This past week, I’ve watched quite a bit of televised live football by my standards. Both of England’s Euro 2008 qualifiers (Frank who?), plus England Women’s opening game in the World Cup against Japan. In all honesty, the latter proved the more refreshing experience, as the Chinese director chose to focus the majority of their efforts on the on-field activities, rather than anything else. However, he or she was still unable to save us from the tyranny of the BBC half-time pundritry panel, with Gabby Logan teeing them up for Karen Walker and Jo Potter to head in. Also on hand was the excellent Gavin Peacock, whose even-handedness and obvious research into the subject at hand was undermined by a 15-minute long buzzing sound in the studio, which I can only assume being vacuum-cleaned by a wizened, tabard-wearing cleaner with a spitty roll-up dangling from the corner of her mouth.
As may be becoming apparent, there is much about televised football that I find irksome to the point where my brain just can’t tolerate any more. Indeed, it somehow managed to send me into a deep sleep for the entire half-time interval of England-Israel. If I could work out a way of replicating this artificially, perhaps by means of a battery powered hat containing a number of electric probes, it would surely make my fortune.
However, my hardline aversion to the half-time “analysis” of Messrs. Wright and Shearer is by no means worthy of note. It is a common condition, documented frequently elsewhere by people more knowledgeable and eloquent than I. My increasing dislike of live televised football is in fact based on much more petty gripes. Five in number.
Showing the reactions of the players and coaching staff is, of course both reasonable and desirable. The obsessive glimpses at the crowd as they go through the full gamut of football emotions, however, are very much less so. I don’t need some gurning bloke with a flag painted on his beer belly as a guide to how I should feel about what’s happening in the match. Of course, the increasing number of grounds with big screens inside has led to another, even more insidious, evil. Namely: people in the crowd spotting themselves being shown on TV, and stopping reacting just to wave at the screen (no human has quite yet grasped the principle of the video camera, have we?). I have, honest-to-god, seen agonized, nail-biting people who, upon appearing on the stadium screen, are suddenly transformed into a grinning, waving freak. I’d like to thank all these people (and their “nudge-smile-point-jump up and down” neighbours) for demonstrating far better than my words ever could the worthlessness of these glimpses of the crowd during the match.
And as for the “look what happened in the studio when England scored!” films – the less said that about the better. OK, Gary Lineker supports England, he’s just another ordinary bloke like us, we get it. Frankly, I’d be concerned if anyone had ever reached a different conclusion.
Time was when the only graphics to appear on screen were an occasional reminder of the score, or the game time. For the most part, the screen was unfettered. Nowadays, the ever-present idiot bar in the top left answers all the questions that I personally have never heard anyone ever ask whilst attending a match. Also, the Sky TV “little pint of beer” logo in the bottom right hand corner makes me want to explode.
3. I miss Barry Davies
This is more of a personal plea, but good god, I loved Barry Davies’ football commentaries. He was knowledgeable, measured and concise, with a delightful sideline in schoolmasterly disapproval. “He’s wearing number 43… what an absurd number to see on a football pitch”. Amen, Barry.
4. Replay technology
Football and television. Their relationship is best described as that of a pimp and a prostitute, with each believing the other to be the prostitute. How is it that a game which has become so interwoven with TV still refuses to use the best thing it can offer – instant replays – as a way to help with the proper running of a game in progress? Don’t anyone give me this “you can’t just apply one law for the league ‘haves’ and not at the bottom of the pyramid ‘have-nots’ rubbish, either. I’ve seen football from both ends of the pyramid, and I’ve got to tell you that in Sussex County League Division 2, nobody cares. A hotly contested decision will be seen just once, by everyone. You know that coming in. Get some beer in you. The reason why the teams who CAN offer such technology SHOULD is that they are precisely the ones who, when they don’t, cause such a national outburst of heart-thumping, chest-burning agony. No Midland Alliance referee ever receives turds in the post or death threats about a dodgy penalty call. The much-maligned Premiership referee, however, is in a position whereby he can’t use the 50-foot high TV replay right in front of him to amend his decisions, as pies and coins rain down.
5. It’s Monday night. It’s 8 o’clock. It’s SOCCER TIME
Football and television. Their relationship is best described as that of a pimp and a prostitute, with each believing the other to be the prostitute. However, only television is correct in its beliefs. The rampaging absurdity of kick-off times so that, with the right TV package, you can watch a live match every SINGLE DAY OF THE WEEK… argh…. AARRGGHH. I’ll be coming back to this final point on Saturday. Saturday! There’s a good day for a football match…