I am a sedentary bloke - that I admit -something like our great friend, the King of Birmingham, only a trifle less so. He never takes exercise; he never travels, except when he is carried. When I have to travel I have to take shanks' mare - there lies the difference. But the fact of being a sedentary bloke does not necessarily debar me, I should fain hope, from forming an unbiased opinion on the moral and social effects of football on the community. Do you know that I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that football is going to have more influence on the future of Scotland than our much prized system of national and free education? There are two contending forces. Which is to gain the upper hand is the problem that is giving not a few, including myself, a good deal of trouble. Of course my country friends won't admit for a moment that education will be beaten. I only hope they are in the right, but us the towns make the nation, that which affects the towns must in the end influence the whole body politic. Tut there I am already drifting into philosophy - like a minister giving the "application" at the beginning instead of the finish of his discourse.
Let us have a look at this football business fair and square in the face. Aberdeen has now; reached such a stage that it may be safely taken as a good subject for diagnosis, and I must confess I don't like the symptoms. The tongue, for instance, has got dreadfully furred, Oh! the language that you near at a football match! Is it not "haw-ful?" We used to think it required a visit to a famous fish market in the great Metropolis to learn how to conjugate the verb to objurgate. Not so now. We can get the pure and unadulterated article at our own doors, with a genuine Doric flavour, and delivered with a vim that would do credit to the prowess of a Billingsgate adept. Young Aberdeen had always a penchant for this practice, but an older Aberdeen is taking up the running, and beating the rising generation hollow. Curious is it not, that the dirty tongue should be so peculiar to the football field? You do not get it in connection with any other class of sport, not even on the race-course. It is not for me to trace how this comes about; it is sufficient to know that the practice of using unauthorised English prevails to a most - well, the word must come out - detestable extent in connection with this game of football. See to it, my friends, reform this - ay, reform it altogether if you can.
See, again, how seriously the head becomes affected by this - shall I call it craze? When once an interest in football is excited, all other matters? good, bad, and indifferent?get the shunt. "I say, Jack, there is a good thing on at the Central Park this afternoon : Are you going?" Of course, Jack and his mate go; and from that hour until well on to the middle of next week the talk is of half-backs, forwards, and -----, but I am getting into deep water, as I know nothing whatever of the game. I could not tell a Rugby from an Association game, although they do say that the difference is very marked on account of the greater display of muscular energy in the one than in the other - in short, in the one the players kick each other as well as the ball.
How the battle of tongues rages on a Saturday night, As the crowds wend their way citywards, by foot, by car, by cab, the babel goes on without ceasing. It may rain and pelt, blow and snow, it matters not; the elements have not the slightest effect on the football enthusiast. He is above and beyond all outside influences; his whole mind and soul are in the toils of the football fiend, and out of them he cannot get. What his dreams by night may be I am not in a position to say; only I would not like to sleep alongside a football player who, say, had imbibed a "round 0" or two by way of lubricating his speaking tube. It is said that Blackburne, the famous chess player, composes problems in his sleep. That would be a mild performance compared to a footballer rehearsing a game of football among the blankets.
There is, however, a serious side to this "over-intensity of interest." It is not healthy. It leaves effects that lend to results which are often much to be deplored. These fits of excitement require to be stimulated, and the social glass is of course the readiest form of stimulant at command. The spacious bars that are now to be found all over the city - thanks in a large measure to the "reforming" spirit and encouragement of our Temperance bench?afford ample and abundant facilities for this purpose. There is no need, friend Wyness, to go in search of a cause for the growing hilarity of young Aberdeen on Saturday nights. You may safely credit, the football fiend with three-fourths of it; the other fourth may be put down to election excitement and the bad weather.
Look into one of these bars on a Saturday evening. So utterly are the footballers under the subjugation of their particular - I was almost going to say patron - fiend, that they take no thought of what, or how much, they are drinking. A young lad, who, under ordinary conditions, would be content with a moderate quantity of liquor, is put off his guard while the football fit is on, and he only awakens to the extent of his excess when he rises next morning and finds a "cutter" where his cash ought to be.
Then there is that other popular outlet for the excitement - the smoking concert. I am old enough to remember the time when the "free-and-easy" was a popular institution in Aberdeen. The authorities put them down, and it is not my place to sit in judgment on them for doing so. Some people think they merely drove the sore in to break out afresh and with increased violence in other places. That, however, by the way. What I was going to say is this that, for the life of me, I can see precious little difference between the "free-and-easy" and the latter-day smoking concert. I have been at both, and my impression is that quite as much drinking goes on at the one as the other. I might be expected to say that the singing at the smoking concert is of a higher order. But I won't. It is nothing of the kind. You will hear as suggestive and senseless ditties at a smoking concert as were ever sung at a "free-and-easy. There may be a tinge more shirt front and a "few remarks," now and again by the chairman and others; but, dear me, that does not make a mighty difference. The essentials are the same, the after effects are identical; and I defy anyone to prove that more good comes out of the one than the other. There, I don't care a rap who denies it.
I am not a member of the Social Purity Association. I believe every individual has quite enough on his hands when he looks after the work of reforming himself; but I do say that football, when carried to the extent which it now is, has a direct tendency towards putting young men on the down grade.