The State Of The “Beautiful” Game

Here’s an experiment – please read the following two paragraphs and tell me what you think:

The passion of the fans is the biggest strength of … but it is also its weakness, particularly in case of … . … fans are far more stoic about their team’s fortunes and far more accepting of failure, whereas in … they are grateful for every little or big victory, be that of the team or individual. But in …, the passion borders on frenzy.

In … it is brazenly and cynically fueled by an increasingly sensationalist and populist mass media, which treats … as one of the biggest baits to attract advertisers. Instead of providing perspective and being the voice of reason, the media feeds the frenzy and cashes in on it. Stars are built up and decimated. Exaggerated glorification is matched by proportionate vilification. So …. are either to be worshiped or denigrated. There isn’t a middle ground, a measure of reality, or a sense of proportion.

Can you guess what he’s talking about?

Source (edited): [Sambit Bal]

Here’s the next segment (different article):

“I was a talking head on a news show that was trying to examine the attack on … as a symptom of the unhealthy obsession of … with …. The anchor prefaced his question to me by observing that given the fact that … enjoyed being in the news through the good times, that they liked being pictured on Page 3, given their willingness to milk … for celebrity, wasn’t extreme public hostility after defeat part of the game?

I’m certain that the anchor didn’t for a moment believe what he was suggesting. He was rhetorically framing a popular view of the … team as a bunch of pampered, indulged, overpaid underperformers. He was being the modern news professional: if there was popular resentment raging without, it was his job to air it. I notice that when anchors channel the ‘public mood’, when they ventriloquize, they leer in a knowing way, as if to suggest to their sophisticated peers that the vulgarity of the popular view they are voicing has nothing to do with their own opinions.”

Source (edited): [Mukul Kesavan]

For what it’s worth, I haven’t found better critiques of modern media, and despite the fact that these two gents are talking about the hype surrounding the World Cup in India, they might as well be talking about football and the English press.

The ‘leering’ reference from the second paragraph especially made me think about Geoff Shreeves and his recent Ronaldo interview (and subsequent Ferguson roasting). There was a sinister, cynical smirk in Shreeves’ voice that can only be described as sophisticated, self-righteous leering. It’s despicable.

And finally, an unedited segment from the second article (Mukul Kesavan’s), about Bob Woolmer’s death last week – if you take out the sad incident about Woolmer and replace it with a transfer rumour, this is exactly what you get from football:

“In their coverage of Bob Woolmer’s death, news channels went one better by trying to second-guess popular prejudice before it had the chance to form.

By Wednesday morning the Jamaican police had indicated that since the autopsy hadn’t confirmed death by natural causes, Woolmer’s death would be, by default, treated as death in suspicious circumstances. Samples had been sent to pathology labs to test for toxins and other things and the reports hadn’t yet come in.

By noon I saw that Times Now was leading with the headline: Bob Woolmer Murdered. I watched horrified, waiting for new revelations. There were no revelations. The rest of the bulletin was a grudging retreat from that headline. The first qualification came when the anchor announced that there was a ‘strong murder angle’ to the story, whatever that meant.

The channel’s claim that Jamaican police sources had indicated murder was flatly contradicted by the statement of the Jamaican police commissioner who merely repeated that Woolmer had died in suspicious circumstances and that it would be inappropriate to speculate till the pathology reports came in.

Despite the headline, I realized that the story was exactly where it had been earlier in the morning.”

As a Manchester United fan, most of the speculation and hype doesn’t matter to me on a personal level. It does bother me, professionally as a blogger, to see that news agencies that I deeply respect and admire have allowed personal opinion and unfounded speculation to become the norm in their daily football coverage.

It makes for good entertainment, but can we trust the footy news any more?

Manchester United fans guilty of improper conduct in Lille game
Guardian: Keane blasts mediocre Liverpool, Tottenham, Newcastle and Manchester United players


  1. Red Ranter 23 March, 2007
  2. Karl 23 March, 2007
  3. Ahmed Bilal 23 March, 2007