I have received some bad news ahead of the holiday period. Sadly, due to an incident involving a can of carbonated water and an electric toothbrush which I have been forced, legally, to accept that I used as a weapon, I will be under house-arrest for the next two weeks, with the court also stipulating—bizarrely—that I am to watch all of the football on television over this time and nothing else, not even repeats of Big Bang Theory. This punishment, I have to say, has made me re-evaluate my attitude towards the amount of football on over Christmas: there is far too much.
Before now, I have always sat on the fence on this issue. I’ve always been able to see that over-saturation not only lowers the quality of the product (fatigue, running out of ideas, inevitable lack of interest), but also ruins whatever enjoyment fans get from that product (fatigue, running out of ideas, inevitable lack of interest). But it’s never really bothered me. Aside from not really caring about anything going on outside of my own head, I’ve never really cared about issues which impose the odd incremental shift in the quality of football I watch. I had until recently thought of fixture congestion as a brand of digestive biscuits marketed as a solution to constipation.
Now I see that I was at least three quarters wrong. I was wrong to laugh as all the football fans I know rushed to the fixture lists every June to seek out and complain about the moments where their teams would be playing too regularly. I should have been doing the same thing, and I promise that I will do next time I have the chance. My sentence began last weekend and already I have had to endure West Brom 0, West Ham 0, an insult to everyone who watched it; Tottenham 1, Swansea 0 an insult to everyone who watched it, and Barcelona 4, Athletico Madrid 1, an insult to me personally, with Messi taking my goalscoring record of 89 in one year from me, simply because he got to play more games than I did. I’ve seen the real impact of too many games.
Now that it really affects me, I see why too much football is bad. I have no choice but to sit through the filth that my television is serving up. The court has even installed a satellite television package at my house to make sure I do not miss any of the sub-standard action. I am dreading the week ahead: it is just my luck to have a punishment like this imposed the month Rafael Benitez returns to football. I would rather be doing anything else other than watching his Chelsea team play, and yet because of this court order I have no choice. Spending Boxing Day watching ‘Rafa’ ‘get the best’ out of ‘Fernando Torres’—does it get any worse? My doctor has agreed with me that it does not.
My sympathies, of course, go out to those people who are forced to live like this for more than just these three weeks, their punishments far more severe than my own. I know two men who have actually been forced to buy and install their own satellite packages and have been forced to watch every game available for the last five years.
The first man is not well. Sitting all day, every day, in a 1996 replica Arsenal shirt which is, by now, far too small for him, all he ever says is how there are “too many games being played at this time of year,” his one variation being a quick line on how “Arsenal’s problem is how they always try to walk it in.” It is, needless to say, very sad. I’d stopped calling him and tried to cut him out of my life, but I might just give him a call this week, now that I understand what it’s like.
The second is now a tactics expert. Having been driven mad by over-exposure to the game, he chose to submerge himself in it completely. He is now more tactic than person. Over and over he repeats the phrase “I am a false nine. You are a false nine. This whole court room is a false nine.” Until eventually he retreats back into his own world, drawing arrows on a chalkboard we bought him last Christmas to try and help him express himself. Unfortunately all of this is done in excrement; he explained that he felt this was his best medium.
I previously didn’t understand when my two friends’ doctors used to say that it was disgusting how much football was on television these days, but now I do. Sitting here—forced, remember—to watch these games, over and over again (including highlights), I begin the descent into madness. Yesterday I found myself reading an article on the death of the striker and then grieving over him. I can admit that and yet still consider myself in a period of mourning.
It’s enough to make you sick that some people actually choose to live like this and then complain anyway. Too much football? Then don’t watch it. Watch those repeats of Big Bang Theory whilst you still can, there might be a time when all you can watch is the football, then it won’t seem as cool as it does now, kids.
The death of the striker
On a more serious note, there has been tactical talk about the death of the striker this year. As my regular audience (me, Richard and Alex Netherton) will know, I don’t often talk about tactics, however I feel this is an important issue to address. Firstly, my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the striker. Secondly, let me say how distressing it is to see the striker’s corpse, one Michael Owen, being dragged around Premier League games by Stoke City manager Tony Pulis. Propping up the striker’s corpse on the bench next to you is in poor taste, Tony. Bad Tony.