Friday, 29 June 2012

Football commentary: stop living in the past

With the Euro 2012 competition reaching it's conclusion this weekend (I am watching the second semi-final on BBC iPlayer as I type this) I have been watching plenty of football on television over the past couple of weeks - and, as a consequence, I have been getting more and more annoyed at some traits of the commentary which accompanies live football.

I know commentators get a lot of stick (not always entirely deserved, in my opinion) but one thing which really does annoy me is the seemingly constant fascination with old statistics - sometimes several decades old, or more - which really have no bearing on the game currently being played.

It usually starts off with something fairly innocuous -
These two teams have played each other seven times before in international tournaments, and Team A have won six of those seven encounters.
But it's never long until these statistics become increasingly irrelevant, as commentators feel more and more gripped by the need to fill all the available time on air with something resembling an opinion -
This is the first time Team A played Team B in a stadium whose name begins with an "H" since 1988 - and on that occasion, Team A won by nine goals to three.  Could this be an omen?
And then these statements become ever more ridiculous, as they begin to relate to tournaments as a whole, not just the match which is currently taking place -
Team A played two friendly games before this tournament - both against South American teams.  The last time that happened was in 1992.  In that year, they lost their quarter-final match on penalties, despite having been four-nil up in the first half.  Are we going to see a repeat of this tonight? 
So what's the matter?  Surely these little pieces of trivia are harmless enough?

Well, harmless they may be - but they also add no value to proceedings.  Endless reminiscences of matches long gone does nothing to bolster fans' enjoyment of the match they're actually watching.

The real trouble is, it's so difficult to draw such parallels in football; whatever might've happened last time, or the time before that, or twenty years ago, doesn't affect what's going on now - they were different players and different managers playing a different game on a different pitch - and any apparent similarities are surely just coincidence.

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