Well once again it would seem that time, swearing and whisky; then some more time, a little indistinguishable ranting and whatever’s in the back of the drinks’ cabinet; and then a few days off, is all it takes: even the most egregious of outcomes can blur into sporting history.
Sporting History, that endless parade of statistics that can somehow simultaneously underline and undermine whatever you’re trying to say. If sporting history teaches us anything, which it doesn’t, it’s that sport isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t matter because there is no pretence that it should be. Sport on the other hand introduces referees, cameras, umpires and replays, and so claims to be fair. But of course it never has been.
When I was a child I played in a tennis match during which my opponent hit the ball out and then ranted so heavily that I agreed to replay the point, just to shut him up. Justice was with me, I thought, the gods would make sure I didn’t lose. He aced me and went on to win the match. Sport isn’t fair.
Of course, somewhere along the line sports coverage has bought into the misapprehension that it should be, and so we have outraged commentators exclaiming disbelief at results, demanding replays or compensation, and expecting apologies or punishments, because it’s not fair! Then we get swept up in the argument, disagreeing with the press, or using it to back up arguments and in the end, no one cares who’s saying what and everyone ends up in a big shouting match about hypocrisy, injustice and Nani.
The trouble with the press is it’s not a person. We treat it like a person, admittedly like a bipolar child with ADHD, but a person nonetheless, and in doing so we’re mistaken. The press is a simple business that operates by pumping out the things we want to hear. We want to hear about the sums of money the players get so that we can shout at them louder when they fail. We want to judge them for diving, cheating or swearing maniacally because it makes us feel better about not being in their position ourselves. It assuages our envy.
But of course, the press doesn’t force us to read material that outrages us, in fact it’s precisely because it prints outrageous material that we read it at all. As an example of our innate urge toward provocation consider how no one wants Avram back, as he’s boring, but even sworn anti-Chelsea fans wouldn’t mind a new post match Jose wind-up.
The result is mood-swinging sports pages feeding us wrathful injustice like pizza slices to the morbidly obese. Do we keep on chewing until we prolapse and have to be craned out on live TV? or do we admit defeat, recognise sport as being subject to the vagaries of life and crunch a tasteless carrot?
Don’t answer yet. Instead, just watch the Champions League final and let your emotions answer for you: If you take a historical perspective you will probably support Man U, so that you can explain to future generations how you witnessed the first successful defence of the Champions League and how Chelsea contributed to England’s dominance of club football. Once upon a time I explained precisely how it was more grown up to support other English sides once you’d been knocked out of Europe.
But then there is also the present, full of self-righteous football commentators, irritatingly arrogant fans and Nani. It may be childish, it may be self-defeating, and it may sap the NHS for extortionate crane rental bills, but if only for Clive Tyldesley, I’ll be supporting Barça.