The Blog

The Gospel and The Devil; Television in Football...

Projection of the beautiful game around the globe extends our sight, and thereby, our knowledge, our understanding and our love of the sport... catering for the needs of the approximated one billion people who viewed the 2014 World Cup final live.

Television. Technically, a miracle of man's achievement. A moving picture of reality, as we see it through our own eyes, that can be projected to any compatible screen on the planet. Etymologically, its Classical roots break it down to 'far' (tele) 'sight' (visio), and what an extension it feeds to our limited retinas. And culturally, it has moved some of the greatest art pieces of modern day into the affordable spectrum of the common man, away from the social elite, as never seen previously. Who could argue that some of the great television masterpieces (think Attenborough or some of HBO's marvellous output) are not on an artistic level with any 'high culture' pieces; pieces that, in previous societies, were for a very limited proportion. The live drama of football also fits this category.

Projection of the beautiful game around the globe extends our sight, and thereby, our knowledge, our understanding and our love of the sport. It allows a detailed analysis to be made of a French Ligue 2 centre back, Djidji Koffi par example, as well as catering for the needs of the approximated one billion people who viewed the 2014 World Cup final live (without them having to strain their ears to radios or, god-forbid, read a match-report of the game in the next day's newspaper). It may dampen myths of far off players, who roam far off continents, who manipulate the circular orb with some far off black magic. But, it brings to life other cultures in other countries, expressed through their play of football, in a true and lifelike way. We can know Lionel Messi's skill, feel Cristiano Ronaldo's power and enjoy the speed of Arjen Robben's feet. Ask a British man of the 1940s to describe the heading capabilities of Heleno de Freitas and you will not see such detail.

Though, simultaneous with the expansion of footballing television, comes the argument that, in turn, less matches are attended in the flesh. The slanderer of television throws the two into perennial matrimony. However, ticket sales have actually increased steadily and comfortably since the trough of the 1980s (barring a slight stagnation in the last few years adjudged to be the caused by the recession). There is also the theory that more exposure on television, especially for football league clubs, garners more interest for these clubs and, therefore, more match day fans.

Television, then, may not be the fabled enemy of football, but simply its messenger. Indeed, if Jesus' words had never been spread by the bible so much less would have been learned by him. So, rejoice and be happy for the gospel of football can be spread globally and affordably.

Still, as with all divine work, comes the evil balance; there are, of course, devils at work in the television output. Diabolic forces which peak in the summertime with no footballing truth (the ninety minutes) to hold them back. The Satanic amalgam of players' holidays and trivalent transfer talk, with Sky Sports News, the Luciferic leader, at the helm of this Mephistophelian curse. As with all devils, they appeal to your weaker, lazier side, feeding you information right-bottom-centre. They even alert your lethargic eyes to the important parts with an easy to spot flash of yellow, energising the day of the sloth.

So easy, so simple, all the sports news the viewer wants, without the bother of an oversized newspaper. Though, this viewer should heed the wisdom of Vincent Van Gogh. He noted, that the repetition of an image - copies, replicas - that increase the amount that it is viewed, greatly increases the value of the original. This is the ingenious deception of Sky Sports News. For, as a football fan, fundamentally, one should be interested in the news of one's team, both direct and indirect. Then, it is only natural to be interested in the best players, the men who have enriched your life with skill, abilities and, sometimes, courage. The trick Sky Sports News play is to make the fan believe, through constant repetition, that they are interested in the kickoff of the rugby league second division, the afternoon racing in some far off 'muck-den' and news on disinteresting players who have nothing to do with their own club or natural football interests. The increase in airtime for anything that will be shown on Sky can be spotted by even the most impassive of sloths.

This is one of the great advancements of online punditry and news. A fan can now pick and choose the news that matters to him, without a thorough brainwashing by world-tour darts. A succinct, self-progammed football diet can then be more followed for a healthier football life.

So, footballing television, then, holds great advantages in the far-reaching gaze it gives our interested eye. But it comes with a warning; don't be deceived into watching something you think that you are interested in. And, in looking so far we should not forget the importance of the live ninety minutes that could be viewed under our very noses.

By Duncan Stirling - @duncanjstirling