I am old and cranky. I know. I don’t need to be told.
But while I recognise that many modern developments are brilliant, there are those I just can’t stand. Like this one. Blogging. Twitter. Facebook.
But here I am.
I could list 100 things around today that weren’t around in my youth that I don’t like.
But I’m just going to talk about two areas which have changed, in my view, beyond recognition.
Soccer and rugby.
When I think of soccer I think back to the heroes I had when I was a kid.
Bobby Charlton. Bestie. Brian Kidd. John Fitzpatrick.
And of course, the King. Denis Law.
Yes, I had Irish heroes too like Shay Brennan and Tony Dunne and Charlie Hurley and Andy McEvoy and others.
It wasn’t quite as glamorous then. There was shock when United bought Denis Law for £110,000 – about a quarter of what some players get paid every week these days. (Around the same time, Eamon Dunphy was transferred from Man United to York City for £5,000, about £4,900 too much.)
Anyway, it was a tough game then. There was lots of skill about, don’t get me wrong. Denis Law was a genius. Best was gifted. Charlton’s long passes were legendary. And every supporter of every club had heroes like them.
Diving? You’d be booed out of the place. Yes, occasionally a player might make the most of it. But that’s when he was tackled by the likes of Norman “Bite yer legs” Hunter. As for rolling around the ground as if you’d been shot, faking being punched to get another player into trouble, calling a referee a **** or a ****** to his face – those things didn’t happen.
Now? Now I don’t think I’ve seen a game for years which wasn’t all about diving and faking injury. I’d say the instructions to actors in gangster movies now is “when he shoots you, go down like a footballer who’s been gently tackled in the penalty area.” And they do.
And then there’s this “assist” nonsense. Shag it, assist is just passing the ball like you’re supposed to. And as for the statistics commentators quote right through games – “he’s the first Lithuanian with a Polish father to score for Blackburn since 1923” and “he’s the first player with a z in his name to score in the first half of a cup match since 1940.” Boring beyond belief. And why do we need two commentators?
Rugby, well it’s a little different.
There’s a bit of that appealing to the referee nonsense, largely from scrum halves.
But it’s all this “offload” and “gain line” crap.
Whatever happened to the sidestep? Remember David Duckham who played for England? An extraordinary side step. Players tried to avoid tackles not take them. Back then there was no need to ban tackles around the head because it’s not what we did. Fr Corry, our trainer in Willow Park, would give you a (gentle) whack across the back of the head if you tackled your opponent above the waist simply because it wasn’t effective.
Box kicking. What the hell is that other than, generally speaking, giving the ball to the other team?
And why isn’t crooked into the scrum penalised any more? It’s still illegal.
As is lying on the ground after being tackled and handing the ball to your teammate.
It seems to be all about the referees now. God, they love themselves. They love being heard and they love being the centre of attention.
I was always told that if a referee is doing a good job, you don’t notice him – or her.
Now, in rugby, they scream and shout and roar non stop.
Both games have disimproved.
Men in suits are making the rules and men with money are designing the tournaments and trying desperately to decide who wins them.
In fairness, Gaelic football and hurling have managed to avoid most, maybe not all, of this cynicism.
Maybe someday we’ll get soccer and rugby back.
But personally, I’ve had enough of the diving and faking in soccer.
And if I see another ten minutes scrum I’ll think about giving up watching rugby.