, then I can take out a subscription to "New Scientist"... Anyway, I'm mainly mentioning this here because they have "Friday Evening Discourses", which are black tie events that are only open to members and guests, not the general public. So, if you'd like to go to one, give me a yell; I'm not planning to attend all of them, but it doesn't hurt to ask. In particular, I think that the code breaking one on 28th October looks quite interesting.
Oh, and finally some free advice to people in the Croydon area - avoid "Samo's Pizza". They do good food, but their delivery service is terrible.