Sitting there, I felt my eyes drying out, one molecule at time. My back and shoulders had slowly tensed and the dull, unrelenting pain of it nagged away at my consciousness, allowing no other thoughts in except: ‘Let me get out of here; I’ll do anything to be able to get out of here; why won’t you plleeease let me leave?’ And then, dear reader, I realized I wasn’t actually at Manuel Pelligrini’s first press conference as Manchester City manager, I was merely watching it on TV.
In what I feel comfortable in saying was the greatest moment in my life so far, I turned the TV off—the joy at being able to do so matched only by the joy at being able to turn it off a second time, after I’d turned it back on again, just to be able to turn it off. I repeated this process for hours, blissfully unaware of the growing pressure to stop from other people in the bar.
Partly, I think, the problem with these press conferences is the summer. Though we all heard about the international football being played a few weeks ago via the mass protests which surrounded it (a little harsh on the Spanish national side, I agree, but their time has come and the people of Brazil were right to express frustration), I am not yet ready to accept that anyone watches international football. And though there are the daily transfer rumours to get through as well, as far as I know or am inclined to find out, mainstream European football stops during the summer. Which leaves a void.
This summer, the most convenient answer to The Void has been ‘unveiling the new manager’ press conferences. Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, David Moyes at Manchester United and Manuel Pellegrini at City. Others may have occurred also, but it is hardly my fault if they failed to gain my attention.
You end up watching these non-event events out of necessity, not out of love. They were designed for reporting on by journalists, and now they appear on our TV screens because 24 hour sports news channels have minutes to fill and we have lives to live out. It’s a bad start in any relationship. Because yes, necessity is the mother of invention, but it also gave birth to monotony and resentment.
And we’re then stuck watching something which is innately dull. The purpose behind unveilings is, helpfully, in the title: they’re about unveiling the new manager. In terms of offering up entertainment, I hope you can see the flaw in this already. If Manchester City tell us that Manuel Pelligrini is their new manager and that really is all they want us to know, watching an hour of Manuel Pelligrini rephrasing the idea that he is Manchester City’s new manager will clearly not be a joy to watch—his way with words aside.
What’s more, I come with bad news: the more the non-event events are covered, the more precise an art they become, and the duller they become. The guy with the new job just reads a script. “”I know the last two years were not very good in the Champions League and I will try to improve that. That’s not the only thing, though, and I will try to get another Premier League title,” said Pelligrini, pointing out absolutely nothing. “I was shocked but also incredibly thrilled that I was given the opportunity to manage Manchester United,” said David Moyes, though of course what he meant to say was “nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing.”
We are watching middle-aged men reading out pre-prepared scripts designed specifically to be monotonous. These are our lives.
But I understand it. Oh, I understand it. We all know why we keep thinking it might be good. Jose Mourinho, Version One: The Special One Press Conference. “Please do not call me arrogant,” he said. Remember? Of course you do, you’re probably breathing heavily already. “Because what I say is true,” he went on, whilst many of us went for a cold shower. “I’m European champion, I’m not one out of the bottle, I think I’m a special one.” That was Mourinho’s first Chelsea press conference and, if we’re honest with ourselves, that is the reason—the only reason—why we could ever expect anything good to come of one of these things.
But look. Even the man who said those words back then wouldn’t say those words now. “”I’m the happy one,” was what he offered this summer, a watered-down parody of the original incident that has turned out to be singular exception in an otherwise all-conquering rule: managers being unveiled is not interesting.
Moyes, Mourinho and Pelligrini represent big new changes at big old clubs. Exciting things might happen whilst they are in charge of those clubs. But announcing their arrivals, and telling us what’s happening on their lucrative tours for that matter, is really, really boring. Either change the script or change the channel.
*And yes, if you want to read this entire piece as an excuse for the standard of coverage of these press conferences, by people like me, then you are free to do so. And also correct.