Saturday, February 05, 2011

Book Review: We Don't Know What We're Doing

This was another of my charity shop finds, spotting Adrian Chiles, formerly of The One Show on the front cover. Basically, Chiles is fanatical about his football team, West Bromwich Albion, through the good times and the (much more often, it seems) bad times. I know all about that; well it comes with supporting the Northern Ireland international team...

Chiles records a year in his life, organised by West Brom's fixtures in the Premiership. As well as talking a bit about the football (but not too much to put a non-footie enthusiast off), he talks a lot more about trying to find out why he keeps going when his team puts him through agony, and causes friction in the home.

He also spends the year getting to know some of his fellow fans, telling their life stories, their memories of the Albion, the lengths they go to support their team, and so much more. This was perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book - as themes of commitment, dedication and perseverance were explored, in a soccer context.

It's not even that I had to stretch to find parallels with religious commitment, with a total devotion displayed on almost every page. Chiles freely admits that he nearly constantly thinks about the Albion - even more than sex. Indeed, 'my whole attitude to life is shaped by the Albion' - if they're doing well, he's great company, but if not, then he's miserable.

On a day of celebration for the fans, Chiles notes that 'I have this massive bond with them, a really extraordinary intimacy, yet I know nothing about them.' It's easy to see how this can be the case at a football match - you're sitting beside someone for ninety minutes, sharing a passion for the team, but not really getting to know who they are. The pity, though, is that this can be the case in some churches too - alongside someone, but not ever knowing them.

Along the way, we're given some funny moments, some touching moments, and some very sad moments, both on the pitch and off. You can't help be drawn into the team's fortunes, as you keep turning pages to find out what happens. However, there is quite a lot of strong language, which you do hear at a football game, but it's probably a little too strong for my liking.

An interesting read, with some illustrations of dedication to a cause. Chiles' personality shines through, and you can't help but feel sympathy for him when you turn the last page.

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