I just finished reading Carra: My Autobiography. It is Jamie Carragher's story thus far (he's in his early 30s). I read it because he is one of the core leaders of my favorite football (soccer) team: Liverpool Football Club.
What make his book good is that he writes it from a local perspective. In Britain, the local team is integrated into the local culture. In Liverpool, there are two teams: Liverpool and Everton. One cannot be a fan of both; it is either one or the other. For most Brits, local football trumps national football. Jamie was raised in blue (Everton) but as a teen and professional, his employer and eventual loyalty became red (Liverpool).
The book provides a great overview of the more recent history of Liverpool football. It gave me some great memories of some of the great matches and cups Liverpool has won these past ten years. It also gave me time to ponder on some issues Jamie raised, directly or by accident. Here are three:
1- Passion In Athletics -- We see passion in sports all the time -- the NFL, college football and basketball, NASCAR, the NBA. From eight until 30, if Ohio State lost a football game, I'd be ill for days. Today, that sick feeling rears its head on occasion. The last time was in 2010 in the NFC Championship when Farve threw an INT just as they were about to kick the winning field goal. I still have my teams but I just accept that a championship is very rare and if they do not win it all, I can have joy in a good season. I do not get worked up over a loss, disappointed, yes, but I get over it quickly.
The problem with obsessive passion in sports, or in anything for that matter, is that it becomes a form of personal deity. Sports are for entertainment, not for worship. Most people cannot relate to the love people have for their team. It is ingrained into their personal if not community culture. Jamie indirectly points out that for most of those in the Kop (not just a location but a term associated with the most passionate of Liverpool followers), their passion is second to none. For them it is their place of worship.
2 - Money In English Football -- today, when Manchester United beat Manchester City 2-1, that was the most expensive two teams that have ever played one another. Think Yankees-Red Sox and double it. The problem in the English Premier League (and in the Spanish La Liga and Italian Serie A) is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. 75 percent of the teams have no chance of winning the league title or playing in the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League. Today in English football, it is ManU, Chelsea, Arsenal, now Man City followed by Liverpool and Tottenham. There is no coincidence that the teams with the most money play for the most cups year after year. I have a problem with this.
3 - The Concept of Family -- What struck me as I read Jamie's words is that his concept of family is the way most Brits view family. It is totally normal for a man and woman to have children prior to marriage. The institution of marriage is still practiced but its meaning has diminished. Having children prior to marriage is the norm.
The Mormon way (that which is supported by Biblical teachings) is the exception in the Western world. The British way has become the norm. Sexual abstinence until marriage is unheard of for most. Marriage is nice but not essential for a "happy" family. It makes me realize how uniquely refreshing it is to be LDS. The principles are true and will stand the test of time.
If you like or want to learn about Liverpool football, then this makes for a great read. I'd also be interested in your "observations."