As the great man's guest must produce his good stories or songs at the evening banquet, as the platform orator exhibits his telling facts at mid-day, so the journalist lies under the stern obligation of extemporizing his lucid views, leading ideas, and nutshell truths for the breakfast table.
Cardinal J. H. Newman, Preface to The Idea of a University, 1852

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The heel of God

FA cup match against AFC Wimbledon, 2nd December 2012. Jon Otsemobor's goal will live in the legends of MK Dons forever. The fans have dubbed it 'the heel of God'.

Sadly, while I was there and in theory in a good position to see it, such is my slow brain that I didn't spot what he did at the time. I thought we just got a lucky bounce! Seeing it on the telly, or the ITV website, though, it is quite sublime. He's casually walking away from the goal and the ball comes down behind him. A nonchalant flick of his heel and it's in the net.

 PS  I wonder what that AFCW fan is saying, 44 seconds into this clip :-)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Following MK Dons has helped me empathize with AFCW fans

Before Wimbledon landed on my doorstep in Milton Keynes, I was largely an armchair follower of football. I had taken my two young sons to Anfield a few times, but that was never going to be viable, on cost or time grounds, but after going to watch the team 3 miles away (OK, not quite my doorstep) I, we all, were gradually drawn in. And now, eight years on, we're hooked: season tickets and away whenever we can.

One of the MK Dons fans on a one our forums got in a strop when we recently drew against Cambridge City (before we beat them 6-1 in the replay at home) and said he was abandoning the Dons. I don't know whether he was for real or a WUM, but the point is that it set me wondering: what would make me abandon Dons? Would anything make me abandon them?  Certainly not drawing - or even losing - to a team like Cambridge City (I was at that draw and it was fun evening out). I can't see any result driving me away. What about a long-term catastrophic decline in form, dropping down the leagues? To league 2? Not a problem at all, I followed them down there once before. Conference Premier? No, I'm sure that wouldn't be a problem. Conference South? Lower still? It is difficult to imagine, but I honestly think I would now stick with them, because they have become my team. (Though I still follow Liverpool: you don't stop loving your parents because you have children to love too!).

I have thought of circumstances when I would, hopefully temporarily, boycott them, as it happens, but it wouldn't be about achievement. Here's one (and it is in no way a criticism of Swindon Town fans): I would not support the team if we were managed by Paolo de Canio. His open support of facism is beyond the pale.  Note that it is not just that he's a fascist - maybe other people in football are too - I'm not saying the manager has to agree with my politics, but de Canio has brought fascism into football and it is not on.

So that's one thing that would drive me away.  How about this one: how about my team moved away from me, like, say, suppose the MK Dons relocated to, oh I don't know, say, the London Borough of Merton?  Well you've already seen that my reason for following MK Dons was that they were local, so, I don't know, maybe that would be a problem. Well of course it would be a problem, but without being in that situation I can't absolutely declare what I would do.

My point, of course, is that it is my following of the MK Dons that enables me to empathize with the plight of the Wimbledon fans ten years ago.  And, just maybe, it has shown me how in a similar situation I would be following AFCW. How ironic is that?

One final observation for this blog post. We among the MK Dons fans who used to, or still do, support some other team are told we are not 'proper' football fans. But what would be more proper: remaining an armchair Liverpool fan or buying a season ticked at actually watching the MK Dons?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Whom do we remember on Remembrance Day?

At the Remembrance Sunday service this morning there was a lot about "remember with gratitude those who, in the cause of peace and the service of others, died in time of war", and "we give thanks for those who died in the cause of freedom and justice". I think that is wrong, that's not what Remembrance Sunday should be about. If we only remember those who died for those 'good' things (peace, freedom and justice) we'll be missing out most people who have died in war.

The point about Remembrance Sunday is that we remember ALL those who died. One of the tragedies of war is that most people die for no good reason at all.

Which is not to say we shouldn't also, and especially, remember those who died for good causes. But the purpose of, and the wonder of, Remembrance Sunday, is that we remember the horror of all the people who die in war.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

MK Dons 2, Oldham Athletic 0 (first league game of the season)

The early season matches in glorious sunshine have a character of their own, and there's something particularly pleasing to win in the heat of the summer.

So it was today, though maybe a bit too hot, especially in the new location of the OfTheNewCity family season tickets. We've taken advantage of the changed pricing to move from The Cowshed to the East Premium: better view (from the middle of the side) but less atmosphere, and full sun on our faces for the whole 2 hours. Especially noticable since the hot weather has appeared from nowhere this weekend, after a miserable summer.

So the Dons trademark passing football under Karl Robinson paid dividends today, though neither of the goals came from the patient passing moves. One was from a corner: perfectly headed in by Darren Potter. The other was from a passing move, but it was a fast break of passes that finished with Daniel Powell taking it across the goal mouth and struck powerfully from close range.

Oldham had the ball in the net but it was disallowed by the linesman, for offside. Oldham fans were furious but I gather that was because they don't understand the offside rule. One of our defenders was behind the Oldham player, but David Martin wasn't, so there was only one defender between the attacker and the goal, it's just that it wasn't the goalie. The viciousness of the Oldham fans invective at linesman was not edifying, and the Dons fans chant of 'We love you linesman, we do; oh linesman we love you' probably didn't do him many favours!

The one downside to the afternoon: Antony Kay sent off after the final whistle. Apparently he'd reacted badly to an Oldham elbow in the face.

Oh yes, and the other unfortunate thing about the afternoon is that I am currently suffering from a 'frozen shoulder' so it is agony if I raise my arms in excited celebration when we score. But I'll happily put up with that for the sake of the club.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dietrich Bonhoeffer's fear of death

Another in my (very) occasional series on death. Here's Dietrich Bonhoeffer writing later in life (apparently when he was about 26) about himself as child:
He liked thinking about death. Even in his boyhood he had enjoyed imagining himself on his deathbed, surrounded by all those who loved him, speaking his last words to them. ... To him death was neither grievous nor alien. He would have liked them all to see and understand that to a believer in God dying was not hard, but a glorious thing. [...]

Then one day he had a grotesque idea. He believed himself to be suffering from the only incurable illness that existed, namely a crazy and irremediable fear of death. The thought that he would really have to die one day had such a grip on him that he faced this inevitable prospect with speechless fear. And there was no one who could free him from this illness, because in reality it was no illness, but the most natural and obvious thing in the world, because it was the most inevitable. He saw himself going from one person to another, pleading and appealing for help. Doctors shook their heads and could nothing for him. His illness was that he saw reality for what it was, it was incurable. He could tolerate the thought for only a few moments. From that day on he buried inside himself something about which for a long time he did not speak or think again. His favourite subject for discussion and for his imagination had suddenly acquired a bitter taste. He spoke no more about fine, devout death, and forgot about it.

From Eberhard Bethge:Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A biography. Revised Edition Fortress Press 2000
A vivid account of what Julian Barnes calls le reveil mortel.

(As I am sure you know, Bonhoeffer was a liberal Christian theologian. His opposition to Hitler got him jailed and, for his involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler, he was executed in 1945, aged just 39. The accounts suggest he faced death bravely.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

I'll be joining the Church of Christ the Cornerstone for the Good Friday midday service in Midsummer Place in the Milton Keynes Shopping centre today.

Good Friday has been an irreducible core of Christianity for me. The thing that remains when I stop believing anything else.

Standing among all the shoppers thinking about the suffering of the world, our - my - material wealth at the expense of other people, the poverty and injustice that need not exist, the destruction of the planet, the mind-bogglingly incomprehensible inequalities. For this and for so many other reasons, being human is, or ought to be, unbearable. I think it would be literally unbearable if we could truly conceive it. Somehow Jesus's death on the cross acknowledges all this, and, well, it doesn't make it OK, but it allows us to acknowledge it and hold on for the hope of Easter.