It’s a beautiful game
Time to give SSRIs the boot – Phil has found a sure-fire way to put a grin on depressed patients’ faces. Until next season, that is...
Time to give SSRIs the boot – Phil has found a sure-fire way to put a grin on depressed patients' faces. Until next season, that is...
The North-East is often, and monotonously, described as a hotbed of soccer. It's not, actually. To be accurate it's a hotbed of football, because we reject the word soccer as a crass Americanism. Other forms of football may be available – but not here.
To be even more accurate, it's a hotbed of genuinely, shockingly, dreadful football. It may be true that the North-East produces more professional footballers per head of population than any other region in the UK, but it is also true that its football teams are utter garbage – certainly the most underachieving and disappointing anywhere in our country. It is now 36 years since one of our three ‘sleeping giants' won a major trophy (Sunderland's FA Cup win in 1973...we're still talking about it – 1973 is the code that gets you through the security system and into my consulting room).
But still, perhaps in the absence of anything more interesting or important, we obsess about football. It's in the air we breathe. And we in the North-East have just emerged, gasping and reeling, from Relegation Sunday. Sunderland, Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Hull (a minor team from down south somewhere) all contested the last two relegation spots in the Premier League, and Newcastle and Middlesbrough went down. Sunderland survived.
I have no idea what the atmosphere is like in Newcastle and Middlesbrough – for all I know cracks have opened up in the pavements and sulphurous fumes are venting through and boiling the buttocks of the locals like some Hieronymus Bosch painting – but here in Sunderland we're all having a great time. We're up, they're down.
The effect on my patients has been seismic. Everyone is unfeasibly happy. One bloke I saw today, a chronically maudlin, unemployed, alcoholic misfit who usually depresses the hell out of me, breezed into the surgery like a giggling whirlwind. I don't think I've ever seen him smile before, but he sat there grinning like a goon.
‘Look at this, doctor,' he said as he unrolled an A3 document from his pocket. He had photographed his TV set just as Match Of The Day had featured a picture of a bawling, newly relegated, replica-shirted Newcastle supporter, and blown the image up as big as his printer would allow.
‘Look at that! I reckon we should make fat weeping Geordies an Olympic sport!' There was no denying his utter, visceral joy. No SSRI will ever come close to that effect.
Pharmacological researchers could, should they be so inclined, have fun tracking the reduction in prescriptions for antidepressants in Sunderland over the next few months, and the corresponding increase in Newcastle and Middlesbrough.
For myself, as club doctor for Hartlepool United, I like to think I have a more realistic grasp of the long-term nihilism involved in supporting a profoundly crap set of chronic underachievers – but for now I'm happy to bask in the reflected glory of a team that finished fifth from bottom.
Sunderland is a gloriously happy city, this day. We're a shite football team. We might all lose our jobs in the credit crunch, or die in our thousands of swine flu. But we're not as shite as Newcastle, and next season we're going to Chelsea, while they are going to Scunthorpe.
Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in SunderlandPeverley