Monday, 28 February 2011


Feel the hyperbole
Was anyone else slightly - maybe 5% - surprised Birmingham's winner was given in yesterday's Co-Op final?
There's something strange when the underdog wins these days. As REM put it, Leonard Bernstein. Or if you prefer, there's something going on that's not quite right.
This goes back to a theory I've long held, that officials are subconsciously (mostly) favouring certain teams.
The equation works thus: massive hyperbole surrounding football means everyone expects a certain outcome - why would officials be exempt from this? 
Add the natural human desire to want to make people happy and it's understandable that officials lean towards certain teams. Chuck in a home crowd and the effect, and with it the pressure on the officials, is magnified.
Because we're repeatedly told these teams will win, and lets have it right here it's Manchester United mainly, there's a certain feeling of the natural order when they do win. It feels right. When the powerful clubs are upset it feels wrong. As if someone somewhere has left the iron on. 
Another development caused by the media saturation of football is the creation of a bizarre conservatism in supporters. Where once we were punk rockers raging against The Man, now we're all 'investment' and shirt-sales-in-Asia.
Be honest, it feels weird that Chelsea are out of the top four currently. Nothing against Spurs, but it just feels wrong. Conversely, Manchester City for Liverpool feels 'right' as we have been told for a while now that nothing can stop City (except FULHAM - ha!). 
A fella I used to know once said of Everton's approaching top-four finish in 2005, 'we know who our Champions League teams are, and they're not one'. 
And certainly Everton's finish that season did provoke an odd amount of 'you'll embarrass the nation' jibes among the internet football community. Going back further, and again with Everton, when they stayed up after beating Wimbledon 3-2 on the final day of the 1993/4 season, Match of the Day had David Baddiel and Frank Skinner on as pundits.
Not Premier League
Skinner said something along the lines of 'it feels wrong if a club like Everton goes down'. And he was right. Remember that Barnsley fan screaming into the Grandstand cameras that the league was fixed so they went down in 1998? I'm not saying it was fixed but I know what he meant.
Coverage since then has blasted out of all proportion - there's an entire industry based around talking about football. It doesn't matter what you say. Just. Keep. Talking. 
So the expectation of certain things becomes greater and the pressure on those to deliver is greater. It's unavoidable that officials are affected.
How else do you explain the bizarre reaction to Wayne Rooney's assault on Wigan's James McCarthy on Saturday (and a couple of weeks ago the handball by Paul Sholes against Leeds and Ryan Giggs' foul on Kevin Doyle in the same match)? 
Even the Match of the Day commentator Jonathon Pearce bottled it, murmuring something like 'oh that's not nice'. As if he's scared to criticise and upset one of the cartel.
As of this morning referee Mark Clattenburg has told the FA he dealt with Rooney at the time, presumably by giving him a little cuddle. So that's that.
Bollocks. No way Clattenburg saw it, or if he did it was out of the corner of his eye. Either he saw something and bottled it (quite likely) or he saw nothing but heard the crowd (more likely) and gave, I don't know, something? 
Of the incident itself it's just another example of how football people clearly aren't governed by the same laws, both official and scientific, as the rest of us. That's why they fall over with their feet tucked under their arse and their backs arched, and can offer an excuse of 'self defence' when they get rumbled for smashing their arm into someone's grid.
They even use ridiculous phrases which are seeping into everyday speak: 'simulation', 'gone to ground', 'coming together' etc.
It's understandable Clattenburg didn't book Rooney if he didn't see what happened, but to then claim he dealt with it sufficiently is ridiculous. If that's his stance then he's clearly not up to the job and the FA or Premier League or whoever it is deals with this stuff has to give him the shove, or at least a major bollocking.
Clattenburg seems to be one of those refs who wants to be chums with the famous players, like that penis Graham 'hi Thierry' Poll. 
They see themselves as part of the firm now, as celebrities themselves. Perhaps they feel like they're the players' peers, or at least they're nearly there. And what better way for the bed-wetter at school to get in the hard kids' gang than doing everything they say, giving them their sweets and handing over their toys? That'll earn their respect. 

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