by Tony Attwood
There were several reasons why I stopped watching football on TV: the cost of my subscriptions to Sky Sports and BT Sports was getting ludicrous, and my anger at the way Arsenal was portrayed by both media were enough, but when I took the step last August I did so in the recognition that I had already moved in the right direction anyway.
There was a time when, if an Arsenal match on TV clashed with a social engagement, I’d cry off the social. Then I came to my senses. OK, if it was a match for which I had a ticket (which meant all the Arsenal home games, as I have a season, and a small number of away games for which I bought a seat) then fair enough – I already had an event on that day for which I had paid.
But to sit at home and watch TV rather than be with my friends? No, that was getting stupid.
However it went further than that. I have spent hours on Untold, during its 10+ years on line, ranting and railing against the presentation of football on TV, and yet was I continuing not just to watch it, but also to pay the people against whom I railed, week after week, for their appalling bias and basic lack of football knowledge and insight. That made no sense at all under a number of levels.
And it struck me that I was at a Fever Pitch moment – for in that jolly book there is a passage in which the author explores why he can’t bear to miss a single Arsenal match. He wonders, Is it that he will come back after a week away and all the chants will have changed and he will be out of place? Will those around him have forgotten who he was?
No of course not. Supporting Arsenal had become, for him, an obsession. The matches he went to as a season ticket holder were not part of his life, but the supreme meaning of his life. Arsenal defined him. He had nothing else. And for me that is not right.
But yes in a sense, Arsenal defines me too. I was born not too far from the ground at the Middlesex Hospital just off the North Circular, and lived my early years in a tiny north London flat off Devonshire Hill Lane – a couple of miles from both Highbury and Tottenham. I was Arsenal because my dad was Arsenal. He ran a garage and even had some of the players as customers for petrol and car repairs. The folks in the flat downstairs were Tottenham. We had banter.
Indeed some years back I wrote an article about living in that area: “Meandering down White Hart Lane” – as a result I got in touch with a number of people who I had known in my childhood – a wonderful and quite extraordinary experience.
So yes, I am Arsenal totally and unchangeably, but that doesn’t mean I have to watch every Arsenal match on TV stations that appear to think that knocking Arsenal endlessly and without proper insight and knowledge is the best way to get viewers.
Indeed I have redefined my priorities in other ways too. The youngest of my three daughters now lives in Australia. She is in a settled family relationship and so has stopped the expensive business of trotting back to England each year to see her sisters and parents. So I go out to see her.
And because I rather like the sunshine of the summer, I go in the English winter, which is the Australian summer. Which means I miss a few games. Given the 11 hour time difference English league matches are not on Oz TV so I just pick up the results and comments from my friends who email me or exchange thoughts on Facebook – its https://www.facebook.com/TonyAttwoodofLondon if you want to be friends – but I must warn you, 90% of the time I explore the possibilities of the novel I am currently writing, so not everything (in fact not very much) is true. A bit like TV really.
Yes I have watched a little bit of footie on TV – a couple of editions on Match of the Day where I wanted to see the Arsenal goals again, but since I went to most home games and the League Cup final, and since we were rather poor away from home last season, I guess I didn’t miss much.
Indeed I didn’t even go down the pub to watch matches. I thought about it once or twice, but in the end thought, no, what’s the point? The coverage is so biased, it really seems a needless thing to do.
So do I need football on TV? It turns out not. I haven’t watched the WC either – in fact I rather think there is a match of some description on now but I am sitting in the garden typing this. I’m better off, saving money on the subscription, and I’m happier and outside. It seems to have worked for me.
And also I had a lovely moment when I cancelled my BT Sport subscription. The lady at the other end of the phone asked me why I was cancelling, and I said, “Because the coverage is so awful”. That puzzled her, so she read out the options she had on her form. I said, “No, it is because the coverage is so awful, and the fact that you don’t have that as an option for cancellation shows just how far BT Sport is removed from the reality of some of its subscribers.”
She said, “What is it that makes it so awful?”
I replied, “Have you ever listened to the commentators or seen the way the visuals are carefully edited?”
“So you feel the commentators are not fair?” she asked.
To which I replied, “No, I was asking you a question which you have just refused to answer. And that is what BT Sport is all about. That’s why I want to cancel.”
Now I shall look at the pine trees in my garden, swaying gently in the breeze while the carving of Louise taken from my favourite Bob Dylan song, looks back at me and think, “Better still I’m saving money.”
Time for an ice cream. And a coffee.
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