Football, Narrative Tension and Career


Just a thought about the end of the football season…

Football is often described as the great modern day drama, even if you don’t like football particularly you can probably see how this is true of sport or at least how sport is perceived by many people in society in these terms.

Look at any football commentator in England (or probably western Europe) at the moment and you will see them a wash with retrospectives. Who had a good season? Who had a bad one? Who is retiring/ moving on? How will they be remembered? There is a palpable sense of the world of football trying to make sense of it all and I feel a slight feeling of things being empty now that they are over…

If football is the great modern day drama then could you argue that there is more narrative tension than narrative resolution? You see very few teams are actually successful. You could argue that only one team, Chelsea, was successful this year, only they won the league. Every other team only gets a sense of success in relation to previous failures or that they are now positioned to one day hit it big and win something.

The problem is one team, Chelsea, won the League and even of Premier League teams only 3-4 teams realistically ever could have. Sport is dominated by money and only the rich and powerful ever win. Take newly promoted Norwich, what’s the best they could hope for next year? Probably not being relegated. Over the next five years? A stable top flight team? A cup? European football? Win the title? Don’t make me laugh… not without a big money backer.

Football fundamentally uses narrative to sell not to exist. It does not produce satisfying final chapters just the promise of a new chapter. You see if we are serious football is ultimately unsatisfying for 99% of teams because it is based around a myth of success and progress which only the 1% can aspire to. But the 1% need the 99% to buy into the fact that they could make it. Sound familiar?

You see the existence of tension can blind to how meaningful something is. Now is career the same? Are we really moving up the ladder? Getting somewhere or making progress. Or are we just part of a system that creates tension, the appearance of progress for the sake of the few at the top?

I feel these notions of success and progress may create effort but do they deliver? Like football are we faced with asking if it is just a myth? Can we ever get enough? Or do we need to look away from progress to values or relationships to find meaning? Are those things just as transient and are we really stuck facing an existential cliff? Just a thought…

One thought on “Football, Narrative Tension and Career

  1. lots of points here that relate to 2 of my passions. firstly in relation to the narrative around football, you find your average lazy commentator tends to fit the narrative around the result. how many games that may have ended up as a convincing winning score line were actually a lot tighter for the most part, but its easy to talk about how one team dominated, how the other team was poor etc how many teams that have lost 2/3 on the bounce (ie most of the smaller teams all the time in the premier league) are on a poor run, and need to arrest the decline. I find the monotony of such analysis a turn off, and watch a lot of football with the sound down. which may lead to career narratives in some way – its not always good to have your story narrated by someone else and a simplistic overview – its important you find the thread, the context, set the goals yourself. And an Adviser can be helpful in this regard, reality check is fine, but stereotypical and broad brush interpretation less so. I wonder if a good football manager is someone who can turn the lazy narrative volumes down and help the team create and be focused on their own goals. I wonder if a good Career Adviser is the same, I wonder if my teams manager (Garry Monk) managed to do this effectively with the swans this season. take pride in achieving the targets you have set, not what the pundits class as success or failure. there is probably something in all of that….. I could go on 🙂

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