I'm a Female TV Sports Addict
Do you realise the pressure I've been under this summer? Not because of my job, or an unusual number of family celebrations. Instead, it's the pressure of watching every World Cup game, the tennis, the Tour de France and keeping an eye on the Premiership transfer market, whilst still maintaining a semblance of normal family life.
I love watching sport; I was brought up on it. It was a family thing - tennis and athletics for mum, footie for dad. I remember the delicious ritual of closing the curtains to keep out the summer sun while we watched the Olympics, the FA Cup final, the snooker. Match of the Day still evokes the smell and taste of late night fish and chips, eaten from the paper in front of the telly.
I find watching sport deeply relaxing. It takes me outside my ageing body and into the beautiful, strong, powerful bodies of the athletes I watch. I immerse myself in their physicality, their effort and ambition. I feel their joy, their pain, their triumph. I experience their adversity and urge them on; I relish their audacity and guile. Through them, I can experience the joyful release of a moment of triumph, the groaning frustration of a near miss, and the delight of movement honed to perfection. Seeing top flight football at pitch level is a thrill - it's only then you realise the speed of movement and the bravery with which these athletes go for the ball.
Like most football fans, I switch effortlessly from being player to manager. Is the formation working? Who shall I bring to change the pace of the game? This is the intellectual challenge of watching sport - analysing the strategy of the chess game and working out the winning moves.
I am fascinated by the biomechanics of athlete's movements, especially football players. Have you ever noticed the lopsided gait of Steven Gerrard? Or observed the way Messi's low centre of gravity helps him balance and turn? Have you ever seen the documentary where 17 cameras focus only on the movements on Zinedine Zidane? There is a marvellous stillness in the most talented strikers, a focused watching, like a bird of prey hovering in the air. Then the sudden acceleration, a burst of speed and effort and - at best - a precision strike.
Not content with inhabiting athletes' bodies, I also invade their minds. I like to work out how each individual overcomes nerves and harnesses their hunger to win - honing their technique through hours of practice. When I watch Ronnie O'Sullivan, the snooker player, I imagine him in a session with renowned sports psychologist, Steve Peters, and I recreate their conversations about how he will control his impulses in this match. I think of the work they must to do together to get him to the place he is in now. I enjoy the psychological pressure of snooker and the beautiful physics which plays out on the table.
Am I boring you? I tend to keep quiet about this obsessive love of sport, except when it's useful as a bonding device with (usually male) colleagues and taxi drivers across the world. I have played a game of naming every premiership football ground with a guide in Venezuela; I have discussed Arsenal's tactics with a guy in the jungle in Malaysia. Football in particular is a shared language which helps you connect, even if you are a woman in a land where only men follow football.
I'm not interested in statistics - I can barely remember a football score from one game to the next. But watching sport is one of the central pleasures in my life and I intend to enjoy it for as long as I am alive.