Tuesday, 5 July 2011

"Breaking" News

As far as football is concerned, this summer has been a tedious one. One of the most tedious ever. In fact, if gongs were handed out for sheer strength of tedium, a three hour award ceremony featuring speeches from Gordon Brown broken up by musical performances from Celine Dion, still wouldn’t be as tedious as the sole award winner: the summer of 2011.

As domestic football around the continent came to an end, I scrambled around like a hungry scavenger trying to find any morsal of footballing action to keep me sane. As a result, I have found myself attempting and struggling to even get a tingle out of the predictable Euro 21s (won by Spain), the insipid under 17s World Cup (England eliminated by Germany), the I-don’t mean-to-sound-sexist-but-genuinely-cannot-find-it-in-myself-to-give-a-shit-about Women’s World Cup and most insignificantly of all, the CONCACAF Gold Cup where Mexico triumphed in a competition featuring football heavyweights Grenada, Guadeloupe and El Salvador!

The Copa America did pique my interest initially but the turgid nature of the opening matches seems to suggest that like the rest of international football it is suffering from a terrible case of crippling impotence. At the time of writing, four of the opening six games from the opening round of fixtures have finished in a draw with just 7 goals scored.

But alas, in my desperation, I live in hope that these competitions will keep me satiated and prevent me from going batshit insane from the unbelievable amount of nonsense and lies written and reported by supposed respected sources of football news regarding player transfers and the like.

Yes, this is a summer filler piece deriding pointless transfer guff. Sue me.

Is there any other sport where more column inches are dedicated speculating about the movement of the participants than to their actual athletic achievement? The amount of time journalists and bloggers dedicate to the continued perpetuation of bullshit coupled with willingness of the fans to nuzzle their collective snouts into the metaphorical trough of said bullshit, all the while lapping it up and repeating it with literally no reason to do so makes you wonder if they actually care more about this ridiculous summer sideshow than the game itself. How different is this to pornography? Getting a cheap thrill from something that you want to be real but in actual fact remains nothing more than a hollow fantasy.

The comparisons don’t end there. Like all your favourite interracial BBW triple-penetration gangbang videos featuring that woman who looks a lot like your favourite primary school teacher, the main source of all these transfer fables is found on the internet. All you have to do is go to the football section of Newsnow during this period and you will find literally hundreds of thousands of desperate, hit-seeking blogs trying to entice you in with titles such as “New Chelsea boss eyes £20 million defender swoop”, “Liverpool eye highly rated French midfielder” or “United prepared to break bank for Cambodian wonderkid”. It doesn’t take long for some lonely loser with a laptop and an overactive imagination to cobble together a piece ‘suggesting’ that a team ‘may’ be interested in signing a given player. These qualifiers of uncertainty should be enough to warn readers off ever clicking on these sites but unfortunately I fear I’m giving football fans far too much credit.

Waste Paper

Things get worse when ‘proper’ media outlets get involved. It’s no secret that newspapers are a busted flush. Since the internet strolled into town like some sort of rabid wolfit has just been sat there in the corner of the room waiting patiently for the print media to breath it’s last breath. The internet wolf will then take the opportunity to feast on it’s rotting corpse. The Papers are, however trying to go down fighting. Having been beaten to a story by the internet before they have the chance to go to print, editors sweat buckets over how they can stay fresh and otherwise respectable scribes become afraid of re-printing what people have already heard about before they went to bed last night. So, as a result, we are then treated to EXCLUSIVE (upper case lettering mandatory) stories in the morning editions. These are ridiculous tales of transfer ‘bombshells’ which end up being about as genuine as Katie Price’s body. These stories tend to make bold claims about individuals ‘demanding’ to leave and how ‘furious’ managers are and such like. Yet one brief look over the article in question and the number of quotes that are actually attributed to a human being rather than an ‘insider’ or ‘someone close to the club’ are minimal if there at all. I understand the need to protect sources in most situations but come on. One might think the author simply plucked these quotes out of thin air...

NB: This kind of thing isn’t merely restricted to tabloids. The posh papers are more often than not just as bad at indulging in fruitless speculation, albeit in a more eloquent manner. These otherwise respected writers also do major damage to their own credibility by regularly peddling lies.


One of the greatest, and at the same time, one of the worst things to ever sprout from the internet dung heap is Twitter – the ‘microblogging’ site where people publically broadcast the first thing that enters their head, true or not, in just 140 characters and are not required to substantiate any bogus claim they may make. God bless freedom of speech…

How does this relate to football transfer speculation? Well, let’s take fan. He might, for whatever reason, tweet that “My bro is tea lady at Upton Park and swears Leo Messi has just walked in”. All his ‘followers’ ears prick up. This is big news, albeit not even true! Regardless, they can now ‘retweet’ it and before you know it, millions of people around the world are giving more millage to an obvious lie. Then, as above with their printed stories, actual credible journalists, absolutely desperate to remind everyone that they are ‘in the loop’, will pass comment on the rumour. Even if they do so dismissively and claim it “unrealistic that Messi will ever get the District line”, all their followers will see it and they have given yet more legs to the fabrication.

TV Tuner

Caught somewhere between the avalanche of shit on the internet and the shit in the papers, is the broadcast media. TV and Radio, although also in competition with the internet still probably retains its position at the top of the media food chain. For all the immediacy of the online world, there is still a level of distrust thanks in part to the reasons outlined above. One is more inclined to trust the warm, welcoming, Colgate smile on TV rather than the collection of faceless words flashing up on their computers and smart phones. As a result, the rise in popularity of Sky Sports News has been borderline stratospheric down the years. When nothing else is on the old idiot box, you almost guarantee that every football fan instinctively punches in 405 on their Sky remote.

The merits of 24 hour news can be debated another day. Repetition can most certainly add to the tedium but one thing for sure is that when something significant does transpire, a channel on air at all hours of the day can report this news, no matter how trivial, in greater detail than some clown on twitter and far quicker than our friends in the press.

Unfortunately, this frantic need to be first also gives rise to the great promotion of transfer claptrap. In a scene arguably more ridiculous than Twitter, Sky Sports News will often insist on breaking a story, regardless of relevance, importance or quite worryingly, truth. Once again, the mythical unnamed ‘Sky Sources’ or even better, ‘Sky Sports Understands’ are the flimsy but legitimate defences for making these uncorroborated announcements. They can literally put whatever they want on their famous bright yellow ticker...


...and they can get away with it too.

Sky Sports News is no longer on free to air TV. This means we now have to pay to for the privilege of being patronised by a bubbly blonde woman dressed like she are about to hit a West End club telling us that she ‘understands’ something that is quite clearly not the case.

The worst things that results from all these nutty transfer stories is the fact that we, the watching fools actually bother to engage. We run around, send texts, emails and ring each other to tell each other about Messi to West Ham like it is fact. Even when we know most of it is crap, we are still fall into the trap and end up having absurd and inane conversations discussing, rather pointlessly with one another, how David Villa would perform alongside Elmander at Bolton when we know full well such a daft thing would never occur. September 1st cannot come soon enough...

Make up transfer stories with me on Twitter