Helen Martin: Football mania leaves me manic

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THE World Cup is my idea of hell. In fact most football is my idea of hell, whether it’s on TV, in newspapers (even this one), in conversations in a pub, or causing a traffic jam on an otherwise pleasant Saturday.

As a game, I don’t mind it. I even once took part in a journalists v celebs match on Glasgow’s first astro-turf pitch. For the record I tackled the now late singer Callum Kennedy and knocked his tooth out.

But I can’t take the hype, the unwarranted passion, the single-mindedness, the intense rivalry, the inflated importance, the financial mismanagement and all the other bits that come with it.

Most of all, being an ancient old crone who still watches terrestrial TV, I can’t stand the schedule domination and disruption caused by the World Cup. Even Radio Times has a World Cup wrap around.

Like many a modern household we have more than one TV set, but that brings small relief. Whatever I wanted to watch has been cancelled anyway, probably for something as gripping as the clash between Ivory Coast and Japan. And even if I could find something more entertaining, such as an Open University programme on spanners, the noise emanating from the other set rips through the house.

The hysterical screaming of the announcers, the roaring crowd, Himself shouting at the TV, hooters and whistles and relentless analysis by an endless procession of pundits who never have the honesty to just admit one side or the other was rubbish, and instead argue over baseless opinion and minutiae in an effort to convince themselves and everyone else that it was a close thing worth watching.

There is some low-grade entertainment in the “game of two halves” type cliches and rubbish that Private Eye used to call “Coleman-balls” after the legendary David, but by then any flicker of potential interest has been drained out of me. I’m like a dog who hears human conversation as a babble except for the occasional “walkies” or “bone” word that makes sense.

To a football fan it might be fascinating but I hear: “Blah, blah, blah, blah, manager, blah, blah, defence, blah, blah, possession, blah, blah, blah, attack, blah, blah, blah, result”.

To think this turgid monotony is going on for a month! And at a time when we have no lounge suite. The new one is on order and won’t arrive for . . . guess what . . . a month, leaving the kitchen telly in pole position, to mix my sporting metaphors.

The dog is a quick study. By the end of week one he will know very well that while the football racket carries on, there’s no chance of his master taking him for a walk. At half time or at match end, he’ll jump up looking expectantly for some sign of movement, otherwise he will seek me out and turn big empathetic eyes on me so we can both get out of there.

Occasionally a TV station decides to lighten the mood in the rare down time between matches with their comedy sketch take on the “beautiful” game. Himself finds it funny. I’m po-faced and baffled coming out with frustrated comments such as “Who’s that meant to be?”, “Who’s he?”, “What does that mean?” and “Don’t get it.”

Each to his own. Apart from my excruciating boredom, it’s harmless. There are many worse things a husband can do than watch the World Cup. As for me, I’ll be sitting in the lounge on an upturned bucket like Oor Wullie and thanking God for iPlayer.

An age-old argument

THE independence debate is no more toxic and vitriolic than it was in 1979. It’s just seems that way because social networking and Twitter now facilitate cybernuts, encourage them, and give them direct routes to victims and publishing power they never had before.

Why internet is not way forward

CABINET Office Minister Francis Maude has told pensioners that every service which can be delivered online will only be delivered online and the five million oldies who have never embraced the internet will have to get with it or lose services. He, God help us, wants to copy airlines such as Ryan Air and Easy Jet.

Clearly the man has not grasped the basic fact that technology doesn’t always work. Data held online is not safe, Russian criminals are allegedly hacking their way through UK homes and businesses, and websites can fail no matter what age the user is. Sometimes contact with a real person is the only thing that can over-ride a shoddy system.

For the last week, apparently since BT shut down Yahoo! and migrated everyone to BT Mail, I have been unable to access or send e-mails on my iPhone despite deleting and reinstating the account. My dealings with Scottish Gas went belly up because of a “system error”, and I can’t remove a barrage of nuisance e-mails from my work address because to do so I have to log on to an account I never set up in the first place. There is no telephone number.

Of course putting everything online with no alternative will save money. It will also produce a lousy service with no safety net and leave the elderly open to more criminal scams than ever.