Friday, February 09, 2007

Our beautiful game...

Not so pretty anymore. Tonight's main football headlines on Sky Sports News at 8pm were: a mass brawl between QPR and the Chinese Olympic team in a 'friendly', tied to QPR's charges on a brawl involving them and Luton last month, Luis Aragones (Spain Manager) having his appeal against making BLATANT racist comments upheld, Sheffield United player Keith Gillespie getting an extra match ban for punching an opposition player, and more on the story in Italy where a policeman was killed, maybe murdered, by rioting football fans.

Great. There's no news in football to do with football anymore, the only thing papers and media want to talk about is bad relations, bad behaviour, problems off the pitch, and so on. Whereas these sort of stories rumble on for days, the brilliant goals and sublime football gets rounded up in a highlights package shown once or twice.

Has football become, like all its detractors claim, simply two teams of 11 to running around an agreed space at an agreed time and trying to incite kicking the shit out of each other while thousands/millions of people look on? Is that all that men want to do on a Saturday afternoon nowadays? Last Saturday I went along with the first team (the first team - the team that is meant to be our club's best) and watched as three of our players got sent off for nothing to do with the football, but for either swearing or punching someone. After our centre-mid floored a lippy 16 year old kiddie with one blow (to be fair, how did the kid think he was going to react to being stamped on? Twat) an out and out brawl ensued. There wasn't a football kicked in earnest for around 10 minutes while just about everyone on the pitch piled into one corner and started fighting. Where have we seen that before? Oh, right, a top flight match between two Premiership sides in supposedly the 'best league in the world'.

My main anxiety is that football, after all is said and done, allows whoever plays to release some pent up energy and gives exercise and all that, but that this spills over into neanderthal savagery anyway. Why bother with Football Factory style hooliganism and risk getting arrested when you can join a team and have a legitimate circumstance to do it? It isn't enough to take part in competitive sport. It isn't enough to win at it. You have to fight for it, and win that war.

In the words of Henry Newbolt's World War One poem likening that great war to sport, "play up! Play up and play the game!" ("for fuck's sake", he might have added).

Friday, February 02, 2007

BB will bite the hand that feeds...its own

After another classic series of the defining television programme of our time, the fallout rages on, the 'burning' issue in the pages of the tabloid rags. What have we learnt? Jade Goody IS a twat, after all, and even the most ardent of BB followers managed to jump on the bandwagon damning those racist remarks that were broadcast to an audience of...well, twats and racists in denial probably.

We were reminded in a timely manner just what drew our attention to Ms Goody in the first place - her extreme levels of genuine stupidity and general defamation of the term human being - when she appeared on her original Big Brother run; the show where real people do real things apparently. She should, at the time, have been mocked, ridiculed, made a spectacle of and made to feel ashamed. She was certainly a spectacle all right: and people with an ounce of intelligence looked on in disbelief as this society's celebrity obsessed culture made an idol out of this woman who could not set a poorer example to young girls if she tried.
And so it became the pattern; give someone an inch of limelight and they'll take a yard. Suddenly, all you had to do was appear on TV, and let the masses and their mass media (tabloids, Channel 4) begin the cycle. The "stars" of Big Brother became the stars of the tabloid masses, so the tabloids gave more and more info to those masses, who in return made greater "stars" out of those contestants, creating the need for even more tabloid coverage, and so on. As long as the show's running, the bewildering excitement and entertainment gained by some from Big Brother will grow uninhibited. Channel 4 knows this. Start a new series, sit back and let the BB circus run its course.

I've said this before on this blog, but I'll say it again. Are people's lives (or is it reality?) so dull that they find expression and enjoyment through a slim and fake involvement other people's lives? And what's most pathetic is that involvement is so non-existent: coverage of Big Brother contestent's lives is edited from 24 hours into one: what 'happens' in Big Brother is the choice of the programme producer. Viewers watch what they are told to watch, and think they're making individual choices and conclusions by doing so. Meanwhile, viewers cannot exert any influence over the lives they have a sudden interest in. There's always that human nature of curiosity, to be the unseen fly on the wall, an omniscient narrator if you will, but with Big Brother that's all there is. What point is there in 'knowing' everything that's going on and being unable to do anything about it? What use is that knowledge? Idle chit chat over an 11am cup of coffee, that's all.

The CBB just past has at last raised genuine doubts about Big Brother's hitherto untouchable status. It's uncomfortable suddenly seeing "one of our own" (I would usually detach myself completely from BB fans but for the sake of this argument I'll play along) make such a tit out of themselves and then remember that all the media interest, the condemnation, the embarrasment, the shame it brings on our nation, is down to the fact that, yes, it was us, we put her there in the first place. The people who put Goody on a pedastal suddenly don't want to know. The proud English are very quick to denounce the fallen, and even quicker to forget that we set them up for a fall at all (see football/cricket, our 'boys in Iraq', Tony Blair, Pete Doherty, etc etc). Even Big Brother's most die-hard fans joined in with the concern about the events in this Celebrity version, and it might mark, at long long last, the point where those fans realise that the 'reality' they hunger to observe is simply selected elements of our own culture, and it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Suddenly, the realisation: if they want to feel better about their own lives and our society, making a spectacle (on television for crying out loud) out of the worst parts of it for all the world to see might not be a good idea after all.

It's only taken 8 years. But I hope with all my heart that the implosion of Big Brother has begun.