Saturday 30 November 2019

The agony of Fantasy Football terms and conditions

I really let myself down on Monday night (Nov 25th).

Arguably I'd let myself down a number of times throughout the day - snoozing in the bath first thing in the morning when I should have been powering through this first task of the day to help get the kids to school on time; forgetting to take my shoes to change into at work and ending up wearing trainers with shirt and trousers; picking up a can of fizzy drink on the way home that I didn't need or truthfully enjoyed, succeeding only in bringing forward the inevitable unarranged overdraft alert text that seems to be arriving earlier and earlier after pay day.

But all these things paled into insignificance around 9:40 that night, when I Joined The Debate.

BBC Sport are forever getting you to Join The Debate, and though I've maintained enough pride to resist calling up the modern day version of 606 (Contrary to perceived wisdom, 606 did actually exist before the Premier League, and much like Division One, Danny Baker's variation was superior in my humble), I succumbed to the live internet feed of Aston Villa versus Newcastle United. In my defence, I didn't directly Join The Debate, like I nearly did on TalkSport FM the day Andy Gray was exposed by Sky for dubious 'off-air' bantz with female staff members (Gender specific sexual misconduct did actually exist before #MeToo) and would have tarred my reputation for good had I stayed on the line. No, my text remark during AVFC v NUFC was aimed at the chap running the live feed, in short requesting that he refrain from using the term "on comms", a la Dion Dublin, when referring to the radio commentary on Five Live.

My text sadly contained a spelling mistake, which prompted my follow up text sheepishly mocking my qualification to judge. My misery was compounded at around 9:47 when the chap running the feed referred to "on comms" again, clearly to wind me up. I congratulated him on this mickey-taking and left it there, hoping at least that I'd triggered a spot of self-analysis on his part.

The only reason I was tuning in to the live feed was because I have two Aston Villa players in separate Fantasy Football teams this season. Much like Baker's Saturday evening 606 show, fantasy football was fun when it didn't involve me, first when it was aired on Sunday mornings on Radio 5 hosted by Ross King in 92-93 (?) and then elevated to night time viewing in Frank Skinner and David Baddiel's mock-up flat the following season.

As much as there is enjoyment to be had from being an FF manager, there is also an "on comms" type discomfort about it, far beyond cheering the goals of players you shouldn't cheer, such as Frank Lampard's late winner for Chelsea at home to Bolton a few years ago (Only Chelsea fans should be thrilled about such things). There's also the hurtful reality of your indignity and moral bankruptcy coming to the fore such as at The Emirates in December 2012 when Michu of Swansea was bearing down on our goal in injury time for 2-0 and, amid the booing and outrage around me, came the recognition that the Spaniard had just earned me 10 points alone that Gameweek.

Perhaps most guiltily for me, is the compliance in a culture that allows American terminology to thrive. When I was growing up in the eighties, footballers, even ones like me in my playmaker role for my Dad's junior team, 'set goals up'. Commentator (in commentary) Alan Parry spoke of Kenny Dalglish as the "creator supreme" after setting a goal up for Ian Rush against Watford. Back then, players set up goals or created them, sometimes "laid it on". Now though, Trent Alexander Arnold is called the "King of Assists". In those halcyon days, "assists" was a term used by Americans to define the value of a soccer player in the North American Soccer League. Now "Assists" is famed language in FF and on telly.

I'm not anti-American but do believe we should stick to our roots. One should be encouraged to speak openly about national identity without danger of promoting nationalism, and I never appreciated Steven Gerrard describing his selection just in front of England's back four as a "quarterback role". But then I don't like people endlessly going on about "pressing" either or "the press", which comes from European football. Contrary to popular belief, "closing down" existed before "pressing". George Graham brought "closing down" to Arsenal when he first arrived, or at least more of it, the only 'press' was those watching it happen from behind typewriters, or word processors, whichever existed before the Premier League.                    

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