It’s a wonderful beautiful game!

10 04 2016

Imagine that one Saturday afternoon Claudio the angel gazes down from the celestial plane and sees your humble narrator getting his flymo out of his shed instead of getting ready going to a match.

Knowing your humble narrator as he does this behaviour would strike Claudio as rather odd, being the football season and all. Claudio is a positive sort so he would feel the determined urge to guide your humble narrator back to happiness by travelling down to Earth to ask your humble narrator; “So why do you feel so disillusioned with the beautiful game?

And so our story begins……

Your humble narrator doubted the veracity of the reality he seemed to be experiencing until the assurances of transmogrification and teleportation. He grudgingly accepted the chance to reassess his jaundiced view of “the beautifulest of beautiful games”.

Almost immediately your humble narrator and his celestial companion found themselves in the house of someone that was about to book tickets for a premier league football match. They stood in the background, invisible to those without the power to connect with the spiritual plane, while the man used his phone, he was four weeks away from his desired match.

His resigned air came off in waves, his shoulders spoke of a long wait. He was number 4 in the queue, he checked his computer’s screen for cheap train tickets on the required date. He was number three in the queue, he drummed on the table. He was number two in the queue, he checked the club’s interactive ticket finder on the other tab. He was number one in the queue, he said “Come on!! Come on!!!” under his breath. Then the agent finally asked the golden question.

“Hello sir, how many tickets would you like?”

He was so giddy he can hardly let the words escape from his mouth.

I’d like Two £59 tickets and a £25 ticket for my son please.”

“What’s your customer number sir?”

“It’s 12568”

“Oh I’m sorry sir I’m afraid you haven’t accessed enough privilege points for this match.”

The phone goes click and a taut wrinkled forehead is smoothed. Claudio says “Well, that’s just bad luck.”

Within a second Claudio and  your humble narrator are on the steps of a premier league superground. Everyone is very excited, well who wouldn’t be after spending so much for a ticket!!! A corner kick is about to be taken. They look to the left because two teenagers are singing “We pay your benefits, We pay your benefits!!” towards their northern visitors that won’t possibly be able to hear their social commentary.

A person to their right obscures the view of three others by thrusting a grammatically incorrect bedsheet banner upwards. Several people film the corner kick with electronic devices. “Why is that happening?” asks Claudio. “If I had to guess I’d say the narcissistic impulse to turn their lives into a social media opera” says your humble narrator. Claudio picks up a programme, flicks through it and comments; “What is an Official Lubricants Partner”?

“Oh it means they get a lot of money for acting as a corporate mouthpiece”.

Luckily nobody saw the floating programme. Claudio thought about your humble narrator’s point, looked around and said “Look at how pleased the crowd looks.” Two grown men arose from their seats to taunt the nearby away fans with outstretched arms.

They are suddenly outside another ground, a crowd surrounds a man with a microphone. Everyone seems very angry.

“What’s this we see here?” Claudio asks,

“It’s called FAN TV and we need a computer to view it.”

Your humble narrator and Claudio suddenly appear beside a table with a computer on it. The television is on and it’s showing a match. Caludio knows that your humble narrator doesn’t really watch football on TV anymore but still enquired; “Don’t you want to watch the match?

“No thanks, I can’t seem to get into a televised match these days.”

“Why not?”

“Everything’s annoying. The commentators are annoying, the co-commentators are annoying, the presenters and pundits are annoying, The ex-pros justify cheating with their cynical moral relativism and every match is a corporate sales device with logos everywhere.

Everything’s loud and brash and everyone’s got to be excited about everything all the time. I can’t really stick the highlights programmes either, they’ve all gone downhill. Match of The Day shows more of the pundits’ pointless analysis than match action. Who really cares if soandso was 2 yards too far to the left at one point, it was a bloody goal.”

“Someone like you shouldn’t be moaning, you should be happy. These days there’s more football on TV than ever before and it looks even better than ever……”

“Wall to wall coverage just makes my alienation stronger, you’re made to feel as if you’re obliged to care about this stuff. I’m not being forced to care by an excitable twat.”

Anyway, let’s get back to the point, what is FAN TV?” enquired Claudio.

“I like to call it “football’s latest phenomenon of mass irritation”.

Right on cue they find the clip featuring the Arsenal fan with a bee in his bonnet;“It’s all about the net spend, mate“. They watch angry fan after angry fan, all of them lost in a murderous rage. Claudio was about to ask something but your humble narrator jumped in.

“See that load of crap, that’s people with opinions. Well bugger me with a fishfork, a person…..with an opinion! Big deal, I’ve got one of those, I can hear my own opinion in my own head as I say this. Why the bloody hell would I want to share that? More importantly how would hearing my opinion improve anyone’s life? These angry after defeat ranters have been football’s background noise for a couple of years, the immature attention seekers need to be ignored not given a public platform.

Caludio meekly said “They’re only people expressing opinion though aren’t they?”

“Yes and FAN TV is merely the tip of the Iceberg, let’s look at social media.”

Your humble narrator took Claudio on a tour of twitter. Claudio was immediately rendered speechless by the bestial hated and bellendry confronted him. He recovered to pose a question;

Is it like this often?”

“All the time. It’s a never ending river of human detritus and pointless stupidity. The worst aspect of it is that everyone dismisses their own gruesome behaviour as harmless banter.”

“Yeah but those what do you call those things?…..memes, they’re harmless.”

“They’re not harmless, they’re proof of a society that’s easily pleased with itself. Too many gobshites think that getting the “pithy last word” is a major achievement. Too many gobshites are labouring under the misapprehension that they’re a character in a crappy American sitcom. And another thing, the jokes are shit as well.”

“Yeah but some of the other stuff is useful surely, what about those football stats people”

“How can you explain the beauty of a succession of balletic movements with a string of statistics?” 

“Yeah but these people are harmless.”

“I suppose they are really but Claudio the point is that I’ve grown weary of it all, the tweets, the FAN TV, the proper TV, the newspapers, the perpetual excitement, everyone shouting at each other, the continual “what about them….” arguments, and it’s all deep fired in the banter. I don’t need to read or experience any of it the knowledge that it exists is enough to blunt my interest.

There’s no escape from it. They won’t let you switch off. If you only limit yourself to taking a small interest, like checking social media for 5 minutes, they will somehow still mange to besmirch that with the banter.”

“Really?”

“Yeah they won’t let you switch off from it.  A few weeks ago I had time to kill before I caught a train so I went to the nearest pub for a quick drink. There were four lads around a table. They were loudly chatting about football and their ACCAS whilst looking at the betting apps on their phones. It was wall to wall banter. I was gritting my teeth after two minutes. Football is drowning in the fucking banter, I’m sorry to swear, but I’ve been worn down so much I’ve started  talk myself out of going to matches.”

“Ah yes, this is where I came in, let’s go to one of those matches that you go to.”

Your humble narrator and Claudio appear at a Welsh Premier League match, it was the fifteenth match between the same opponents in three Earth years.

Your humble narrator told Claudio that he should keep an eye on the ostensibly semi-professional number four in blue. Needless to say the clumsy attempt at a sneaky foul on the number seven in red wasn’t too far away, naturally his encore was an attempt to get the number seven booked by diving three minutes later.

Within another five minutes they saw phenomenon of “the communal hey” eight times. Your humble narrator assured Claudio that’s this incantation was merely a tactic employed by ostensibly semi-professional teams to try and pressurize the referee into seeing things their way rather than an ancient fertility rite.

Claudio saw one of the managers signal to one of his ostensibly semi-pro players to venture to the furtherest side of the pitch from the bench. 30 seconds later he had a new role; the player that was being substituted. They both saw how he proved the elasticity of time with his pedestrian tribute to the sloth!

So Caludio says “Ahhhh, I see why you’re disillusioned now. This ostensibly semi-professional football supposedly represents the antidote to paucity of moral cleanliness in “proper football” but it’s merely a pale imitation of “proper football”.”

“Yes, that’s it perfectly. To me, the events that we’ve just seen, that is football, the infuriating and soul destroying pandemic called football. That’s the reason I’ve started to wonder if I could do without football. The vague air of dissatisfaction probably started with the time I wanted to go to a match somewhere and I was obliged to go through the hassle of buying cheap train tickets and the rigmarole of registering to buy match tickets for a particular match. When the awaited day arrived I was confronted by a late running train with standing room only and a half empty ground. I persevered with Bangor matches and what have I ended up with? Fifteen matches against the same club in 3 years in a league that no-one cares about.”

“Yeah but aren’t there times when you get some enjoyment of football?”

“Well I suppose there are times when I can still have a laugh with my mates and the odd occasions I remember some brilliant piece of skill are the very rare times I go to a match and everything feels fantastic. For example I went to watch Sampdoria recently. I’d waited twenty five years to go there, every since I got The Football Grounds of Europe book for Christmas, and the evening was everything I’d expected; the architectural masterpiece, the packed streets and bars, the noise, the atmosphere, the fireworks, the social identity, the vibrant foreign culture. I haven’t felt so content in a long time. It lasted days. Then I read some angry tweets.

I don’t know what football will become either. Thirty years football looked like it was about to become a prohibited social activity but the fans kept the sport going by going to matches. These days a lot of those 1980s fans and their families are being ostracised by those that want to make money. The supreme irony is that the people who are prostituting football don’t value the people that made their behaviour possible in the first place by keeping the sport going.

And what like of people have replaced the expendable? Tourists and the sort of people that will willingly choose to pay £45 so they can let the world know they’re angry about paying £45 via a message on a bedsheet, the kind of people that will cry to catch the attention of TV cameraman.

The rubbish sullies all of the finer feelings that I attribute to football. It doesn’t matter how serene I feel I’ll inevitably become aware of the braindead tweets, the unending banter and the cynicism of those in control of football. No matter how hard you try you can’t escape the gross pantomime that football has become.

“There’s nothing I can say that will change your mind?”

“Nothing really. I prefer watching films these days, films never let you down.”

With that Claudio returned to his spiritual plane and your humble narrator returned to mowing his front lawn and perpetual domestic bliss.

 

If you’d like to read more about the scourge of fan TV read this, this and this. The last post contains the line “Equating commercial involvement with a lack of authenticity is disingenuous….”

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