TV-happy and proud of it
I’m relatively unapologetic about the fact that, over the decades, I have gradually become less and less inclined to attend sporting occasions in person.
When my brother announced with excitement that he had secured tickets to three different sports at the 2012 Olympics, including – depending upon your athletic event preferences – probably the third-best day of track & field, I had already long taken the decision that I was not going to bother to even try and do likewise. For me, the news that tickets for the ‘best’ sports and events in London had been reserved for those who lived in, or were applying from, the United States and other overseas hotspots of likely big-spending tourists had been enough of a turn-off on its own.
There was a time in my life when things were very different.
A time when the prospect of spending a whole day getting to and from, and then experiencing, a great sporting event, festival or match … I’m thinking items such as Wimbledon tennis, a soccer international at Wembley or a rugby union ditto at Twickenham, a trip to the Open golf … would light up my engagements diary for months, if not years, beforehand and then represent a ‘lifetime’ milestone with which (assuming dementia had not already got a grip) I could anticipate happily boring my grandchildren and other old folks home inmates up to five decades later.
These days I confine my ‘sporting outings’ to one or twice a year trips – usually over a long weekend – to rugby matches in countries that I enjoy visiting in any event.
Yesterday the news broke that, between them, Sky and BT Sport have secured a package of Premiership soccer matches for three seasons worth in excess of £5.14 billion (working out at approximately £10 million per match over 168 live matches each season).
This doesn’t surprise me in the least.
The quality of televised sports coverage these days is so consistently good that, for millions of people like myself who ideally would just like to enjoy great sporting action in comfort, there is no longer any compelling motivation to attend sports events in person.
This is an ‘age’ thing, of course, but not exclusively.
Being part of a collective ‘experience’ matters greatly to an individual at certain periods in their lives – this can apply to theatre, movies, music concerts and festivals – but less so at others.
I was once a guest in a group party attending a sold-out concert by The Eagles at Twickenham Stadium about ten years ago.
I could not claim that The Eagles were ever a favourite band of mine – I had agreed to attend the concert purely out of social obligation to my friends, plus perhaps a vague underlying ‘I ought to do this, just to see what it’s like’ justification – but I remember part-way through the evening experiencing a ‘Road to Damascus’ realisation that, for the exorbitant cost of my ticket, I could have gained more enjoyment from buying a CD set of The Eagles’ complete works.
Watching the band from a distance of 200 metres or more – just ants barely moving about on a stage above which giant TV screens gave the spectators the best/only views available of what was going on – was akin to joining 75,000 other people sitting politely in the stands and listening to a giant jukebox belting out note-perfect renditions of their hits. It wasn’t so much a concert as just an expensive opportunity to be able to say afterwards that “I had been there”.
These days sport assumes its proper place in my daily/monthly/annual routine. It doesn’t dominate my life like it used to. I’m happy to take it in neatly-tied-up-with-string broadcast packages … wallow in it (as I’m watching it) as much as I ever did … but then go back to getting on with my life. That is, as opposed to spending four hours getting to the event and then half a day after it in drinking and eating and gradually wending my way home.
To end with, here’s a link to an article by Robert Kitson, written in the wake of last weekend’s opening Six Nations match between Wales and England, which appears today upon the website of The Guardian.
I’ve been to rugby matches at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on many occasions. Although it’s one of the great rugby venues of the modern era, it’s a dreadful place to get to and get away from – whether you are travelling by train or car. Evening matches in Cardiff are particularly vexatious. Trains run far too infrequently, there are far too few of them and the train service ends far too early for visiting fans who have come a long way. It’s enough to put you off going to rugby matches forever.
See here – ROBERT KITSON IN THE GUARDIAN