I had the undoubted pleasure of taking a 13-year old to his very first football match yesterday and it taught me something that I knew was true, but had kind of forgotten. When you look at something quite mundane for the very first time, it can be wonderful.
So, the game ended 0-0, but there was excitement and colour, and (very limited outbursts of) flair, and atmosphere. And I asked him afterwards whether he had enjoyed the game and he said he loved it.
And as the person accompanying him it gave me a vicarious experience of newness too. Because as I pointed out the various aspects of the new stadium and had to describe what the old ground used to be like, it gave me a new appreciation for the niceties of a purpose-built place. When I pointed out the tactics, or lack of them, it made me appreciate again how football is a relatively simple, yet impossibly hard, game. And when I compared the teams we were watching against the bloated corporate behemoths of the Premier and Champions Leagues, I reasserted the belief that we were watching 'real' football, and in that moment reaffirmed my faith.
Of course, I know that seeing it with someone who is seeing it for the first time gives you a new perspective. I'd forgotten how much, though.
It made me think again of the vagaries of affiliation, when I explained that despite living over 16 years in a city that now has a team knocking on the door of the Premier League, my true loyalty lay with the club I supported as a boy.
It made me excited again about the idea of football, and tempts me to try out some new teams, places and experiences. Maybe this is what fuels the phenomenon of ground-hopping - it's the opportunity to experience novelty in a relationship that has long grown stale.
Maybe another solution is to always take someone new with you, and see it the way they do?
I wonder whether a pair of fresh eyes, the innocence and wide-eyed wonder of a total newbie, would make such an impact on my church life too.