Sitting by the fire watching the football. Another decent performance. Another single goal defeat. Breaking our own Premier League record, and now also beating the greatest number of single goal defeats in the top flight since 1981. And there were four more games played back then.
Long and dull story short, we need a few more points on our medical insurance spin-off programme to earn better discounts and nicer freebies. I’ve all but reached my limit for points earned through exercise for the year, so I started looking at other ways of scoring enough to get us over the metaphorical, virtual line.
And there is was: a mental health questionnaire that I could do in 5 minutes while watching the football. And it promised almost twice as many points as a 30 minute workout with my heart pumping at 150bpm. Easy money.
And so I went for it. As I remember, there were seven parts to it and it was all multiple choice stuff – often the old ‘”I strongly disagree” to “I strongly agree” with this statement’ kind of thing. I strongly agreed with some of them and I strongly disagreed with others. Occasionally, where I felt fairly neutral about the given statement, I clicked “neutral”.
And then I finished the thing and collected my 500 points and it suggested that I speak to a mental health counsellor.
It also appeared to class me as “at risk” from my drinking habits. But my drinking habits are equivalent to a glass of wine each evening. If that puts me at risk, then the world (including me) is really in trouble.
And I truthfully answered the mental health questions in the same sort of way. Sure, I don’t think I’m 100% happy 100% of the time, but the fact is that none of us is having an easy ride this year, and if you actually are still 100% happy 100% of the time, then I think that it’s actually you that has the mental health issue.
Honestly, this questionnaire seems to be the equivalent of googling your headache and the daily mail dot com telling you that you have a brain tumour. Overkill much?
I’m well aware that denial isn’t just a river in Egypt, but if you feel that my having trouble getting to sleep a week last Saturday demands that I seek immediate help from a counsellor, then you’re a) being a bit dramatic, b) wasting my time and (more importantly) theirs, and c) not a Sheffield United supporter.
I will be good, I will to continue to exercise my mind and body, and really: I won’t off myself anytime soon. I’ll also try and get less stressed about the football, but having narrowly lost this week’s fantasy matchup to that “goal” by Tariq Lamptey – insult added to injury by the fact that the foul on Højbjerg was also counted as a dispossession and further that the two goals scored against Lamptey weren’t deducted from his score – I feel I’m ok to feel a bit aggrieved every now and again.
So yes, football – such a big bit of my life – is still not a good thing for me at the moment.
For me, at least. It could be that other people are still enjoying football, but if they enjoyed football a few years ago, I simply can’t see why they would still be enjoying football now.
Because it’s ruined.
Not all the reasons behind this ruination are football’s fault, but equally, some of them certainly are, and football would do well do look at the stuff it can control and then control it better. Especially since the causes of football’s ruination are cumulative and so removing some of those causes would make things a bit better.
Let’s run through a few of the things which have ruined football. And while doing so, let’s also remember that this is a sport that I – like many others – have loved for several (or more) decades. It pains me to see it this way and it pains me to write this post. (I’m quite sure it pains you to read it too, but that’s nothing to do with football.)
The crowds are gone. And football without crowds is crap. Whether it’s 33,000 at Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane or 120 up at Sandygate, it’s amazing the difference that having supporters at games makes. The novelty (if there ever was any) of hearing the players and managers shouting expletives at one another has well and truly worn off. And the fake FIFA20 noises were briefly amusing but are now very annoying. And haven’t improved in their accuracy.
This one isn’t changing any time soon. March 2021 before they even risk trying again, I’m told.
The commentators‘ desperate efforts to keep the audience engaged in games which are very dull because the standard is poor or because it’s 5-0 with 2 minutes remaining are becoming ever more irritating. Yes, they need us to hang around so that we can boost the figures for viewing their adverts, but phrases like “there’s still time for a miracle comeback” should only really be used on Easter Saturday outside a cave in Jerusalem, and are plainly completely inaccurate when Fulham need to score 4 goals in 25 seconds to scrape a draw. Or 4 goals in any length of time, to be honest.
And the co-commentators are getting worse as well. Thankfully, it seems that David Pleat is only dug up from his vault and briefly semi-reanimated when everyone else is busy or infected these days, but hey, step forward Jim Beglin stating the bleeding obvious with gems like:
Yeah, well Arsenal will be hoping to keep a clean sheet this evening.
and (on Arsenal’s goalkeeper):
Yeah, well I think he’ll be glad he was in that position because it came straight at him.
No shit, Sherlock. Thanks, Einstein. I’m so glad that they’re paying you the big bucks for insight like that. Honestly, I would pay almost as much never to hear your irritating, talent-free, Irish/Scouse voice polluting the air in my living room ever again, you lousy, utterly clueless goon.
And I’m clearly not alone. Because how many other co-commentators have their own Facebook group like this?
Then there are the changes to the handball rule. Utterly ridiculous. I don’t want to get technical here (and so I won’t), but the rules are crap and they’re being applied poorly.
Even with helpful synopses like this:
… it just all seems like randomised, inconsistent guesswork from the referees.
And while we’re on the subject of refereeing, even those who hate VAR have (to some degree, at least) welcomed the new guidelines instructing referees to use pitchside monitors during games this season. It’s just that they don’t seem to be using them very much, or very consistently. It’s massively frustrating, especially when everyone except them can see that they’ve got a big decision wrong and the technology is there to put it right and… isn’t used.
There could be a lighter, happier side to try to balance out all these ills, but as discussed earlier, that’s not there right now either. And yes, of course that just makes the whole thing even more miserable.
It all adds up and now it’s got to the point where my FOMO at not watching games has been easily overcome with my desire to just go to bed. I haven’t watched a single minute of this last weekend’s Premier League football and I haven’t missed it at all.
Big wow? Yes, big wow.
You need to understand just how scary that is for a guy that will watch literally every minute of every live game he can, no matter how arbitrary or pointless those matches may seem to be.
There is a hole in my life where football-based enjoyment used to be and it’s making me very sad.
Football is ruined and needs to be unruined as soon as possible. Will someone please sort it out?