All Things Truly Wicked Start From Innocence
Freelance journalist and sportswriter currently living in Glasgow.
With not many weeks left of being 27, today on the blog A.D.Winn has finally come to terms with the fact that it just isn’t 1994 anymore.
Football seemed a lot more innocent in my youth.
An opening line that makes me sound ancient, but in truth, I’ll turn 28 in November. An age that, when calculated, plants me firmly in the ‘Sky Sports generation’; an age where football in any form didn’t exist for me before 1992. Around the time that football started becoming more of a serious obsession rather than a passing playground activity, it just so happened to coincide with Sky taking football away from the innocence of terrestrial television, and start the process of turning its subscription-only sports channel into the repeat ad nauseam juggernaut that we know it today. I had found a sport I was in awe of, and I jumped on the bandwagon.
Naively, at the time I probably thought football had always been portrayed that way. Had I been born a few years earlier I may have experienced a different introduction. Maybe memories of Italia 90 would be something more than a vague recollection of the mascot Ciao. Even a year prior to that, I might have been of a suitable age to really appreciate what Michael Thomas achieved by scoring that last minute goal live on ITV on a Friday night.
By the time I was clued up on football - playing, attending and watching televised games recurrently - Manchester United were defending their first league title for 26 years. I often quote two games of that 93/94 season as being the most memorable of United’s I’ve ever seen televised, even over the Bayern final from 99; one was the rain-soaked Cup Final victory against Chelsea, the other being the 3-3 draw at Anfield.
Both matches I owned on VHS and both would be watched devotedly. The Liverpool match, in particular, mesmerized me; a Tuesday night game in early January, kicking off under floodlights and within a fervent atmosphere the older version of me now properly appreciates. I’d never experienced football like this before. Eighteen years ago, I knew little of the rivalry and how, much like modern-day matches between the two, form was more or less irrelevant. I had thought of United as indestructible, a theory that looked to continue as Bruce’s fearless header, Giggs’ valiant chip and Irwin’s incredible free-kick put them three goals up. Things rarely went wrong, but on this occasion it did - Liverpool scored three in reply. I remember thinking even back then that this was a special game.
Whenever the Anfield game comes around, I always think back to 1994, and no matter how many years pass, my opinions of the game remain preserved. I’ve learnt a lot in the years since: the allegations of match-fixing that included Bruce Grobbelaar, Graeme Souness’ uphill battle at the club from day one, bookended with his departure a few games later, or Schmeichel being temporarily sacked by Sir Alex the morning after. But the nine-year-old me didn’t care. It was the match itself, the nerve to make Liverpool attack the Kop first. It was the moments of commentary, the kits, the line-ups, the half-chances and the goals.
Now it’s 2012, and we’re fresh from another Anfield match. I can’t compare it to the 1994 game, but no Liverpool vs. United match since has, or probably will. We had a similar narrative, don’t get me wrong: the reckless tackles, including one red card, the finger pointing towards the opposition’s manager, the spells of dominance, the off performances, the old heads and the young stars, Rafael’s strike, and the nervy late penalty.
But this is a different world we live in now. The naivety I had eighteen years ago may not be the same with today’s nine-year-olds; much like how I knew little of life before Sky Sports, they would be part of a generation that grew up surrounded by the internet, the dependence on technology and the effect it has had on media, and information. They are growing up in a far smarter, savvy, and far more vicious football environment, not just nurtured from parents, but from everyone.
So, my most memorable televised match happened pretty early on in my young life, and it hasn’t hit that peak again. I could take the easy route, and blame the root of it all – the one thing I’ve gradually learnt from being stuck in the Sky Sports generation is to not believe too much of their hyperbole; every live fixture is crucial and has immeasurable consequences, that is, until next season when everything resets and begins again. Better still, they are a company that advertise upcoming matches before the current one has even finished.
I fear that in today’s environment, youngsters may never witness a match they will want to repeat over and over; they will fail to remember the squad numbers, the kit colours, or the iconic moments in commentary. They will spend each weekend waiting for the match that will stay with them for the rest of their lives, but won’t be given enough time to appreciate it before the next one comes along.
This, of course, says more about me than it does any actual nine-year-old. I watch televised football differently now; I’m critical, analytical and heavily pessimistic. I can’t remember the last time I wanted to watch a match over and over again. I’m not nine years old anymore.
It doesn’t mean I’m falling out of love with football, far from it.
I just miss the innocence of it all.
Follow A.D on Twitter: @adwinn
Find more of A.D's writing at his blog ADWinn.com
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Everyone's first time is always the one they remember and the one they either like or don't like, but always remember how it felt and how it was. As years goes by, personal experience and further to the "growing" up and getting more access to information, the first time experience goes away and one will look towards other things to experience for the first time. Never the less, you are right about the innocence, we might have been naive back then and wouldn't it be nice if it was like that until you feel the shock!!!
Very interesting article. There is little doubt that as we all get older, the gloss does come off all sports a bit. That sense of excitement and anticipation does lessen slightly, but then I guess when something truly amazing does happen we are all like kids again and it keeps us all coming back for more. In racing, there is the Cheltenham festival in March which still is the focus for the whole year for me, and that buzz is hard to beat!