I'm not entirely sure which temporary mental affliction caused me to regard watching the World Cup 2014 group stage draw live as "not an enjoyable way to spend my Friday evening" (I can only assume the repeat smashing of my head against a brick wall several hours earlier did little to assuage my rash decision making), but I can only retrospectively rue my reckless, ignorant former self, for I decided to forgo the experience in favour of doing just about anything else. Little did I know that I had missed the event of the footballing calendar.
That's right. The World Cup 2014 group stage draw. A unique event more exciting than a cup final. More exhilarating than a 40-yard volley. More engaging than an actual match of actual football being played by actual players (or on par with this at least, as designated by the BBC's choice to broadcast it under the 'Match of the Day' brand).
With the costs of staging this year's event allegedly somewhere in the region of £8million, the question on everyone's lips was: "Can it possibly live up to the hype generated by its great expense?" In hindsight, this was an ashamedly crass and foolish question, with there being an implication within the question that the World Cup 2014 group stage draw - an event where some balls are arbitrarily taken out of some dishes and then opened to reveal a piece of paper with a country's name scrawled across it - could possibly fail to thrill, to delight.
In the days immediately following, I have read reams of comment pieces and watched hours of footage dedicated to the celebration of this wondrous occurrence, this life-altering experience, this brief encounter with the sublime, with each anecdote compounding my crushing sense of regret at having failed to watch the World Cup 2014 group draw live. And then I had an epiphany: perhaps, just maybe, perhaps I didn't actually miss much at all?
Perhaps a happening in which an adult dressed as a cartoon armadillo doing a funny dance routine was considered the stand-out highlight wasn't worthy of any amount of pounds suffixed by the word 'million'? Perhaps some bizarre exercise in self-aggrandising FIFA narcissism, which played out like a raffle in which nobody actually wins anything, was not even remotely interesting in the slightest?
I briefly touched on BBC broadcasting the event earlier, but Sky ran rival coverage of the exact same thing, just in case you wanted to watch on televisions. Then every news programme and channel replayed snippets over and over again. The internet followed suit, the commentariat passing judgement on the clothing of those involved, analysed a gesture by Greg Dyke and debated the length of the tribute to Nelson Mandela during the ceremony. But why? And to what ends? How has an admin formality become so elevated into an 'event' of significance that now extends beyond the actual process involved? And EIGHT MILLION POUNDS?!
Anyone who has played the Football Manager series of simulation games and actively attended any of the similar in-game 'draws' is clearly the sort of deranged person so perverse that they would surely also delight in the collecting of dead owls, or in drawing pictures of people with knives through their head using their own excrement, and should be given immediate therapy. For the rest of us, those who haven't suffered an acute childhood trauma, it's fair to say that nobody sits through a draw. Why would you? All you want to know is who you're playing. The formulaic process of randomly pairing two names together is beyond tedious, and this is the opinion of gamers who opt to play a title in which the main fun is to be had looking at endless spreadsheets of statistics.
I implore you all to stop this inane buffoonery at once. The implications of a draw are important, obviously, but the presentation of the mechanics is nothing but a complete, bloated non-event. Are football fans that starved of excitement, that desperate for scraps of gratification, that we must have mundane procedure foisted upon us, as long as they're disguised in a stimulating way by having lasers whizz past Sepp Blatter's head as he holds up the small ball he's picked out of a jar?
The spectacle of an actual football match itself used to be enough to pacify fans. Post-match analysis and opinion of the on-field action was the logical next step, as it helped enrich our interaction and understanding with the game. Then things were ramped up into overdrive. There were efforts to emulate the spectacle that our American cousins achieve in their presentation of sports. Suddenly, 'Transfer Deadline Day' and the inanity of a presenter stood in a stadium car park discussing a last minute loan move for Ade Akinbiyi was packaged as a fast-cutting blockbuster action movie. Except, it was still just a presenter standing in a stadium car park, discussing a last minute loan move, for Ade Akinbiyi, but in HD, with split-second cuts to an extreme close-up of Jeff Stelling's eyebrows, fireball graphics and a dramatic soundtrack.
'Award' shows and the constant need we as a society seem to have to quantify 'thing X as better than other thing Xs' is baffling in terms of appeal to me. They've been a staple of film and music for decades, and now their grotty influence is pervading football. Currently, debate is rife throughout the footballing community as to who deserves this year's Ballon d'Or the most out of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery. But who actually cares who wins? Other than the players themselves, obviously. What's the point in trying to assess the merits of three different players on a set of loose criteria largely dictated by variable form so as to ascertain the winner at one given moment in time? Why are many so invested in this contest? Given that football is ultimately a team game, what does anyone actually get out of it in the end? Do people 'support' individual players? If so, why are they missing the point of the game so drastically in their reducing of it to the levels of celebrity cultism? When the winner is announced, will people actually celebrate? Will they experience gutting disappointment? If so, why?!
As a football fan, here is a list of things that might pique your interest: A goal, a deft bit of skill, a well-executed tackle, a sublime touch, an exquisitely weighted pass, a match win, a title triumph, some bloke picking some spheres out of a dish, some fella getting a trophy for apparently being the best attacking player at a certain point in time in entirely impossible to evaluate circumstances, Ade Akinbiyi. If any of the latter three appealed to you, you might want to start actually watching some football matches every once in a while. You might enjoy them.
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