All entries for April 2008

April 21, 2008

London, Not The World

Firstly, this is not a dig at recent entries on WB. I know a lot of Warwick students and graduates are Londoners and so are really quite within their rights to talk about the mayoral elections. Hell, it’s good to see they are! This is more a general query about the media’s response to the London mayoral elections.

Firstly London is a fairly major part of the country. It’s got somewhere around 15% of the total population of the United Kingdom, and has most of the big jobs, major institutions and media. But it’s not everything. Not that you’d know from the media, of course. When even my copy of the Free Northern Centre Left Subtle Propaganda Sheet (or the Manchester Evening News as it’s better known) contains more on the bloody London mayoral elections than it does on the council elections in my city*, then I know there’s something going on.

But what is it?

Realistically there’s one of two things going on. Either the media is completely obsessed with London to a degree which is narcissistic and unhelpful, or London really does represent a litmus test and a microcosm of the rest of the nation. Or possibly something between the two. But to take that third option would be a balanced, subtle and nuanced essay, and I’m more in the mood to write a rant.

To be honest ranting about the media’s Londoncentric nature is easy, predictable and has been done before. But can a convincing case be made for London being a litmus test for the rest of the country? On the surface it must be possible. Die hard Tory and Labour areas must exist side-by-side, like the virtually Tory free zone of Manchester (which I think has a single Conservative councillor, a recent defector) and the “no commies here” stretches of Cheshire where voting Lib Dem will still have some locals wondering if you’re a spy from Moscow. I can think of Kensington for the Cheshire set (with nearly as many oversized off road vehicles… in Cheshire) and the multicultural working class/lower middle class areas for the Manchester/Liverpool comparisons. Except obviously the north has more European Cups.

But does the comparison really bare out? Can you use a London mayoral election, a very much personality influenced debate, to predict the rest of the country’s political inclinations and thereby justify the stifling amount of coverage? London has no independence movements which instantly makes the likes of the SNP and Plaid Cymru unrepresented. Also there is, as far as a I know, nothing comparable to the madness of Northern Irish politics where a bunch of murderers, a minister stuck in the 1750s yelling “no” at everyone, and some exasperated middle ground occupiers make up the political landscape. Maybe we could combine the Kray twins (not dead in this version), that nutjob with the hooks and the West Ham Utd fan club to recreate it? Or is that unfair on NI?

A lot of concerns of Londoners don’t register outside of the M25. Whilst the denizens fret over whether or not there’ll be some bendy buses or traditional Routemasters taking them places, in a lot of the country the very idea of a bus is laughable. Oyster cards aren’t that exciting a thought when you’re stuck in Northwich town centre because there’s no way to get back to the stupid little village you actually live in and it’s only 10.30pm. Likewise your concerns about the Olympics are a little less concerning to, say, Manchester which put the Commonwealth games together with considerably less fuss, despite having considerably fewer Polish builders to get the job done!

But if the mayoral elections get treated as a sign for the rest of the country by enough people (in the media) does that make them a sign? A self fulfilling prophecy? Does the sheer force of the media’s will make what happens in London matter in Loughborough? Can events in Pimlico be relevant in Plymouth? Does Stratford mirror Stratford… or Stretford… or Stafford?

I don’t think the answer is to ignore London, obviously. But it’s really not the world, it isn’t even most of this country. The media needs to calm down a little and realise some people aren’t even aware of elections in their, non London, locality, before gobbing off about who’s a better choice out of a tired old Bolshy, a preposterous Tory and that Lib Dem who no one will vote for because they don’t understand the voting system.

I wouldn’t expect someone in Ipsrwich to be as upset about the death of Gwyneth Dunwoody MP as many round here were. Maybe I’d expect them read she’d gone and maybe a bit about her life, but not days of articles. Not that she got that. She was MP for Crewe and Nantwich, after all. Neither of those is in London.

*Seriously. I don’t even know who’s running in my ward except that the Tories stand no chance so it’s Lab vs Lib… like everywhere in Manchester.

April 05, 2008


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One thing to come out of Rome last week which has baffled (apart from the way the British fans and Italian managed not to kick the shit out of each other for once) is Roma player David Pizarro’s reaction to Cristiano Ronaldo’s mild halfway line fancy footwork. Calling it spiteful and disrespectful the Chilean argued that it was the wrong thing for Ronaldo to do. Sorry, did I say argued, I meant whined.

Pizarro’s complaining might gain sympathy from some, those who argue that it is disrespectful to fellow professionals to do such a thing, and this tacitly (in my opinion) endorses the sort of heavy handed response which leaves people like Eduardo with broken legs. I’m not saying Martin Taylor meant to smash the Croazilian, but I certainly think his unsubtle approach was formed by the same line of thought. A little heavy handedness to remind the skilful ones you’re about. I’ve done it myself, as a keeper I’ve occasionally been known to not pull out of runs once the ball has been collected purely because to do so would avoid bumping an opponent I want to unnerve a little. It’s not always malicious, it’s just something that’s done. The really good player is the one who ignores this and still shows off their fancy skills, and if a player does that to me I don’t mind any fancy skills, they’ve earnt the right to demonstrate (though I still won’t let them score where possible).

Pizarro’s whining smacks of immaturity. The response to being outsmarted should not be to complain about having been outsmarted. It’s a team game. Sure, one player’s fancy feet might have left you feeling stupid, but no team on earth, not even Brazil 1970 was made up of eleven men doing funky tricks and juggling – Félix was just another goalkeeper. Roma have already proven a couple of times recently that they can solve the problem of Ronaldo by simply stifling him. So have Portsmouth, Manchester City and most of the other teams who have beaten Manchester United in the last year or so. Just because Pizarro himself isn’t good enough to stop Ronaldo showboating doesn’t mean the Portugese shouldn’t, it means Roma should have tried harder as a team. Anderson didn’t play amazingly, and Carrick shows no exceptional skill in getting away from players marking him (although he has the most exquisite passing ability).

The 7-1 thrashing Utd dealt Roma last year also elicited complaints that they had done it to humiliate their opponents. Find me one person, who’s not a Roma fan and a rabid ABU, who didn’t watch that game in amazement. The best argument for that was that Utd know no other way – we cannot play defensive football like Chelsea or Liverpool, we only know how to attack, and on that day Roma forgot to defend. Completely. But how much happier did it make neutrals than watching Utd sit on the ball safe at 4-0 for an entire half (yes, 4-0 at half time)? Roma could and should have played better, they won the first leg 2-1! After the 4-0 spanking in the FA Cup this year, Arsenal came up with similar gripes about Nani’s showboating and the scoreline, but this is the same Arsenal who drew 1-1 in the previous league game and should have played better.

If a team is showboating it’s skill being used for the sake of it. No one complains about skill when it’s needed to help a team. Ronaldo’s outrageously fancy goal against Villa last weekend drew no complaints from Villa as it was the first goal, Utd needed anything they could to take the lead at that stage. So why do people complain when it’s not necessary? Threatened? Insulted? Humiliated? It’s not the cloggers who get remembered, fans want these fancy skills an these players would not complain if their team were the one demonstrating them.

South Americans apparently regard excessive tricks as the worst thing a player can do (like the English view diving*) and yet they are so much better at these skills than we are. And yet the 1970 Brazil team are remembered as one of the best of all time.

As several people have said, if we have to pay £50 for a ticket to a top flight game, we want to see top flight skills. And if the other teams don’t like it then they’d best up their games too. Citeh have proven it can be done – their double over Utd is the only thing their season will be remembered for. The reward for taming skill is more interest than that for merely being consistent (Blackburn, Villa, Portsmouth…).

And finally – Kerlon’s seal dribbling:


*By foreigners. No one moans when Michael Owen or Wayne Rooney does it.

April 2008

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