One Of Us Speaks – Football Rehab


In this blog I’m going to try to explain my exasperation. Not with football, but with its parasites.

There’s a Seinfeld episode in which Elaine, one of the protagonists, agrees to a bet.

I know, bear with me.

A male acquaintance wagers that the actor Dustin Hoffman appeared in Star Wars. If he loses he’ll buy Elaine dinner. She knows better, finds the idea of “a short Jewish guy up against Vader” ludicrous, and takes the bet.

The joke’s on her though – the man wants to insinuate his way into her life, and dinner together would be a great place to start. The idea that he might have an ulterior motive never crosses her mind; her ego gets to prove someone wrong. Initially this is all that matters to her.

Why’s this important? It’s not. But it sums how I felt when I saw Robbie Savage on Focus Forum recently. It crossed my mind when a tweet by Talksport Drive appeared on my timeline, and has been recalled many times when I’ve read opinion pieces about Arsenal by nearly all football journalists – from the clique of nobodies jawing away on Sky Sports every Sunday morning, to the Daily Mail’s phantom “Sports Reporter”.

By design or not, their job title has become, “Winder-upperer”. They ramp up the importance of what is ultimately just a game, hold silly positions for the sake of being forthright, and watch their employer’s audience pour in and participate, leaving comments, phoning up or whatever.

The joke is on us, as it was on Elaine, as for some strange reason – Team loyalty? Pride? Knowing better? – we feel compelled to read, watch or listen. They don’t need much guile to do it – just express their opinion, or take a controversial line in what should be neutral reporting, without humour or trace of affection for the sport.

And whether they are as stupid as they pretend to be, aiming to get things wrong, is by the by.

There’s a movie from the 70s Called La Grande Bouffe. Its plot, which caused outrage when first screened, follows a group of middle-aged gourmands. For different reasons they get tired of their lot and agree to hole up together in a mansion, cook lots of their favourite food and gorge on it every waking moment for the rest of their now short lives.

In one scene a man, stuffed to the gills with foie gras, loses the capacity to continue spooning it into his mouth, and with “delicious” irony decides he must make space for it by bending over a table, thrusting crudely against its edge to force the contents of his stomach through the rest of his digestive system.

You know, that’s how I was starting to feel about Football on the Internet. What was kitschy, novel fun slowly cloyed, now nauseates. I can’t remember whether it was a turgid blog by Phil McNulty, or some shit-for-brains telling us that Cazorla wouldn’t get in the Swansea team, but something made me pine for the slow satisfaction of a print sports section every morning.

As I said – it’s not the sport that I’m suddenly sick of; it’s the expanding cloud of methane gas that stalks it. I read Mark Lawrenson’s weekly predictions and he said something like, “Arsenal would top a Financial Fairplay League, but I don’t think that will never happen”. You need to make a real effort to understand what he means before ridiculing him.

And I’m not here to proselytise my weariness or hold it up piously as a way to respond to the football stench cloud. More, I’m wondering if there are other people like me. How much of this stuff can you consume, knowing that the plot has been rehashed repeatedly, until your body starts rejecting it? How do you contrive to get angry or passionate about football on the Internet – or throw insults at someone who holds a different view?

In the end it’s less than worthless; fuel for idle chatter about a sport. If someone’s making money by getting on your nerves I suggest that you ignore them. That’s the sensible thing to do.

And where’s it going to stop? How do we tolerate having people like Robbie Savage on our screens? I spent a few minutes listening to what he had to say on the weekend. And I’m now wondering how long it will be before viewers suddenly drop to their knees and purge their bodies en masse, like No-Face in Spirited Away, violently regurgitating the dreck that they’ve been soaking up for years.

Or how about this: There are millions of people talking football on Twitter as you read this blog. Surely there have never been more people coming into contact with more information about football. People have never talked so feverishly about their teams and favourite players, about transfers and tactics.

We are all football fanatics – but also aggregated, potential revenue, leverage for the biggest dickheads the game has ever known. We’re the same audience van Persie was trying to manipulate when he published that heartwarming “Message for the Fans”. And we’re getting bigger and more valuable.

We’re background radiation – the static of millions proffering, sometimes blasting, their opinion. But I tell you what – participation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when TV, press and radio standards are lowered to encourage it.

A bit like someone listening to the same trite song over and over, we’ll tire with what once felt new. Even quicker if Robbie Savage and is in the choir, in a glittery waistcoat, with his platinum hair slicked back, and those eyes, open wide and empty. Keep people like him around and we’ll get cheesed off fast enough.

Will there be a breaking point, at which all these football fans decide they’ve had enough. I always figured my appetite for football talk would be insatiable, but I get the feeling it’s permanently spoiled. So that’s it. I’m on a football detox now and travelling light, with only Yogi’s Warrior’s site (you can never doubt that he does this for the love of football and Arsenal). Add to that a morning newspaper, and the spectacle of Arsenal passing and moving their elegant way through teams to sustain me.

In the end, what difference does it make if I find out about Diaby’s injury now, when the teamsheet’s announced or the next time I visit A Cultured Left Foot? Maybe I’m late to clock, and you’ve worked it all out already.

135 thoughts on “One Of Us Speaks – Football Rehab

  1. OOU – only just found the time to dig myself out from under and read your fine piece Al.
    I have to say my solution has worked like a charm. Apart from ACLF and the very occasional foray to another one or two blogs I don’t read the papers, watch the telly or listen to the radio if football is the subject. I don’t miss any of them. If I should tune the car to 5 or Sport, it never stays on longer than a couple of seconds before the rubbish they speak turns me off and I in turn turn them off.

  2. “Ultimately, only the bastions of excellence will survive.”


    You are an optimist, Andrew.

    Never underestimate the stupidity of people.

    Most are followers. They like to be in the pack. It’s where that feel safe and get their identity reaffirmed daily in an otherwise frightening world.

    We can argue it over a pint at the Chelsea game.

  3. Sometimes I find people are a little harsh on the pundits. People on ACLF love the Arsenal and are passionate about the team. We know more details about the team, the players, the up and comers about to break into the first team and we’ve followed the reserves and under-21s for years. We know our players’ tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. So when a pundit comments on our team we have to accept they might not be familiar with team as well as we hardcore Arsenal fanatics may be.
    These pundits have to comment on all 20 EPL clubs and if they are commenting on Champions’ League or other European team then that’s a shitload of players to be familiar with.
    I find the griping here about pundits’ anti-Arsenal to be tiresome. Our team is not immune to criticism. And imbued with perfect 20/20 hindsight I see plenty of room for improvement. I find that people here seem to view things with rose coloured glasses due to our love for the team so I don’t get riled up if a pundit doesn’t view the team with the same rose coloured glasses.
    I do find the eloquence of posters on ACLF to be more evident than it is on the telly with the jocks. But then again we have the luxury of looking over our post before we submit and revising what we ‘say’. They don’t.

  4. Of course it is not a hard and fast and Jabber but, having been in both private and public school systems, the difference (as an average of the whole) was pretty stark.

  5. Philmar;

    For me, at least, it isnt a question of the pundits being anti-Arsenal. It’s more a question of quality, or lack of to be more precise.

    One only has to watch the World Cup, where the BBC and even ITV generally look for more ‘exotic’ over seas pundits. Here we usually see a far more intelligent and illuminating analysis, putting to shame the ‘home grown’ quotas.

    The fact that most of the foreign ex-pros english is far better than the actual english ones says it all.

  6. Also Philmar and Jonny, the complete lack of background research is evident almost in all commentaries. I am pretty sure Andy townsend for instance, turned up for the spuds/Lazio game without even a cursory look at who the players were for the italian side.

    Judging by his god awful cliched comments, it was pretty clear man. There is this idea that the general public (ie thick twats) just want the snide digs, the sly in jokes and lazy knee jerk reactions from them.

    gary neville and Martin Keown are the only ones who bucks that trend ATM.

  7. Ah the good old days of Motty and Lawro, huddled in the commentary box, commentating on two “foreign” sides, not a clue who the players were, the cliches tripping of the tongue like milk from an aching udder, sniggering at each others witty puns and double entrendres……

    In the finest tradition of the British Broadcasting Corporation
    “Nation shall speak peace unto Nation”

    Or in their case “utter shite”

  8. Brilliant post. Sometimes after listening to some so called pundit’s after game analysis I question my own sanity, were we watching the same game? What his name who fronts Sky on Saturday can hardly contain his dislike of Arsenal. Oh and Robbie Savage makes me want to puke

  9. George @ 2:44

    I have difficulty understand why there would be a true anti-arsenal bias. There has to be some motivation for that and I don’t see how it could be a financial or other advantage for them to have an inherent biased against Arsenal. Same thing with the argument we went through last season regarding referees and conspiracies. I watch games on TV and read the ACLF comments during the games and some of our fellow bloggers get upset about something that a commentator says and I wind the DVR back and listen again and still can not figure out what they are upset about. We are all biased in favor of Arsenal and we let that bias color our opinions of what commentators say or write. That said I am sure just like in the blogosphere there are a few pundits on the radical fringe who love to wind us up just to see what sort of reaction they can get. Sort of like Suga3. We have been an easy target for those types because of the “trophy drought and our tendency to over react that Yogi mentioned yesterday. Besides that sort of stuff sells advertising which is the true bottom line for pundits. As soon as we start winning things those type of pundits will find the next easiest target. I see the same thing here in the US all the time. The wind up artists and the love hate relationship of the local media with the Dallas Cowboys is similar to the stuff you guys describe all the time.

  10. I don’t think there is a particular any anti Arsenal bias any more than there is any other bias – mind you as I said I am scrupulous in what I listen to, watch and read !

    When the sharks sniff blood in the water they head toward the site of the commotion and the trashing sound.

  11. Yes well said Dex – it’s very much go through the motions and collect your pay check. No research or love/fascination at all.

  12. Cool eh, Mingus? Bits of Charlton, Old Kent Road, I think New Cross, and definitely a shot of Greenwich power station. The tunnel bit shows where the tram came out at Waterloo bridge. Also learned from the film that the 53 bus is basically an old tram route! Useless information of course, but satisfying all the same!

    Also useless – there’s a species of mosquito in the tunnels underneath London that after 150 years or so underground has developed thousands of years worth of differences to its overground equivalent. It’s the London Underground Mosquito!

  13. Did you watch (particularly) the Deptford High Street episode of the BBC’s The Secret History Of Our Streets? Series was on about 3 months ago.

  14. No I didn’t. Heard it was on, but managed to miss it – actually thanks for reminding me because I’m going to see if I can download the series. Deptford High Street must be about taverns full of drunken sailors and shipbuilders right?

  15. Singing goodbye to the tram – amazing!

    (Has anyone in London been on a Heatherwick bus yet? Went on my first one the other day, 38 from Shaftesbury Ave, up one staircase, down the other. Loved it. Issue with the windows not opening on the top deck – wonder if that’ll get changed in later models? Apparently there’s 600 of them in the pipeline.)

    Interesting points, birdkamp. It’s all bread and circuses, innit?

    Was on the Daily Mirror website the other day, and couldn’t believe it – homepage is politics-free zone, all-singing, all-dancing, all-shagging celeb “news”. I used to buy it every day, pre-Maxwell, it was a proper, informative read. Keith Waterhouse must be turning in his grave.

    Used to listen to 5Live until recently, but now that Savage is all over it, can hardly bear to.

    And when I tried to find a radio commentary for the Montpellier match, ran into Keys-Gray on TalkShite – didn’t even know they were back.

    Ended up listening via the net to a French radio station, even though my French is awful. But I could get the gist, mainly because there’d be sharp intake of breath, followed by a wail, every time Montpellier missed a sitter.

    For CL games in Spain, CadenaSer usually has commentary. And Barça’s website has its own free-to-air radio show in English on match days – used to be with Steve Archibald, not sure who does it now.

    Old Luddite that I am, Twatter has largely passed me by, though I’ll look at a few people such as Sid Lowe for info on particular events, such as the recent RM meltdown.

    I feel Twatter is basically a wing of PR for people already in the public eye, and even then, it’s been too hot for some young ‘uns to handle – LJW, Woycheck both dialled back from it pretty sharpish. I suspect eventually that the only players’ voices on Twatter will in fact be those of flaks from their PR outfits.

    Racism against players such as Mikel on Twatter is deplorable – and surely violates the service’s T&C? Why aren’t the racists’ accounts shut down, rather than him being put in a position where he feels he has to leave?

  16. Great Post, agree 110% with thoughts expressed.
    Can’t even go for a pint now without having to listen to some bollocks, talking bollocks

  17. I just don’t understand why some of our legends turn into what Thierry and Jens have become and others for some reason seem bitter about the club for whatever reason?

  18. Evil ,Have you noticed the bitter ones all seem a little bit stupid?
    And the legends are all able to speak and write with authority and intelligence.
    Now ,I am no Sherlock Homes ,but……

  19. people have to realise that because of bbc,talkshite and the red top medias lack of technical football knowledge and inability for true football analysis they have to rely on deliberate provocation and controversy to attract listeners or at least reactionist and like anyone craveing attention they are best just being ignored.For anyone not noticeing an anti AFC bias you only have to compare reaction to ARSENALs triumphs and failures with that of other clubs in the same situation, for some reason our victories are not good enough and our defeats are a huge crisis these extremes betray the facade of neutrality

  20. Just look at how the media were saying King Kenny was the man for the job at Liverpool ,up until and even after he was sacked.
    Really .No bias? Do me a favour.

  21. I am very impressed the way the meeja has thrown their support behind Rodgers and AVB in spite of their dodgy start

  22. I’m new to this site,although not to Arsenal.I’m delighted to read that ,for the most part, we are all in agreement with Jonathon Gash, the author of the ‘Lovejoy’ novels where he states that “I never read newspapers and, that way, maintain a higher standard of ignorance.

  23. Wenger is a genius. Keep RVPee (we had ways) and we favourites to win the league. AW says he’s the player he’d most liked to have signed this season – and he knows.

  24. Good article. I agree totally about Robbie Savage….. why the BBC employed one of the most detested players I will never know. Now if I see anything with him on, I do not read, OR I turn sound down. I refuse to listen to someone I have NIL respect for who talks out of his arse. What were the BBC thinking of ……. ?

  25. The clubs most opposed to cost control measures are Manchester City, Chelsea and Fulham but even they might be inclined to accept a system to guarantee financial liabilities.

    The sanctions for breaking the rules are unlikely to be as drastic as UEFA’s system which threatens to exclude clubs from European competition if they do not come close to breaking even.
    “It affected me and opened my eyes to the emotion of the game. Now, when I’m playing, I take time to look at the faces of the ball boys, because maybe one day one of them can be the next Santi Cazorla.”
    ‘I still hope to sign him (Walcott)and the next two months will be vital because after that, the longer this situation lasts, then the more difficult it is,’ Wenger said. ‘Let’s hope we can find a solution in the next two months.’
    Its the random news hour…

  26. Sorry for this late post, but thanks for the read.

    In the days of Football Manager, Fantasy Football, Blogging, Internet Betting and WWF, where we are encouraged to Command, Speculate, Pontificate, Invest and finally Tribalize on raw emotion – as opposed to real needs – that ‘cloud’ is an industry in itself which feeds on our more basic instincts, not analysis.

    On a week when the owners of BSkyB are judged worthy of a broadcasting licence it is important that the food for those ratings games are left for them and more challenging criteria (and analysis) are safeguarded by the public broadcasters.

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