Thursday 16 July ~
Much like Christmas, people love to complain that the football season is getting earlier every year. And it doesn’t take Jonathan Creek to deduce that this is due to commercial opportunism. Yes, there is a World Cup to get through next summer so things have to be moved earlier, but we know that there were World Cups in the old days when the football season didn’t begin until pitches were three blades of grass in a mudbath. This allowed the summer to be free for cricket to take all the attention for a few months with football forgotten faster than a novelty pop hit.
Which makes the last week’s Ashes dominated sports news a nostalgic joy, and offers some perspective on the football coverage that it has become easy for us to become desensitised to. Andrew Flintoff’s retirement from Test cricket yesterday was greeted across the broadsheets with articles analysing his impact on English cricket, reaching a general consensus that while he had a few golden years it was a career that never quite fulfilled its potential. Compare this to the football pages nearer the back of the sports section in which each press-conferenced comment from John Terry or Mark Hughes is met with huge headlines about a move that changes from definite to definitely not going to happen two or three times a day.
Of course the Flintoff story has a lot more to be said about it than the Terry saga so the articles cannot fail to have more substance. But perhaps the real thing this shows is that when there is no proper football news do we really need to pretend there is? To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, it is amazing how the amount of transfer news that happens every day exactly fills up a page of newspaper.
Occasionally people question if the bubble of football’s popularity will burst, if people will tire of its domination of the media and sense of its own self-importance. When the football season is in progress it feels like the sport will never be stopped, fuelled by matches and incident seven days a week. It is during these summer breaks that it suddenly feels like we are watching a soap opera with a plot thinner than a Dan Brown novel. The interminable coverage and rumour can surely only put people off the game. Josh Widdicombe