Late on a Sunday night 2011 Wifey and I were wandering the streets of Salta in Argentina looking for a place to stay. At the third hostel we tried the guy we spoke to had to leave the front desk to go and see if the last remaining room was suitable for human habitation (it wasn’t, but he let us have it anyway). Spotting an unattended computer monitor I typed nufc.com into the search engine to find out the football scores. Newcastle had won and the beer we bought (Quilmes – I strongly recommend it) to celebrate having secured lodgings tasted all the sweeter because of this news. In fact I struggle to think of a place we have been on the planet where we couldn’t find out any football score we were interested in. It’s called the “World Wide Web” – there is a clue in there somewhere.
Anybody, in a place civilised enough to have a working television, wanting to know the football scores can find them out in seconds. Some random busy body barking out results is no longer “a service”, it is in fact “a bloody nuisance.” Some of us actually don’t want to know and consequently telling us feels like an act of smug spite. Most football is so wearisome, pointless and boring that knowing the score before replayed highlights start is all you require to quit the game and go and do something more rewarding instead. Like looking out of a window while scratching your bum. Match of the Day is virtually unwatchable in real time anyway: we don’t need five replays of a goal scored by Stoke or West Brom and we don’t need interviews with managers who are notorious liars. The only reason to sit through unconvincing and selective analysis from the likes of Martin Keowen or Alan Shearer is because they will sometimes show chances that were inexplicably missed out of the match highlights. And nobody cares what Robbie Savage has to say about anything, ever. Hungover on a Sunday morning you can get an hour and a half Match of the Day done in around half an hour and know everything you need to know and have seen everything worth looking at.
I can’t be the only person who avoids the football scores to make Match of the Day more interesting (in fact I know I’m not because Wifey does it too) but you would think this was a debauched and illegal act given the amount of effort the broadcasters put in to thwart it. The BBC used to be the worst, sabotaging their own programme, by flashing the scores up on the news immediately before Match of the Day starts. This means results are exploded into your face right at the start of any recording you might have set. You can get round that by starting to watch the recording five minutes in and rewinding to the point where you see Gary Lineker’s eager welcoming face. Things get more complicated if you have any interest in watching the Saturday evening game live where BT or Sky will sometimes run the earlier results along the bottom of the screen just in case you are watching with the sound turned off.
Traditionally once you have made it into watching the highlights of a game you are safe from having the end result spoiled providing you stay off Twitter and don’t let Brian Glover know where you live. (This is an obscure yet obvious Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads joke that ignores the fact that it is not 1975 and that Brian Glover is dead). However BT recently surpassed all convention by revealing the final score of the game they were actually showing just 26 minutes into the match: The highlights of a Roma game came with an uninvited blitzkrieg of information around the screen like Sky Sports News employs. This was already vexing (to the point that I was casting flirtatious looks towards the Playstation) then they rolled the previous day’s Serie A results across the screen, including the news that Roma won 5-1. I was instantly delighted, annoyed and angry but couldn’t stop laughing at the bare-faced stupidity.
Why do BT think this sort of thing is clever technology when they should be concentrating on a red button service that means we can all fire painful jolts of electricity into Robbie Savage’s eyes whenever he says something idiotic or that directly contradicts something he said himself five minutes beforehand? As this would be every time he opens his mouth this would soon render the service painfully but satisfyingly redundant due to Mr Savage’s unfortunate death. We could then quickly move onto technology that administered a fish-based punishment beating every time Michael Owen says something obvious and boring.
BT clearly have the public’s best interests at heart: we can see this from their generous decision to televise Newcastle’s game at Bournemouth and showing it at lunchtime so nobody has to actually bother making the 720 mile trip. All I’m asking is that they and the BBC keep a bit of their public spiritedness to themselves.