Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Secret of Football Fiction

It's no secret that I've been writing a new blog. The football fiction content has been severely limited. But I've rectified the problem and finally got back to writing about football fiction. You can look at it here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Changes are afoot...

I have mentioned in passing that things might be changing around the simplest game offices... and then, of course, there were a few erratic posts and it looked like I just couldn't shake it. But things, new things really are afoot

In the next few weeks the changes will become permanent and the new blog will be rolling like a solid pass down the touchline.
The simplest game blog will be housed under the simplest game banner, but things will be changing a bit. The content will still contain the tom foolery and the football fiction shenanigans, but it will now be run alongside a blog under my own name.Yes, thesimplestgame has been stripped of its anonymity, among other things.

It's still very much in development but the new site is running. Have a look anyway...the (new) simplest game.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

bitterness and reticence and biographic nonsense

The leg’s better, much better, thanks. The bullet wound is healing painfully slowly, as is the way with someone in the early autumnal stages of life, so the wife (still laughing) assures me. Still no football though. Or running. It’s a bit rubbish.

And the football season’s finished.

Thesimplestgame would like to reticently and bitterly offer a heartless congratulations to the debt-ridden conglomerations who triumphed. Well-done’s must go to both Chelsea and Man (and boy) United.

Though on reflection, there is no need for bitterness or reticence. These clubs actually need our help. Yes, our help. Both squads will need large and exceptionally absorbent towels to dry their eyes after their respective puerile remonstrations and humiliating demonstrations of footballing impoverishment in the Champions League. Winning the Premiership or the vainglorious FA Cup cannot remove the images of forever-tarnished, fat and teary, petted-lips from our collective minds. It only makes their plight, a plight no football fan can afford or ignore.

So here’s thesimplestgame’s end of season charity plea: If anybody out there has a spare £750 million, could you help either of these dispassionate and unemboldened clubs, who, despite having the most expensive and roundly celebrated footballers on the planet, were unable to carry themselves with even a modicum of the decorum expected of professionals in other walks of life.

Maybe I’m bitter because I’d just got myself fit enough to play for the first time in years – a series of bulldozer throwing injuries had kept me from playing the beautiful game in my characteristically horrible and uncouth fashion for almost six years - and I find myself sidelined again. Maybe I’m bitter because the teams I follow lack the strength to carry the weight of these 'giant' clubs' debt-accumulating prowess. Maybe I’m just sick of watching pampered, excessively-paid, over-rated adult footballers kick-off like kindy kids. Maybe I'm just bitter.

Man (and boy) United Striker, Wayne Rooney, at 20 years old, agreed a 12-year contract with HarperCollins to write, that’s right, write a minimum of five books for an advance of £5m plus royalties.(He really is holding a Harry Potter book in his right hand.) If you were ever wondering where the boundaries of football fiction and non-fiction blurred together, thesimplestgame suspects that there would be a good place to start looking.

Monday, May 18, 2009

too old for football?

Thesimplestgame is couch bound. Ripped a hole in the middle of a calf. Its no bovine injury, the back of the lower left leg feels like it has a bullet wound.

“Too old for football,” the wife laughed. Apparently there’s a cut off. When do we get too old for football? Isn’t it what keeps us young? The ranting at the telly, the boyhood obsession. The love of football was there before the wife was thought of. Yes, churlishness is a possibility.

She laughed even harder. She knows football is important, I'd go as far as to say she knows its really important, but there’s only a little recognition of a deeper understanding. It’s only a game, she used to say.

I know, that’s what I thought. She knows better now. She’s happy with a win and regrettably sympathetic if there’s not. That, my friends, is all a football fan need ask for in a non-footballing partner. Just ask Nick Hornby.

I’m taking part in the QWC AWonline writer’s race tonight. It’s the reason I’m blogging here now. A warm up. A wee stretch before the exertions. And yes, both were done preceding the sustained the footballing injury (I was the only one who did!).

Here’s the link - AWonline. It’ll be a laugh. AWonline has some brilliant resources attached. Well worth having a look at.

Changes in these blogging patterns are still afoot, or there are issues in squad development, something like that. thesimplestgame promises, if nothing else, to keep ye posted.

Incidentally, the painting is called Middle-Aged Men Playing Football by David Fawcett. You can look at and even purchase his very nice paintings here, if you're interested.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Thesimplestgame is currently working on some rather dramatic (for us anyway) changes in format. I know. Sounds really exciting. It's not really.

We can only apologies for the somewhat prolonged, or, you could say, slightly frozen, service of late and assure you that issues of intermittency will be resolved as soon as poss. The new changes will be rolled out when they're done. It might take some time though, so please bear with us. We might even do something about the pishy patter.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Have ye got a pair of boots?

The first paid football players were Scottish. They emerged out of the mists on the rain soaked border to show the English how it was done. I like that. I like it a lot. It might reinforce myths concerning the Scot’s financial shrewdness, maybe not those working for the Bank of Scotland right enough, but I like to think it was because they were so skilled or at least skilled enough to warrant payment. I’m not ruling out the combination option, but the point stands – at least once in the history of the beautiful game, the Scots were considered to be very good, maybe even the best.

Since then, before you say it… things have changed a little. A helluva lot, actually. Yes, sadly it seems we’ve been getting progressively worse since those glorious halcyon days. The lowest point, worse than Ally McLeod’s late 70s combover and nationwide humiliation, came under the stewardship of a horrible wee German - no the other one - Berti Vogts. He steered us into some serious trouble. Enough to arouse suspicions about his real motives.

Even before that though, things had taken a turn for the worst. The stalwarts all retired, Goram gave up gambling and didn’t need the cash, Wee Baz wouldn’t play with Lambie and cheeky chappy Coisty got too heavy to lace his own boots. We’d also unhappily started on the Jackie Charlton management plan. Surprisingly, handing a pair of badly polished Umbro boots to any player who’d been near a plate o’ haggis, tatties ’n neeps, an empty Irn Bru bottle or had been seen waiting outside their local chip shop for a battered mars bar supper, is still proving to be as stable a proposition as making an investment in a US bank.

Recruitment aside, our world ranking unceremoniously dropped to 254th. One place above Burkina Faso. It prompted a Scottish national daily newspaper to pose the following question…
What’s the difference between Scotland and Burkina Faso? One’s a football backwater the other is a small country in Africa.
Now obviously thesimplestgame don’t want to be knocking an entire African nation or their footballing prowess. Professional players in Burkina get paid less than 30 pound a week apparently - less than it would cost to rap one of Wayne Rooney’s ears in brown paper. Burkina Faso is not a culturally impoverished country. It hosts one of the world’s most celebrated film festivals and, importantly, football is the favourite national pastime of the "men of integrity". Their poorly financed professional game is in 'development'. It’s not even 50 years old yet. It’s a different story for Scotland. To go from the very origins of professional football to not even being in the top 250 rankings was a blow even the most tartan spectacled fans couldn’t help making light of. Today, things are on the up, we were even in the world's top ten for a couple of weeks, yet we've failed to qualify for a major tournament in over a decade.

Now this is a site dedicated to football fiction, so it is with a mixture of pride and dismay that we discovered of the earliest examples of football fiction, including Tom Brown’s Days at Oxford in 1861 and PG Wodehouse’s Psmith and Mike in 1910, only Arnold Bennett’s The Card in 1911 features professional footballers, not much of a stretch considering the advent of the sport's professionalism only occurred a couple of years earlier. From an academic point of view this is what makes us happy. The dismay comes in that so few of the players in his work were Scottish (none - I think I need to check). Is it a legimate criticism to hold against the Yorkshireman? Some would say it is. Still we feel there’s a definitely place for his work on the football shelf before any of his pioneering peers.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

staff boundaries

I was in a large bookshop yesterday. For the sake of the story, we’ll call it Boundaries. Hey, before you throw down in disgust. Try it. It makes you feel much better about shopping in your favourite independent bookshop. Boundaries has lots of books. A lot. A really good selection. But then, they should have. It’s a feckin BIG shop and maybe that’s why it’s kind of expensive, but maybe it's not. I'm talking expensive compared to independent bookshop prices. Take Michael Chabon’s Maps and Legends. $32.95 in yer local independent. $57 in Boundaries. I mean Really? Is there any need for that shit. I thought the idea of the corporate homogeneity is larger volume, cheaper prices. The Indies can be more expensive than chain-store equivalents sometimes, but at least you get the benefit of informed, interested staff who generally know what they’re talking about. In chain-world this is the exception rather than the rule, but we get it and we even accept it. The indies want you to come back because they like it so, so much they want you to do the same.

Boundaries isn’t always more expensive, mind. There are exceptions. The ugly spine of ‘fast book nation’ mentalities coupled with economies of scale allow for the notorious 3-for-the-price-2-deal. A bargain? It would be except there’s only ever really one book you want. There’s maybe one other, but it’s a half-interest; a might read if you ever get done reading the things you want to read. The rest you’ve either read already or never will. It’s the ‘more you spend the more you save’ sham. Still it must work for some people and charities like Lifeline definitely benefit.

Before I go on I should declare my part-time employment in a particularly good indie in Brisbane. This is hardly an objective piece, BUT were I otherwise employed, I’m confident I’d make the same observations.

While I was in Boundaries, I asked a staff member at the counter if there was a sports fiction section? He looked at me like I’d asked him if I could poo in his shoe. “You what, mate?” he says.
I said, “Sports fiction – fiction with sport in it. D’you have any books or even a section of sports fiction?” He looked at me the way people look in empty plastic bags, when they know there’s nothing in them. They’re done with them. Only good for drowning seagulls now.
So I said, “You know books that are fictional and have sport in them?”
He actually scratched his head.

Now the first time, it could well have been my lilting Scottish brogue that confused him. The second time maybe too. But the third time I said it like I was patronising a non-English speaker. Hand signals and everything. “You know? Books…that…Ah rrre …phic shon al …annnDD… have… sssspoarrrt… iiinnn… tthem?” I said it the way Lee Majors ran after he’d had the $6million dollar operation, a bit of creaking and a lot of slow motion.
A solid wall of blankness.
It was disconcerting.
Another scratch and a flicker of light intruded into the empty space in his eyes. He said, “There’s some sports books upstairs mate.”
He was right. But they were all non-fiction. I said, “Yeah thanks.”

What chance do I have of establishing football fiction as a genre if the staff at one of the city’s largest bookshops cannot imagine that a thing like sports fiction exists?