Might there be one more reason why Premier League football is shedding viewers?
Those video ‘recommendations’ that lurk at the bottom of every page on the internet are supposedly keenly in tune with the modern mind.
WATCH: Woman kicked in the back and sent flying down a stairs in unprovoked attack captured on CCTV.
WATCH: The moment a victim hits back and dishes out a whole world of pain to a vicious bully.
WATCH: That time Stone Cold Steve Austin destroyed everyone.
WATCH: The moment rugby centre is bodyslammed in shocking assault and ends up in hospital.
If this is what people want to see, football is not coming up with the goods. And other sports are better placed to cater to these demands.
This week, new Maryland Terrapins gridiron recruit Johnny Jordan outlined his plans for the season.
“Take their head off,” says Johnny. “It’s legally the only place where you’re allowed to physically assault somebody. I just take all my anger and frustration and channel it towards the opponent.”
Coming soon, to a ‘massive hits’ compilation near you.
If you browse Instagram, you’ll know that when groups of schoolboys convene after class on a Friday evening, they won’t necessarily be throwing down jumpers for goalposts.
Instead, they might organise themselves into a cage, share around a couple of pairs of MMA gloves and enjoy a few batterings. Seemingly, the bloodiest beatings do brisk trade on Snapchat.
Meanwhile, boxing matches are sold by chucking tables. Gaelic football is a festival of malevolence. Ice hockey still honours its obligation to feed the ‘best fights’ compilations.
And even cricket is supplying its moments, the most genteel of sports set to introduce a red card to counter the rise in violent incidents and threatening behaviour.
Already, Glenn McGrath is concerned the move could “wipe out the game’s colourful personalities”. “You want emotion out there so we can’t get rid of that, but it has to be controlled. We need that happy balance.”
Has football sucked out that emotion? Can you have a happy balance when even the tamed Diego Costa seems balanced and happy these days?
The protest against the gentrification of the game has generally been expressed via tut-tutting at the widely reviled spectacle of footballers swapping shirts at half-time.
The disquiet about the vast riches in football is often snobbery, misplaced begrudgery of those at the top of the world’s only genuine meritocracy.
There is a fear too that the games’ millionaires have more to unite than divide them; that they are all in it together. That there is such a thing as too much respect for a fellow professional.
Heavy regulation has played its part. A group of players can’t convene to iron out differences without a ‘failure to control your players’ charge landing.
The fight against raising your hands seems to have been won. And there are no handbags any more.
So against the backdrop of bloodthirst, was Gary Neville’s enthusiasm for the scuffles in the closing stages of Manchester City-Chelsea really a solo run?
Or was he voicing a growing disquiet of his paymasters at Sky, that they are lashing out the big bucks for a product that isn’t satisfying demand?
Neville was particularly taken with the vigilante justice dispensed by Chelsea’s Nathaniel Chalobah, after Sergio Aguero chopped David Luiz. It was only a shove. It won’t show up many places as a recommended video. But, to the Neviller, it was a start.
“You have to defend your teammate… in games like this, it’s what I’d expect.”
And he wasn’t backing away from that instinctive approval a few days later, saying on his podcast: “What I saw at the end, I liked that.
“That is players defending the shirt, their teammates, and showing passion for the shirt. When there’s a tackle like that you expect your teammates to steam in and then the other players to steam in.”
Acknowledgement that when we say ‘you don’t like to see that kind of thing’, we mean precisely the opposite.
“Yes, the Premier League has an image around the world but on the other hand I am constantly hearing there’s a lack of loyalty and a lack of passion. Well you’ve seen some,” Neville continued.
If Sky were to restore a version of Player Cam, it would probably be trained on the technical areas. The theatre now takes place on the touchline. The infatuation with the shaping, gesticulating, and attention-seeking feeds into the modern cult of the manager.
The hunger for controvassy is partially sated too, by the bottle-kicking and sarcastic applause.
It seems the best they can offer is Middle-aged Men Behaving Badly, when the world may be holding out for Craziest Reality TV Brawls.
So it’s over to Gary Neville now, who appears determined that The Greatest League in the World won’t go down without a fight.
GAA take eye off the ball?
The parting of ways between the GAA and Newstalk yesterday seemed to surprise nobody.
But was it the right call? No doubt the answer to that can be found on the bottom line, but when the quality of Sky’s broadcasting is often cited as a reason for maintaining that relationship, Newstalk has made its case too.
From Dave McIntyre’s excellent commentary to their too-many-cooks punditry experiments to Wooly Parkinson’s knack for a frank post-match interview, Newstalk have always been willing to experiment, to freshen up coverage.
Shut out altogether now, you could forgive them shoving GAA down the pecking order on Off The Ball every night. Even as things stand, it’s not as though they need much persuasion to prioritise The Ugly Game.
Has the GAA just lost further territory to Rugby Country?
America hit in the pocket
They will probably fulfil the fixture in the Ryder Cup anyway, but there is little the Americans can do now to save national face after this week’s debacle in the big one, the Mosconi Cup.
If there was anything that underlined the urgent need to make America great again, it is surely a seventh successive drubbing at nine-ball, the game it gave the world.
Understanding the gravity of the situation, Barack Obama did his bit in 2014, lifting a cue in a downtown Denver boozer, even if it was eight-ball. Picking solids, he handed Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper a drubbing, pocketing the eight while Hickenlooper still had five balls on the table.
But a people had long given up looking to Obama for inspiration. As we have now seen twice in a month.
Heroes & Villains
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
No hurling fan of a certain vintage could use his name in a sentence that didn’t also have the word ‘stylish’. RIP.
Have earned their rightful place in the Olympic family beside synchronised swimmers and rhythmic gymnasts. Maybe now the NFL and NBA will give them a fair wage.
HELL IN A HANDCART
These lads really have taken The Savage Hunger that little bit too far.
“The Scottish media built me up like I was Messi or Neymar.” Either the hot-headed philosopher, pictured right, is delusional, or he has exposed grave deficiencies in the archives of Scottish newspapers.
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