Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Edge of the seat stuff

Here's a word of advice - when surreptitiously following a football match on the internet whilst at work, don't say in a loud voice 'Come on!' when your team scores the winner with ten minutes to go. Fortunately thanks to the time difference the goal went in at 8am Sydney time, and my office was almost deserted. I was watching the live updates of the Blackburn FA Cup match against bitter local rivals Burnley, which took the form of sentences of text describing any major occurence in the game. Every two minutes the screen would refresh with thrilling edge-of-the-seat stuff like "58mins - Lucas Neill (Blackburn) Attacking throw-in" or "64mins - Henri Camara (Burnley) fouled by Gary Flitcroft (Blackburn). Free kick Burnley. Defended." You can understand my excitement when the page flicked over to reveal "85mins - GOAL - Blackburn - Morten Gamst Pedersen, right foot, drilled 20yds - Blackburn 2 Burnley 1" Come on indeed.

It's hard to explain to non-football fans the sheer tension of watching matches in word format. Until the page updates/refreshes, you can only imagine what's going on. Take Ceefax, for instance. In the time it takes two pages to pass over, you have to wait almost a full minute before the score of your team is shown. But at least you can look at other game updates in that minute, and you end up saying things like "Oh, I see Charlton have equalised". Of course this all can be traced back to the old radio days when plucky BBC types would try to inform fans what Nat Lofthouse and colleagues were up to, and to aid them they divided the pitch into imaginary squares so the listener would have an idea of where the ball was. Every time it went out for a goal kick the keeper picked it up and hence the ball was 'back to square one', which is where we get that saying from.

But the king of football text updates is without doubt the mighty Grandstand vidiprinter. I have fond memories of watching that flickering asterisk and the accompanying electronic rattling sound as another score came in from around the country - "SC2: Alloa 0 East Fife.........0". The confusion when it would broadcast rugby results "Blimey! Leicester have scored 24 goals!", the tension as the time of each update moved towards - and then past 4:45pm, the excitement of the GOAL FLASH..."Oh, is it Rovers?", the confusion of the acronyms for each league "What league is DML then?" - and the classic moment where the vidiprinter kept repeating the line "There is a fire", dismissed with a suave remark by Desmond Lynam. Ahh, happy days.