One of the more annoying staples of an ESPN or Fox Sports promo is the constant portrayal of either network’s viewers as a bunch of slack-jawed simpletons, incapable of getting thru the most mundane of daily tasks (ie. their own wedding ceremony) without seeking a properly-branded sports fix. When Saturday Comes hops in the time machine and reveals across the pond, this has been business as usual for some time. WSC considers a ’97/98 promo clip for Sky Sports’ soccer coverage, deemed “one of the most disturbing things ever seen on satellite television weirder even than the 24 hour shopping channel or episodes of ‘Scooby Doo’ dubbed into German.”
Monochrome close-ups of Premier League stars staring moodily into the lens are intercut with Sean Bean, star of the worst football film yet made (you may know the title), striding about, declaiming lines intended to strike a great big booming chord in the heart of football fans. Football, you see, is “ecstasy, anguish, joy and despair. It should be predictable but never is. It’s a feeling that can’t be explained”.
The clincher comes at the end. “We know how you feel… we feel the same way.” If only they did “ then Sky would have to close down its entire operation and publicly apologise for having been the driving force behind football’s grotesque kowtowing to television over the past five years. Instead it was left to a graffiti artist to add a ring of truth to one of the posters by adding the words “…about money”.
Where to begin to describe the awfulness of this advertisement? Firstly, there’s the patronising message “ Sky, involved with football for all of five years, would have us believe that it understands the essence of football fan culture; something built up over a hundred years can be reduced down to stock images of men in replica shirts shouting and kids with painted faces.
Worse than that is the image of the fan as someone who has abandoned reason. This is a thread that has run consistently through the media depiction of football fans in the past few years. Innumerable advertising campaigns depict that new stock comedy character, the football nutter “ sleeping in his scarf, painting his house in club colours, wearing his shirt 24 hours a day, naming a kid after a promotion-winning team.
For years, of course, the media seemed happy to suggest that if you were a football fan, you were abnormal. Now the opposite is true: the new stereotype suggests that you™re not a real football fan unless you™re incapable of conversing on any other subject.