Evidence of apathy (1 Viewer)

Chxta

Di nwayi
Nov 1, 2004
12,083
#1
So, did Robin Van Persie deserve to get a red card for his tussle with Kieran Richardson? After viewing the incident a number of times from a series of different angles and hearing the views from a raft of pundits, I've come to this conclusion: I really don't care.

Robin Van Persie and Kieran Richardson are booked by Mark Halsey. 'Big wow,' says our writer. (AlexLivesey/GettyImages)
But, you may ask, what about the morals of a player setting out to injure an opponent? And the fact that he'd already been involved in a heavy challenge on Liam Miller? Or that Arsenal's Carling Cup visit to Old Trafford was being watched across the country by a record satellite audience for a League Cup tie and that indiscipline of this nature provides a poor example to youngsters?

Er, no, still not bothered. Am I a fan of Van Persie hoping, as seems to have happened, that all the fuss will subside and the Dutchman will escape censure? I confess I know very little about him, having seen only fleeting glimpses of his undoubted skills.

Am I a supporter of the theory that football is a man's game and that this bunch of nancy boys should learn to toughen up. Well, up to a point, though I don't support physical attacks on fellow professionals.

No, the reason I just couldn't care a fig for all the palaver about Van Persie is that I'm bored. I'm uninterested in whether Lee Hendrie headbutted Danny Mills on Saturday. I'm apathetic about Steve McLaren's verbal attack on a referee at White Hart Lane. And even El Hadj Diouf aiming phlegm at Arjan Van De Zeuw left me cold.

What are the reasons for my ennui? Well, I'm finding it hard to get excited about such incidents when it seems that TV coverage of football has become a litany of smug anchormen asking ageing or retired professionals whether they think, having watched the incident time and again on VT, it's a foul and the players should be booked, sent off, brought up in front of an FA disciplinary committee or sent to Devil's Island.

In this satellite TV age, British broadcasters have to fill the airspace surrounding over a hundred live games and countless highlights shows as well as a 24-hour news channel almost totally devoted to football and, to make a profit from these, attract an audience sizeable enough to attract advertising revenue. And the current chosen method seems to be to build every last kick, punch, cross word or gesture into a tower of sensation.

Arsenal's surrender of their unbeaten run became the 'Battle of Flying Pizza', not a game in which the Gunners' historic run was brought to a juddering halt by the prosaic approach of a team who, on the day, wanted it more. That hardly sells airspace now does it? No, far better to constantly replay penalty incidents, supposed professional fouls and off the ball incidents. That keeps the ball rolling until it's time for the next 'Judgement Night', 'Match of the Century' or 'D-Day'.

Was Van Nistelrooy guilty of a kick on Ashley Cole? Of course, the player admits that himself. Did it really require thousands of replays, days of tabloid headlines and the views of a bunch of mealy-mouthed ex-professionals to prove it?

The FA are to be applauded for their adoption of the use of video evidence to settle such cases. And for finally waking up to the idea that a disciplinary process should be quicker than that which took Thierry Henry nearly half a season to be banned for a confrontation with a referee in December 2001.

Sir Alex: Using the new FA video system for his own purposes. (PaulGilham/GettyImages)

But, in doing so, they have given the TV media a new power, and it's a power they're abusing. And it's giving them cheap copy and easy news stories for them to feed off.

A Sunday live game will often see an attempt to make an incident of indiscipline blown into a major crisis by Richard Keys and the ever more pompous Andy Gray. The question will inevitably come: 'Andy, do you think that X's kick at Y could be a case for the FA?' Cue interminable showings of said incident with Gray's penmarks all over the screen.

Should Gray reply in the affirmative to Keys' question then the football news agenda is set and the tabloid headlines are ready for Monday. And for those of us lucky/unlucky enough to have access to Sky Sports News we are treated to the 'big story' all day on a 30-minute loop.

And it's not just the broadcasters making the most of the all-seeing eye. The Van Persie skirmish, storm in a tea cup, battle royale, World War 3 (delete as applicable) fell prey to the Machiavellian games of Sir Alex Ferguson. Prompted in his post-match interview he said: 'Van Persie was lucky to stay on. The FA must look at it because the boy threw an elbow.'

The FA's fast-track disciplinary system has become open to the abuse of managers hoping to get their rivals diminished by suspension.

All this fuss hardly conveys a particularly positive message about the state of English football. And it's an incorrect message.

Can anyone seriously argue that the game is any dirtier or more indisciplined than it was in the 1970s and 80s? Imagine the outcry that would follow the 'tackles' made by the likes of Tommy Smith and Ron 'Chopper' Harris if they were to be playing today. What are our present day versions of these players? Robbie Savage and Danny Mills? Such a comparison is laughable. Imagine the endless fuss if that fabled 1975 set-to between Derby's Franny Lee and Leeds' Norman Hunter were to occur in 2004/5.

And we'd not even be able to laugh about Franny's red-faced rage like we did then. Because, such is the hand-wringing coverage that such a punch-up receives, the overbearing media would be quick to label it a 'disgrace', which no doubt happened in some quarters back then.

Football then, as now, was the national sport, but the level of coverage was nowhere near the saturation that it is now. There were no 24-hour news channels, no sports pull-outs and there were not two sports-devoted national radio stations and, dare I say it, there were not loads of football-centric websites to spread the bad news across hours of airtime and miles of column inches.

Nowadays, pious pundits discuss, in hushed tones, bad footballing behaviour as if its participants had opened fire on a packed school bus. It all adds to the feeling that football is getting too big for its boots, too self important, too overbearing, too centred in its own world to appreciate that outside it.

Time was when football was a rare treat where the viewer enjoyed the company of the presenters and pundits in catching a glimpse of football once a week.

Now, with hundreds of hours of coverage a week across a crowded television network, the game is overexposed and seems to want to make everything an event to keep the gravy train rolling. Petty disciplinary incidents that would have been laughed off a generation ago are being given the 'earthquake journalism' treatment.

It all adds up to a depressing, dull and ultimately pointless series of exercises in sorry sensationalism. And I can't be the only one reaching for the remote control, can I?
 

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