Sunday, 25 October 2009

So what's my excuse this year?

So the NFL visits London for the third year running today, and once again I have spectacularly failed to make an effort to get myself to the game. There are several reasons for this, the cost of the ticket, the cost of getting to and from the game, but none of them particularly stack up against how big a fan of the sport I consider myself to be, now my second favourite behind football.

Instead every year I find myself hoping that the game will be a wash-out, that one side will completely have dismantled the other by the second quarter, and that it will rain, rain more heavily than it ever has done before in the capital and make it a truly miserable viewing experience in the stadium.

The reality always fails me, the two games so far have both been considered successes, and I have been left more embittered and annoyed with myself every time.

The great thing about British followers of American football is the cult support it has, and in the five years since I started following it this support has only blossomed further, and with the advent of the International Series, has finally broken through into the mainstream.

This has created an interesting demographic of fans spanning two generations both of which have grown up around the television coverage provided at the time, the fans that watched the sport on Channel 4 in the 1980s, and the more recent converts like myself, who have been fed on a diet of Channel 5.

It's disappointing to see that the BBC won't be showing live coverage of the game this time around, but part of me is glad. For some reason there is satisfaction in keeping the sport away from the mainstream. It is a strange and unique feeling to watch a fantastic game played across the Atlantic one night, and have nobody and no media coverage talking about it the next day.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


It seems I may have to review my position on blogging. The last two weeks have seen a number of significant news stories that have revolved around people eagerly expressing their viewpoint in the virtual sphere, both with equally important consequences.

The attempted injunction placed on The Guardian newspaper, barring them from reporting a question asked in Parliament by an MP relating to the Trafigura dumping scandal was rendered worthless when speculation from both old and new forms of media ran wild.

This seems to have been a perhaps unintentionally positive usage of the multitude of options for people wishing to speak their mind on anything and everything they can lay their hands on. The injunction was subsequently lifted and valid questions were raised as to how any lawyers could have the temerity to attempt to silence parliamentary privilege.

The Jan Moir affair is, I feel, slightly different, but has had equally satisfying results in this case at least. In case you are not aware of the circumstances of this story, Moir, who writes for the Mail and should therefore have set some alarm bells off in this context, wrote a particularly venomous piece about the late Stephen Gately.

I won't analyse the article here, as I feel I cannot do any better than the brilliant columnist Charlie Brooker did on the Guardian website, which you can and should read, here:

There are several interesting/pleasing things about people rightly reacting to this nasty piece of so-called journalism. I will make it clear that I do indeed detest this style of writing anyway, right wing hacks on large salaries for producing the most repugnant and outspoken pieces they can on a regular basis. Most of them are possibly shits in real life too, which makes it reasonable to hate them.

This case also has flashbacks to the Brand/Ross saga of 2008, which was of course largely driven with glee by the Daily Mail, which reserved a hatred for Brand, who stood for the things that readers of the paper couldn't stomach, essentially someone who had once drunk and taken drugs to excess and then gone on to make a success of themselves.

The Mail clamoured for the sacking of both, although noticeably focused on Brand. Whatever the outcome, the paper was engaging in one of its favourite pastimes, terrorising the BBC, which it did so effectively on that occasion.

The important thing to notice was that the number of complaints about the show, which were little more than a dribble to start with, inflated massively once the news media got hold of the story, and so people who would not even have been anywhere near their radio sets during the time of the broadcast were suddenly leaping on the nearest bandwagon, destination Press Complaints Commission.

Therefore it is at least partially satisfying that this time the shit has landed, via the PCC, at the offices of the Mail, but less so in that one would have to assume the same band wagon jumpers happily guided this one down the same route.

It is representative of that 'quick, have a defined opinion to order' culture we seem to embrace so readily in this country, and whilst in this case it was certainly justified, that is not reason to celebrate it unreservedly.

And I noticed that the BBC stayed a significant distance away from widely reporting the storm of complaints the Mail had generated.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Question Time

Following on from the topic of an old post I've decided to keep a 'Stupid Voter Alert' watch running within this blog from now until the election. If possible I'll get clips of the cretins and post them up here for your (my) own enjoyment.

The faux political opinions that I spilt my bile on before also apply when watching what should otherwise be a fantastic programme, Question Time (BBC1, Thursdays). What would, I'm sure, in years past have been a unique opportunity for citizens to hold accountable ministers and public servants has, in recent years become an embarrassing pantomime event. What typically happens goes as follows:

Member of public: You're a lying bastard. Where's the child porn?

MP: I'm sorry, but I find your question impossible to answer in the way in which you phrased-

Generic Dimbleby 3: Answer the question you kiddy fiddler!

Members of audience: howl for blood, boo MP when he speaks, cheer other members of the audience's offerings.


Nick Griffin is on this Thursday's episode, which has divided opposition about the rights to free speech. Generally I am of the opinion that you have the right to speak your mind with the exception of saying anything that may be considered seriously offensive to others.

I am completely morally opposed to and repulsed by the views of the BNP, but there is a valid argument that says you should allow them to air their views in the manner of any other political party, so at least they cannot play the often recycled 'we are being repressed by the Government' line that ultimately works in their favour.

Friday, 16 October 2009

The Death of Yugoslavia

The Death of Yugoslavia is a fascinating BBC documentary from the mid-1990s that is unique in featuring the key players from all sides of the Balkan conflict reflecting on what caused the outbreak of war. This means that we hear from the late Slobodan Milošević in his most defiant and arrogant manner, as well as those later accused of war crimes such as military leader Ratko Mladić.

The combination of rare footage and talking heads adds to the tension and harrowing atmosphere of the programme. It is difficult viewing, but also documentary making at its very best, providing the evidence of the vicious outcomes that foolish indignant nationalism can lead to.

You can watch the first episode of the series here:

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


6-0-6, the nation's self-proclaimed 'favourite football phone-in' on BBC Radio 5 Live has become a tiresome listening experience over recent years.

Part of the problem is the frequency with which it is on, often four times a week, leaving callers repeating each other's points, or apparently desperately trying to come up with the most ridiculous points to appear unique and different.

This is minimised though when Gabriele Marcotti hosts the show, usually alongside DJ Spoony or Mark Chapman. Marcotti was in particularly fine form last Sunday, aggressively forcing callers to get their point across, and challenging their opinions by counter questioning.

This is the fundamental problem with the phone in; half the callers have no point to make and simply want to hear themselves on the radio, and the other half have often illogical and invalid arguments to make.

Therefore it is essential that these views are challenged, and callers probed to prove that they know what they are talking about. 606 often reminds me of the election scenario I have mentioned before in this blog, the public dress up supposed deeply held 'opinions' when in reality they are often shallow clichés.

Alan Green

Talking of 5 Live sports, Alan Green has gone significantly down in my estimation in recent years. Having used to been a huge fan, I have come to realise that his over opinionated monologues during a game can often hamper the description and enjoyment of the event.

True, they can often add some humour and flavour to the game, but too often he appears to rant and rave about a subject he may know little or nothing about. It takes fellow pundits Graham Taylor, and last weekend, David Pleat, to dare to argue with the way Green viewed certain decisions and prevent the usual polemic.

I will say that Green gives games a 'big game' feel, and that when he does his actual job of commentating he can be very good at it. I just wish the moaning, whining and slating of a talk show host could be left out of it.

Mike Ingham is the best commentator at the station, and gets this balance spot on, giving great insight to the game but also with reasoned and balanced opinion, admitting when he does not know enough to give comment on an issue.