Sunday 22 September 2019

Match of the Day television review: The men who know too much

  • Match Of The Day (BBC1)

'Match of the Day' is essential viewing
'Match of the Day' is essential viewing
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

I took a walk back into the past recently, and I liked what I saw. It was a midweek episode of Match of the Day, and though it started quite late on a Wednesday night, I had somehow succeeded in not knowing any of the results of the matches being shown.

Perhaps it helped that I had been at the Sunday Indo Living party, where there was talk of many things, but not a great deal about football and in particular about the Premier League games which were going on as we spoke.

But then these days there is no gathering of any kind from which one is safe from the constant deluge of information - so even on my way out of the hotel that evening, it was perfectly possible that I would pass the open door of a taxi in which the radio was at that moment broadcasting the scores of the matches I was trying not to hear.

Or perhaps when I got into my own car on the way home, and the radio came on, it would have been set at a station which was giving out the sports news, and thus before I could switch it off I would hear that United had drawn with Arsenal and City had beaten whoever City were playing and… at that stage you feel defeated and you just leave the radio on, resigned to the fact that the modern world simply refuses to allow you not to know things. Even things you don't want to know.

Not that the sports fan trying not to hear the result of a game is a new phenomenon, indeed there was a legendary episode of the 1970s comedy Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? based on this very idea of the Lads trying not to hear the result of an England game that was due to be shown on a midweek football special - and they were only up against newspaper street vendors shouting the result, or mischievous friends trying to ruin their day.

Today it is an extraordinary personal achievement for anyone not to hear or see something that they are trying not to see or hear, and so most people have simply given up on the notion that they might be watching Match of the Day in a state of happy ignorance of what is to come.

What a thing it was, therefore, for me to experience this transcendental state, a bit like finding myself transported back to medieval times for an hour - maybe they should be doing this at Bunratty Castle, I thought, sitting people in front of a television in a 1970s style sitting room, watching highlights of games of football the results of which they do not know. With no remote, of course.

This was more than just the enhancement of my enjoyment of a TV programme, it was a profound sense of peace that I was feeling, a sense of liberation from the tyranny of too much information, a sense of exhilaration that such a thing is even possible any more.

Because we have mostly given up on these things. We have allowed the technology to dictate everything to us, we have surrendered completely to the system.

I am now routinely taping football matches and watching them at a time of my choosing, thinking that I am, as it were, ahead of the game. That the miracle of Sky Plus has allowed me to organise my schedule around the football, and not vice versa.

Which it has, except it has also done something else that I thought nothing would ever do, something that is a miracle in itself - it has actually diminished my love of football, because it has encouraged me to fast forward through the "boring" bits, so that I can watch a 90-minute game in 30 minutes or less. I have become like a Catholic always looking for the "fast Mass".

Everything that purports to be giving us more, seems to have this effect of giving us less, and making us disrespect the little that is left to us.

So here's one basic law, that you need to be following: If you're not watching Match of the Day at least once a month without knowing the results, you are not living right.

You are not living at all.

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