While my initial instinct was to simply Tweet this article out along with the sentence, “Why we must save the typewriter”, I think Lee Clayton’s Daily Mail piece “Why we must save the magic of the FA Cup” is pretty illustrative of why the FA Cup is beyond saving.
This is not to say the FA Cup is “dead,” or that it will ever die. It will march on, undaunted yet sadly unfavoured, like home telephones and newspapers.
Anyway, here are the reasons—taken, more or less, directly from the article—for why the magic is gone and will never return:
- Nostalgia: The article begins with a tale about the author’s rosy memories 1980 FA Cup, how as a little boy he wore one of those paper flowers coloured claret and blue for West Ham, how a bus traveled through East London and made people happy following their FA Cup triumph, how the author bought something called “Fondant Fancies” to commemorate the moment, how Brian Moore did the commentary on the final, how there were so few “foreigners” and something about Margaret Thatcher, tea cozies, when the sun never set on the British Empire, etc. etc.
Nostaglia is the worst reason imaginable to argue that the “magic” of the cup needs to be saved. I remember playing with my dad’s rotary phone when I was six, and how much fun I had spinning the little plastic wheel with my pinkie finger. That however is a poor reason for a return to the rotary dialer ahead of the next iPhone launch. Kids born in 1990 will not share those warm and fuzzy memories. In several decades, no one will care. This happens all the time. Gee, vinyl was great fun. I remember when doctors smoked in their offices. Time passes, and a new generation finds something else to wax poetic about. I’m sure when the UEFA Laser Cup rolls around, there will be teary op-eds about from aging writers about how as children they used to gather around the old iPad to watch the Champions League final.
- The FA Cup Winner Should be Awarded a Champions League spot: This is a great idea, truly. But this is essentially the same thing as saying, “the FA Cup is a secondary competition.” No one thinks winning the Champions League is relevant because it secures a place in the Club World Cup, for example. That’s because the Champions League is the thing. It’s sporting glory, not a ticket to something better. If we all agree that this is the best way to get teams interested in the competition again, then the magic is pretty much gone. It’s sort of a bigger version of the Capital One dealie. Which is exactly what it is right now.
- The FA Cup is the oldest competition in the world: Meh. This is basically the marketing strategy of the Canadian Football League. Few actual human beings who like sports though usually care about a competition because of how old it is.
- We can save ‘magic’ through ‘investment’: Go ahead. Piss money down the drain ‘investing’ in the FA Cup, whatever that might entail. Subsidize lower ticket prices. Give teams bigger bonuses for winning. Try as you might, you can’t ‘save’ magic. That’s why it’s magical. I’m glad for Lee Clayton’s idyllic childhood, and the countless children whose lives were touched by the FA Cup. But football lives on in other forms, and while we might scoff at the odious largesse of the Premier League and the Champions League, to a collection of school children around the globe, they’re at least providing pleasant memories.