The friendships that thrive on football banterby Benjamin Markovits / September 19, 2018 / Leave a comment
Last month, I heard two guys talking on their way into the men’s pond on Hampstead Heath. On the diving platform, the subject was West Ham’s leaky defence. Twenty minutes later, climbing out of the water, they were discussing Chelsea—only Ruben Loftus-Cheek had come up through the academy, and who knows if he’s even going to get a game.
In Barry Levinson’s Diner, released in 1982 but set in Baltimore in 1959, a bunch of guys meet up to talk crap between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, when Eddie Simmons is supposed to get married. They talk about girls, they talk about music (“who’s better, Mathis or Sinatra?”) and they talk sport. It’s a picture of male friendship, stupid and limited and loving.
Eddie is worried. Two nights before his wedding, he makes his fiancée take a test about the Baltimore Colts, the American football team who have just won the championship. If she fails, he threatens to call the whole thing off.
The movie is about nostalgia, twice over—Levinson’s nostalgia for his Baltimore youth, and the guys at the diner who already sense that adult life is pulling them apart. But it’s also about conversation. The cast got together a week before filming and used to hit the nightspots together. Much of the dialogue was ad-libbed.
Aristotle and Larkin up front, with Wordsworth playing in the hole
I never much liked talking music. It seems weird to me that an honourable minority of people admit to having no interest in sport, but it’s hard to find anyone who claims the same about music. Shrevie, one of the Diner guys, is already married and reproaches his wife for never asking him “what’s on the flip side” of a record. He misses how easy it is to talk about this kind of stuff with his male friends. “What’s the big deal?” she says. “It’s only music.” I’m with her.
But sports talk dominated my childhood, not just at school, but at the dinner table, too, where my sisters knew as much and cared as much as I did. What are we talking about, when we talk about sports? Who’s good and why? Who’s going to win? How do things happen? In other…