On Saturday, I went to my second live football match. This, for anyone who knows me, is an astounding revelation and one that should be rightly yelled from the rooftops – or at least here on wibbler.com. However, there has been a piece of news that over the past few days has astounded me so much that instead I’m doing a little story splicing – and show why I think the world and its media are edging toward insanity.
So, the match. I’d never been to a football ground before, mainly because I have always had a passionate dislike of the over-promoted, money-leeching game. However, after four years of a football-loving girlfriend, I felt that it was about time I tried to understand it. Oli, the boyfriend of Michelle’s sister, managed to get us tickets for Queen’s Park Rangers, and off we all trotted up to White City yesterday afternoon to watch them play Nottingham Forest.
White City was the home of the QPR stadium – and my first impressions allowed me to put another area of London on my “Never Willingly Visit” list. The area is named after the neverending Prisoner-Cell-Block-H-style housing estate that stretches for miles. It is also the home of the BBC, and as I emerged from the tube station, as I was approached by a number of leafleters. “Want to protest against the Jerry Springer opera?” they asked. “No”, I muttered, thinking that they must be individual nutcases, intent on being the David to the BBC’s Goliath. I hurried past.
After visiting a local pub, we entered the ground, settling into our seats half an hour before the game began. The match was enjoyable – despite QPR being the wrong side of the 3-0 scoreline – but it is in the crowd’s reaction that my main thrust lies. For throughout the ninety minutes, abuse was hurled at any player who didn’t perform perfectly every time, and further abuse was dealt to those in the crowd who didn’t agree totally with the abusers point of view. Kids the age of 5 and 6 were at the ground, swearing their heads off because they thought it was the thing to do. Players were booed by the opposing supporters for anything they did and any player who dared to venture into a corner was attacked from both sides by the crowd. I can almost understand why footballers are paid so much. At least they can afford counselling.
However, it was an enjoyable day, full of tension, despair, fun with friends and a temperature that successfully kicked off round two of my neverending cold.
While yesterday’s match was in progress, the BBC was being hauled over the public coals for broadcasting an opera based on the Jerry Springer Show. A clever operatic idea, i thought – combine televisual guff with high-minded opera and cross a wide spectrum of viewers. Plus, the schedulers can wallow in being “edgy”. But the media and religious groups have been up in arms about the swearing and blasphemy – and true, there was substantial numbers of both, as I noticed when I watched the thing last night to see what all the fuss was about. It was, in reality, a clever spoof on the whole genre of chat shows, and remarkably funny in some parts. I also watched news coverage of the protests on ITV News just as it was being screened. A female protester was detailing how appalling the opera was, how no one should see it. And then the reporter asked if the protester had already seen it. The protester paused – and then said that she hadn’t. I’ll wager the majority of the protesters hadn’t seen even a second of it.
The media weren’t to be abated though and focused on the swear words, while the religious groups thrust their intimidating vective on the blasphemy. The Sun, of all people, managed to convey their disgust – this from a paper that dismisses the topless Page 3 girls as a “bit of harmless fun“. Which, of course, they are. Protests outside BBC studios ensued, BBC employees addresses and phone numbers were published on websites, causing them to go into hiding (“would these religious fanatics consider that Godly behaviour?” I wondered sarcastically) and the papers were all over the story like a rash.
So, how many swear words are we talking here? The Daily Mail announces, in an increasingly self-righteous tone, that it “has 8000 swear words”. That, firstly, is utter tosh. The number was miraculously reached, says the Mail, by “multiplying the number of profanities by the amount of people singing them”. In reality, and ignoring the fact that there’s a load of backing singers, the Mail on Sunday admits today that the real number is “under 300”.
And that’s considerably fewer than the number I and many seven year old children heard in just one of the football stands yesterday afternoon. And this happens up and down the country, every weekend. Not that I condemn it, of course – all that’s needed is a little perspective from those blinkered protesters.
So, if you want to stop your children swearing, as at least four protesters contended in their interviews yesterday, don’t protest in the freezing cold against a late night, once-shown programme. Just leave your kids at home when you next go to a football match.
UPDATE: Bloggerheads has some comments here, here and here. You go, Tim!