FFC columnist Martin Kane discusses the sensationalism of the national media when it comes to football stories and wonders whether the hyperbole that surrounds even the most mediocre headline is becoming all a little too much.
A headline amused me this week; "Derby rocked by Barnes injury". I've never seen Giles Barnes in action, but he must be some player given the implication that Derby's hitherto successful season now lies in tatters following his injury.
I hadn't been so impressed since reading the ‘breaking news' in July that Steve Finnan had signed a new contract with Liverpool (though in defence of that story, it broke during possibly the worst football news drought on record). Hyperbole in football has truly reached record proportions, even the most mundane of stories treated like a major world event. Is it all too much?
Nowhere is this penchant for over-statement more in evidence than on Sky Sports News. I love and loathe this channel in equal measure. It truly is a superb concept; take the best bit of the news, the sport, and just turn that into a channel in its own right – brilliant. Yet you cannot help but feel slightly brainless should you watch it for more than half an hour, hear about Leroy Lita's loan move to Charlton (and reaction to it) for the third time.
The appointment of Kevin Keegan earlier in the year saw Sky Sports News scale new heights. It's a sign of how extraordinary this story was that the first channel I tuned in to on my return home that day was Sky Sports News. Usually, finding yourself watching SSN is as good a barometer one can find in that you should be doing something better with your time than watching TV. Presumably this is why it is almost the very last channel you land upon on a standard Freeview set-up (when even the likes of BBC Parliament and Ceebies have come up short). Keegan's return to Newcastle was dynamite for SSN, and the leading purveyor of hyperbole did not disappoint.
On the hour, it assailed the viewer with happy memories of yesteryear to Kirsty McColl's Days in the background. All manner of old friends you'd forgotten (Cole, Beardsley, Scott Sellars) banging the goals in, Keegan and McDermott celebrating on the touchline. It was hard not to get a lump in your throat. Then followed Keegan's darker days at Newcastle, characterised by Asprilla, Cantona's volley that let Man Utd back in to the title race, and, of course, "I would love it!". Just when you thought it couldn't get any more over the top, the anchorman appeared:
"It's one of those stories where you'll remember where you were when you heard it"
Thus suggesting this was an event of such seismic proportions, that it rivals Diana's death and the destruction of the World Trade Centre. For the record, I was sat at my desk and my mate Carl told me via e-mail, should anyone bring this up in 20 years time.
Of course, it all makes for great; if unintentionally amusing viewing, but why on earth do they bother? Keegan's return was pretty extraordinary stuff, but did it merit a montage more at home in an A1 music video? Do they think that without a continued barrage of ‘huge stories' that supporters might lose interest in football? When Steve Finnan signs a new contract it might be of moderate interest to Liverpool supporters, but it is not the fall of the Berlin wall. That said, rightly or wrongly, Sky Sports News was the channel I tuned into when Keegan arrived, and it will presumably be where I go when he departs (a montage of glum Geordie faces and sloppy goals to Adagio For Strings from Platoon will be his curtain call on current evidence).
It is certainly more interesting to watch than the insipid round-table debate that the BBC generally serves up, and what is not to like about Jeff Stelling and the team on Soccer Saturday? His enthusiasm when East Stirling score their first goal in five matches actually borders on sincerity – I actually believe he does care, and is pleased for them. Over the top it may be, but I think I'd miss it if it wasn't there.