03 January, 2010


As briefly as I can... a fair old time ago Sarah posted a nice quote (near the end) about films experienced in a different age, when films would move from town to town. The watchers would be aware that a film would be unlikely to return to their town and would watch it multiple times in a number of days, trying to commit them fully to memory. They would come away with their own 'versions' of the film. The presentation of film was different, so they thought about it totally differently.

I remember reading Steve Albini say once on an internet forum, while he was outspokenly criticising Burial in particular and electronic music in general, that he no longer had to listen to old punk records, that he had fully absorbed them, taken from them everything he could. It seemed this was emphatically distinct from not enjoying them. I think maybe he meant there would be nothing to gain, and even that enjoying the songs again, that doesn't count, the point is that they are already part of him and he can go forward with them, but without listening again. I searched for the quote but couldn't find it, I would really like to read that exchange again. Maybe this too is a way of sucking art dry to carry it with you. This is not what I meant to write about.

Anyway, I got sidetracked into sport as usual, and ended up thinking about my football attention span, which has always been based upon watching games on TV. I certainly did not grow up going to watch football every week. Instead, it was special to see the few matches that made it onto the terrestrial channels. My experience of watching football was completely dominated by the action replay. If the game is dull, you barely need to pay attention. You can go to the loo, and miss the goal, but you will still see it. You become sick of seeing the goal over and over, especially if it went against your team.

Now I'm older and often go to watch football games, often dreary affairs on cold afternoons, where the quality on display is significantly lower than what I'm used to seeing on TV. I can't help but notice how poor my match-memory is, and how often I miss an incident. Older men and women on the terraces hoard well formed memories of hundreds of goals per season; I can only seem to recall foggied impressions of what occured.

But this is not what I meant to talk about either. Whenever Liverpool play a big Champions League game, or England are going well and it really matters, or Salisbury have been dominating a game against rivals but not getting what they deserve, and a goal is conceded, I always have the same feeling. Especially when it doesn't seem fair, when there is doubt, and when I half hope the camera will cut to a flagging linesman, always the same feeling. A kind of emptiness and shock. I noted with half-amusement that I had the same exact feeling when I heard Michael Jackson had died - that this had gone against the run of play somehow, and violated the script. Supporting a football team, believing that victory is deserved for no good reason, makes one believe in scripts. And I think at the root of the emptiness, at the heart of the shattering disbelief, is a sense of irreversibility. The alteration to the scoreline is undeserved, unscripted, and eternally in place, and my gloom will never lift.

The reason I'm writing about this is that I watched Reading vs Liverpool last night. And when Simon Church put Reading ahead with a goal that simply looked wrong, I didn't get this customary emotion immediately, and it was a quite conspicuous absence. Was it because Liverpool's season had been quite so atrocious, and this did feel scripted? Was it because the goal was quite deserved for Reading? Was it because I had steeled myself for the worst as soon as the free-kick was conceded?

I think it was none of these things. Rather, I have been listening to the cricket on the radio over the past 3 weeks, England's Test Match series against South Africa. When a wicket falls in a cricket game, especially during a crucial period, the sense of irreversibility is even greater. A great chasm opens up, and the dismissed batsman is cast into it, and may not get another chance to play a part in the game. But this has changed, because this is the first test series I have followed where appeal against decisions by way of video replays has been in action. Many such key moments, when a batsman may have been dismissed, have been completely altered. Instead of celebrating fielders, a batsman uncertainly looking at the umpire and reluctantly walking back to the pavilion, and every watcher, viewer and listener doing a frantic calculus to determine the new balance of the game, the players stand around and wait for the TV official to give a verdict. This, of course, creates drama of its own, but it is not the terrifying finality of before. It's a brief remission, a limbo, an awkward hush.

This process interfered with my approach to football too. When Reading scored last night, I was waiting for the video appeal. I all but assumed it would have to be checked. Ten seconds later I remembered this was football, not cricket, and with my resignation the correct sort of pain kicked back in too. There has long been discussion about bringing video technology into football, and I view it as being inevitable in the next decade. I hope I will not lose that turmoil of emptiness forever.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed that - I often find myself looking around in vain to catch a reply when I'm at a Norwich game, strange how growing up watching games on TV have that effect.
Would referees using TV replays really change anything? Aren't they unofficially used sometimes anyway - I can recall watching games on TV or reading about them when the fourth official or a linesman has caught side of a missed incident being replayed on a big screen in the ground and then called up the player on the back of that. Perhaps that's an even bigger concern, given that the home side presumably employs the folks that dictate what goes onto that screen....