Sport, including football, and television have existed side by side for a number of years with television taking on a more dominant role as cheque books have been fluttered under administrator's noses. Satellite television has opened the door to all manner of sports, some obscure (I was even watching mororised hillclimb from Iceland the other day. Just how sad is that?) and some more traditional. Basketball, baseball and ice hockey come from the other side of the Atlantic with football coming from this side. European football rivals South American in its popularity with the masses and the TV producers.
I can remember when a football match to be screened live was a luxury that was anticipated for weeks in advance and athletics appeared on screen only once every 4 years. Sport, and especially football, coverage on TV has increased dramatically in my lifetime. Scotland games used to be the only internationals games to be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home surrounded by cans of your preferred refreshment. Unfortunately, my earliest memories of a number of games being shown live was the ’66 World Cup when an country to the south of Scotland which did not have to qualify that time around managed to sneak through a favoured draw (never leaving Wembley) and win (The film of the final game and subsequent celebrations must be wearing a bit thin by now the number of times that they have shown it on the BBC).
Some of my most treasured football memories are associated with the next Word Cup finals in Mexico when not only did the late Bobby Moore get nicked for shop-lifting on the way to the finals, England get stuffed by the Germans but Brazil provided THE and I mean THE BEST display of football ever to grace a final ANYWHERE. Let’s all pause here and recall our own 20/20 rose tinted hindsight version of that final. My favourite moment was the goal scored by Carlos Alberto with the ball being passed from one side of the penalty box to the other with Pele finally casually rolling it into Alberto’s path (just knowing he would be there) and the ball screaming into the net like a rocket.
The move towards regular football on television has gathered pace since those days and now we can enjoy football nearly every day of the week if you have the right equipment. This is not necessarily a good thing for the game or the home life but we have a choice.
Football is not the only sport on the increase on television. Racing and cricket have always been major players (get it? players! oh never mind) but darts, snooker and athletics have enjoyed rather more than their fair share of coverage in the recent past. The fickle finger of fate (or rather fickle and easily bored eye of TV) has moved on to sports that requires some significant movement from the participants rather than the sedate walk around a green table or up to the oche. Just a thought, if darts were invented in Scotland would the line darts players throw from be called an och aye?
There is one other sport that has increased it market share in TV terms, prat spotting. This sport can be enjoyed solo or as part of a team, costs very little and requires no special outfit or equipment (apart from a television and possibly a video). One of my favourite pastimes when watching TV is not concentrating on what the director of the programme wants me to look at but looking beyond the main action. The background can be a source of great amusement while your ears are tuned to pick up any important information that is going on in the foreground.
People who do not realise that they are being watched can be a great source of amusement as anyone watching somebody slipping on ice will testify. Can anybody tell me why, if we are the poor punter that trips on an uneven footpath or slips on some ice, we are all guilty of pretending nothing has happened? Sporting mistakes along the lines of clips shown on the "What Happened Next" spot on A Question of Sport have been featured in that tired old programme, It Will Be All Right on the Night (16, 17 or is it 18) presented by that tired old presenter, Denis Norden (For our younger readers, Denis was a very funny script writer with his pal, the late, Frank Muir in their radio and early television days, he is not just an old fool dragged out to present the aforementioned programme).
The clips can be amusing (less so recently) but when the personalities involved are full of their own importance the fun really begins. While not featuring on either of the programmes mentioned above, my favourite clip features the reporting of yet another reception at Ibrox. That ever-present at a sports freebie Archie MacPherson was spotted skulking in the background drinking tea and balancing his plate of shortbread while trying to attract anybody's attention to start a conversation. If Lucricia Borgia had walked in, asking if anybody needed their drink topped up, she would have had more luck than old Gingermop was having. The camera crew must have been asked to interview various people at the reception on a number of topics as I have seen Archie drifting in and out of the background in at least a dozen different programmes while various Rangers big noises were being interviewed.
If you look to the right of his left hand next to the policeman, there's Archie (sns)
The lead up to a major event is always worth watching as the presenters have a lifetime to fill before the event starts and they are not always up to the job. Journalists from papers are good value for money as regards a laugh as demonstrated by the famous footage of Alex Cameron "The Voice of (West Coast) Football" doing the Bump with a police horse outside Hampden. (I understand that they arranged a date for that night and still remain friends to the extent that the rear end of the horse still supplies the news that Alex prints.)
Not so long ago Scottish Cup finals were not surrounded by the type of television build up that has been the norm in England for a number of years ("Its 7.30 am and you join me now outside Charlie George's bedroom as his manager awaits his return from his night-time exertions"). Coverage of Scotland’s cup finals were squeezed into the main Grandstand programme with short inserts from Scotland for "expert" comments. This practice has fallen by the wayside now that money has been found to run a full Grandstand style programme from Scotland at the same time as the real one from London.
The following incident could also have had an influence on England using the ‘insert’ technique. In the lead up to a Hampden final, involving teams that I cannot recall at the moment, whoever was hosting Grandstand was in the process of introducing the line up arranged for the programme ahead. The "expert" to be interviewed later at Hampden was Billy McNeil who, with perfect timing, managed to be in the act of clearing his nose in the time honoured footballers traditional way of not using a handkerchief just as his live picture flashed on the nation's screens. What a blow for his chances to be invited to present a programme on etiquette
Prat spotting could catch on in a big way and if all goes well it could provide Britain with a sure fire Gold medal when the sport is recognised by the International Olympic Committee just in time for the Games to be held in Edinburgh, based at Meadowbank (with Tynecastle being used as the venue for judging the Olympic prat champion (Sorry, just had to get a dig in)) following on from the successful Commonwealth Games saved by Captain Bob Maxwell back in 1986 (Does anyone know if all the debtors from those Games have been paid their money yet?).
There could be subsections in the prat spotting competition for most ludicrous goal scoring celebration. Llots of contenders have been previously shown on They Think It’s All Over (See! Another time they use the ’66 final film). A great deal of amusement can be derived from watching the ‘scorer’ do a double backflip, walk on his knees, slide on his front through a patch of mud and then do a strange dance that probably seemed like a good idea when planned at the last night out. All this can be brought to an abrupt halt by the sight of a flag fluttering in the raised hand of the referees assistant (By the way what was wrong with linesman? Did it have too many illegal drug connections?).
These celebrations can, of course, involve crowd participation which can be rather shorter and you have to be quick to enjoy it to the full. Fans always look for offside flags on the way down from the original involuntary leap from their seats. On screen, this is enjoyable as the crowd blends into one body, all leaping up as one, arms aloft, spot the flag and their smiles turn to snarls followed by the mouthing of a universal vote of thanks to the officials for spotting a marginal infringement of the rules. That last bit may not really be true but I am giving the crowd the benefit of the doubt. There you have it. You are privileged to be in on the invention of the new national sport. I think I will have to lie down now, those nice men with the white coats are coming with my bedtime drink. Just leave the TV on when you sign out.