So I got chatting to this girl. She said she was really into football. I said “oh really, how quaint because you’re a woman, what position do you play? Striker? Midfield? Goalkeeper maybe?”. She said she didn’t play football she just watches it. “OK,” I said, “So…. you like watching guys running around in shorts? What a fucking pervert.”
This didn’t happen. But it’s basically exactly the conversation I have with girls when I tell them I am into netball.
I have been a lifelong fan of netball since April 2018.
I’d never really been into proper sport (and of course netball-haters might say I’m still not), until early one morning I caught the semi-final between England and Jamaica at the Commonwealth Games.
What started as a mild curiosity transformed within minutes into a gripping elite sport fest. Now I could describe to you what made it so amazing but this is not the place. I have non-netball-related WhatsApp groups to ruin with this information. But I have been a netball super-fan ever since.
I mentioned to a girl at work I was going to the Netball World Cup. She said “to play or coach?”. I loved the idea that she genuinely thought I was juggling my day job in an office with her with the small matter of being an international sporting figure. Yeah you know the t-shirts I wear to work, with things on them … sponsorships. Yeap that t-shirt with the music notes on it – I get paid £1.4 million a year by the estate of Johann Sebastian Bach. Just to help keep him in the charts.
Aside from the assumption I’m a player, a playa or a pervert, I’ve also had a lot of random conversations with women on dating apps about netball since updating my profile with my love of elite sport. I mean, I describe these as conversations but they tend to be one-sided. Some examples below:
Girl: “Isn’t netball for girls?”
Me: Ignored message
Girl: “I played netball at school. Hated it.”
Me: Ignored message
Girl: “Never watched netball but enjoyed the women’s world cup football.”
Me: Ignored message
Girl: “You really like netball? Interesting.”
Me: Ignored message, sounded sarcastic
Girl: “I see you’re learning piano, how’s that going?”
Me: Ignored message, didn’t even mention netball – what kind of a person…
Girl: “Oh wow you like netball? That’s really awesome, what do you like about it?”
Me: “It’s literally the most elite sport played by the most elite athletes in the world, it’s probably the greatest thing ever invented, I’d be quite happy to watch nothing but netball 24 hours a day, and I’d be open to the idea of you sitting beside me during as long as you only chit-chat during quarter- and half-time breaks.
Girl: Ignored message
It’s not really working for me as you can see.
But one reaction takes some beating. This was not a singleton, this was another girl at work. I will use McCannonymity to protect her identity, not because I particularly have to, but just by way of resurrecting the feature.
Criteria for false names has changed. Whereas it used to be ‘screen roles of Ashley Judd’ it will now be the names of major elite international sportspeople. These will all be netballers, since I would have to churn through hundreds of the world’s top athletes before getting to any non-netballers.
So … I bumped into “Helen” outside for the first time in a while. Helen is a lovely, cheery, bouncy sort. One of my favourites. I can’t wait to tell her about the netball.
I subtly steered the conversation onto my new-found love of elite sport.
“Hey Alan, how’s the house-hunting going? Did you find somewhere?”
“Not yet, too obsessed with netball. Do you watch netball? I can’t get enough of it.”
“Oh OK,” she said, a bit bemused, but par for the course. “You’re so funny. What did you get up to at the weekend?”
Was this meant to be a change of subject (Helen’s was a sledgehammer of a technique compared to the way I deftly moved the topic towards netball). Nice try Helen. I can both answer your question AND keep talking about netball. “Netball, through the night actually. I watch the Australian stuff, there’s a special app for it. Was watching netball right all night on Friday, then got up at 3am on Sunday to watch more.”
She took the bait, “How did you get so into this all of a sudden, and you seem quite keen to talk about it.”
I told Helen I got into it during the Commonwealth Games, never really been into sport, been watching it most days since, a fairly rehearsed explanation that had come up in almost every conversation I’d had with anyone since April 2018.
I explained, “My colleagues take the piss out of me a bit because of it.”
“Oh you told your team all about it?”
“Yeah, but it’s funny, every time they talk about football, I talk about netball, every time they send a football joke or pic on the WhatsApp group, I send a netball pic or a netball video or describe the netball I just watched.”
The conversation continued but after a few more minutes, Helen’s look was going beyond what I would describe as standard bemusement. She looked like she wanted to ask something but wasn’t sure how to word it. “I love how open you are about it,” she said. I mean, come on, it’s unusual for guys to like netball, but this is the guy who knows more about Eurovision than 98.6% of gay men, and went to see Christmas with STEPS at the London Palladium. I’ve known Helen a long time, this surely can’t be a surprise. I am, if nothing else, quite the contrarian.
I challenged her to say what was on her mind, admittedly just because I wanted to talk more about netball and felt better about sponging her attention and squandering her break-time if she was at least saying things.
She leaned forward a bit and looked up and down the street. There was a passer-by approaching. She held her tongue as they walked past. Holy shit what was it she was going to ask.
“Sorry if this is a dumb question,” she began.
If this is about why the Vitality Super League doesn’t adopt the Suncorp Super Netball bonus points system, I’ll scream…
She leaned forward again, and whispered… “What’s the difference between netporn and normal porn?”
Excuse me, what?
“Like, isn’t it all on the net now anyway, so isn’t that just porn?”
Hang on, she thinks I’ve been talking about “netporn” – I’ve been talking about this for ten fucking minutes! “Netball. NetBALL! You’ve thought all this time I was talking about porn??”
“Well, yeah, that’s why I thought it was funny you were being so open about it. You said you watched it late at night. I wondered what the Australian stuff was but… And you said when your colleagues talked about football you’d annoy them by talking about porn. Like ‘hey did you see how this footballer played the ball last night’, and you’d be like ‘I saw some balls being played with’, or ‘I saw someone score too'”
(She actually used this example, I have not embellished this. I love Helen, and would quite happily marry her but unfortunately my expectations of relations with the opposite sex have been ruined by the volume of unrealistic porn I apparently watch).
But what about the backstory, I got into it during the Commonwealth Games?
“Yeah,” she explained, ” I thought that because you don’t like sport, so you were bored of all the Commonwealth Games on tv so you started watching porn.” Incredible. But sort of made sense right?
We rolled back through that ten minute conversation, and literally everything I had said to her had made sense as either netball or “netporn”. It had been a perfect comical misunderstanding, but after the event, one thing stuck in my mind as the weirdest part of all…
Given what Helen thought I was talking about, I expected more of a raised eyebrow when I’d said I was going to see it live in a few weeks…
You can now listen to this McCannecdote as part of a new thing I’m trying – these are recorded using my own actual voice so it will feel like you were LITERALLY THERE (when I was recording)…