Wiziwig suffered a DDOS attack the other night. There’s a sentence I couldn’t have predicted I’d be writing when, as a boy, I used to wait up, yawning, for Match Of The Day to come on, wondering whether Arsenal would feature or not. In fact when I was much younger I didn’t wait up at all. If I wanted to watch the single most important programme of the week my Mum made me go to bed early and I was then woken up to watch it before going back to bed. My parents were old school and believed firmly that children needed their sleep. Even though lying in bed staring at the ceiling an hour before my bedtime, excited like it was Christmas Eve, made sleep all but impossible, I usually did drift off. Eventually.
Mum would shake me awake at the appointed hour and I would wander in to the front room, wrapped in my dressing gown, hair awry, bewildered and blinking into the light of the television, a strange youthful alien creature materialised into the adult world of drawn curtains, hushed tones and night time TV. Dad would bring me a cup of sweet milky tea and I’d settle in next to his warmth on the settee in anticipation of the famous theme tune. Football for me has always been a place of cosiness, familiarity, excitement and expectation all commingled and stirred into a nostalgic emotional gumbo.
And now Wiziwig has suffered a DDOS attack. It’s difficult sometimes for my generation to maintain a grip on the childlike wonder with which we started our love affair with the most beautiful of games. With the explosion of technology which we have seen in recent years the way in which we consume football has altered beyond measure. Whereas I used to listen to a small transistor radio on a Saturday afternoon in the hope that the second half commentary (yes only the second half) would feature the Arsenal game, or try to decipher those strange encoded half time score cards that surrounded the touchline if I was at a Bristol Rovers match, nowadays I can watch via satellite or terrestrial television, listen to commentary provided by the club itself, wait and watch the whole match on the Arsenal Player the following day or select from a multitude of internet based players and watch every match live with a choice of commentaries from all around the world. If I wanted to discuss a match I had to have a couple of mates around listening at the same time and we could debate what we were hearing. Or if I was at a match I could discuss the half times with my fellow Gas Heads. The entire crowd was made up of Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal or Leeds fans. We were all supporting the Rovers but secretly almost the entire terrace was populated with people part of whose hearts were far far away. A couple of closet QPR fans would chat with a West Ham fan over their fags and flasks about how well Everton were doing. And all we knew we gleaned from the code in the programme and the alphabetized scores where nowadays scrolling advertising rolls relentlessly around the pitch side.
I vividly recall listening to a sixth round cup tie in which Arsenal were playing. Dave Bell, Wilb and Speed Bradley were all in my room with me and the commentators competed with the crowd noise to bring news of the match via my portable transistor. In those days, as the home side attacked, the sound of the roaring crowd drowned out Bryon Butler and Peter Jones, achieving a crackling distorted crescendo and leaving the listener in an agony of ignorance until the noise subsided and the commentator could at last be heard telling us whether a goal had been scored or the target missed. On this occasion the game was on a knife edge, the team were attacking again and again, the scene painted for us from the genius of Butler or the poetry of Jones , I forget precisely which was on the microphone, and as the tension grew I gripped the radio in feverish excitement. The crowd roared, the commentators erudition was lost in a welter of north London voices, Dave Bell held my arm, Wilb and Speed exchanged nervous glances, nobody spoke as we all waited to see if the ball had finally gone in and when the noise subsided sufficiently for us to hear that it hadn’t I flung the radio across the room where it erupted into a sorry pile of mute plastic pieces and silence filled the room. I felt three incredulous faces turn slowly from the shattered transistor to stare at my own horrified disbelief, and we decided to go out and ride our bikes for a bit instead.
Nowadays I don’t have anyone in the room. I don’t love the commentary as I used to. I don’t have to be woken up to watch the very abbreviated highlights. The whole thing is at my hi-tech fingertips. I never miss a match, I watch particularly well executed moves repeatedly on youtube or Arsenal player and mention anyone from Arsenal’s past and I can summon up some kind of footage of them in action. Has this diluted or increased my enjoyment? Well I have to say one thing has remained constant. I’m still that feverish little boy, muscles knotted, nerves taught, ready to smash the radio when we don’t quite score. I don’t think that will ever change. Now I have a whole world of fellow travellers typing away and transmitting their thoughts directly into my room with whom I can cheer, share consolation, argue, unfollow, favourite or applaud and with the passing of this country’s finest ever commentators I can choose to listen to Dutch or French or (and this is often the case) Russian voices thrilling to the fast flowing football of my favourite side which means I don’t have to hear Butler and Jones’ sacred memories sullied by the irredeemably despicable gibbering of their modern day successors.
Unless of course Wiziwig suffers a DDOS attack. Well on Tuesday night it did. In the absence of suitable safe links I tried for a while to listen to Arsenal Player while watching ITV but the perfect sync seemed to slip and the voices anticipated the action in a way that leant them a curious prescience so I was compelled to switch to Messrs Townsend and Tyldesley, more for the stadium noise than their wisdom you understand. How I long for the days when the crowd would simply overwhelm the commentary. It wasn’t all irritating though. In fact in a strange way Arsenal’s hypnotic stroll through the motions on Tuesday night brought with it a revelation of sorts. I don’t follow fools gladly on Twitter and not at all in the comment section of blogs but a few retweeters and a couple of good folk keep me abreast of the prevailing mood. On Tuesday it seemed many must have been watching a very different game to the one I was enjoying. There were rumblings, discontent at individual players performances and that of the team overall. When you consider the laughable ease with which we controlled the game this was something of a shock to me. But then I began to pay attention to Townsend and his pal. It dawned on me that if you are being drip fed a continuous diet of half truths, fantasy and over arching negativity about the match you are watching the chances are you might just start to feel that maybe things are not after all going too well. Is this maybe why the world beyond the barricade seems so unhappy even when we are enjoying our best season for years? They are constantly being told things are not right, performances are below par, the squad is too weak, Arsenal are having a nightmare, can’t pass, need to step it up. By never listening to the British media I don’t receive these messages and so I make up my own mind based on what is actually happening.
Townsend of course blew his cover with his involuntary cry of ‘Get in’ as a Marseilles player shot low to Szczęsny’s left compounding his embarrassing error with “I was applauding the fact that I thought he’d got himself a lovely goal”. No Andy, no you weren’t. You were caught up in the moment like any fan and you showed your true colours. The feeble attempt to make a really pitiful excuse moments later, like the rambling and painfully inept way I attempted to explain away the broken radio to my Dad all those years ago, merely served to make you sound even more guilty. It was a schoolboy error, but it at least proved beyond doubt how horribly biased against us the man actually is.
So my advice to enjoy your football is find an alternative to Wiziwig in case of DDOS attacks, get to bed early if it’s a late kick off, and don’t stand too close to me if I’m holding anything small enough to throw.