As a supporter of a football team who rarely achieve any success, I find it hard to sympathise with those who follow clubs at the top of the Premier League. Their games are televised every week, they have the best players and yet still their supporters complain that they haven’t won any silverware for the past three years.
This season, my team, Brentford, known by their fans as ‘the Barcelona of the lower leagues’, have finished 9th in League One. The top two teams are promoted and the next four play-off for the opportunity of playing in the Championship. The ‘Mighty Bees’ will have finished about six or seven points short of that elusive 6th position and that was how it has been for most of this season. However, for a period of about three weeks, having won five games in a row, it began to look as if they might just sneak into that 6th place.
It was at this time that I remembered a quotation from Clockwise,a film from the mid-1980s in which a character played by John Cleese said, “It's not the despair. I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand.” You see, it is the lot of a supporter of a middling football team to know every so often that hope, only, inevitably, it seems, to have that hope dashed. Having hopes raised before being snatched away in this fashion must surely be worse than following a team who haven’t scored for weeks and who are already destined for relegation by January.
I’m not sure that hope of promotion is much like the way that the Bible describes hope, although one used to hear elderly church members describing deceased friends as having been, ‘promoted to glory’. Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, defines ‘hope’ most clearly: “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” No one ‘hopes’ for what they already have. The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews adds his or her two penn’orth: “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Faith is hoping with confidence, ‘playing to the best of your ability until the end of the season’ or, to use an expression I discovered a few weeks ago, “Faith is not being sure where you’re going … but going anyway.”