Lockdown TV: Return of football will save us from After Life
If, like me, you fit into 0.001% of the population who hasn’t found solace in series two of After Life (if you haven’t seen it, just refer to series one), you may have resorted to doing endless quizzes, running in the park or stuffing your face with crisps. If being in lockdown has taught us anything (and it hasn’t), it’s that, even in tragic times, we find community in the strangest of places. Record numbers of people are watching TV; the nation has found itself hugging the telly like a desperate and forgiving Homer Simpson. Hell, even the people on Gogglebox have been watching more TV.
I’ve seemingly turned middle-aged and started watching shows about food and property in the absence of weekend football. It’s long been a strange phenomenon for TV chefs to under-egg the complexity of their recipes; to bat them off as ‘super simple, really straight-forward’ as they unwittingly brim with false modesty. It’s in the chef’s unconscious repertoire to make a good, honest, simple dish using fresh, seasonal, local produce. They can’t help themselves. A chef should say, ‘this is near impossible, I’ve been training in French restaurants for the best part of 30 years to show you layabouts how to professionally julienne an aubergine in 0.3 seconds flat.’ There is a TV chef who consistently bemoans the poncey ‘chef-y’ things to do, by which he means adding watercress for aesthetic finesse or flicking out sweet potato mash into a sort of baby-sick-looking Nike tick in the centre of the plate. He wants good old-fashioned grub like a Proper Football Man yearning for the days when tough tackling was the norm with none of that namby-pamby diving bullsh*t. But we’re not fooled. This chef is a man who grows truffles in the back garden of his Hampshire estate. Did I mention that football is back soon?
When under pressure, TV chefs whip out the virtual thesaurus like Alan Shearer’s brain scratching around to describe the lump de jour target man. Another word for commitment and dedication? Drive! Because this man has everything – pace, strength, power. And he can use a lot of his body parts too – left foot, right foot, head. Neck? It’s the understandable human fear of being caught out. Of panicking under pressure. But Shearer blasted my club, Blackburn Rovers, to the Premier League title 25 years ago so there is almost nothing that he could say which would affect my love for the man. The Match of the Day Top 10 shows featuring Shearer and his protégés Lineker and Wright have been worth a watch and provided some light relief. And Gary Neville’s Soccerbox could be shown on a 24-hour loop and we’d be none the worse off for it. But there’s nothing like the real thing.
The Great British public persevered with the annual p*ss-up-your-wages on the Grand National where this year not a single horse was shot, or existed. In football, the Bundesliga paved the way. Perhaps you supported FC Schalke as your ‘second team’ for two weeks before realising they’re sh*te and that the whole experience too closely resembled the misery of supporting your first team. Maybe you took up basketball after watching Michael Jordan be a relentless bastard to his teammates in the brilliant The Last Dance. Or you re-watched the England vs Germany Euro ‘96 semi-final on ITV4, praying that, this time, Terry Venables would surely just make one substitution.
I’m fortunate enough to be isolating with my wife and best friend (one and the same person). The few hours of the evening where we weren’t working, we finally, shamefully late to the party, got around to watching Breaking Bad. I thought I’d once read the ending on Twitter so spent five seasons wrongly expecting a major incident that never happened. Still, it’s obviously amazing.
Respite from the tragic and coruscating heat of 2020 is much needed, and the return of the Premier League after a 100-day hiatus is a positive step. Dust off those fantasy football squads and belt up. Football is back.