Today should have been one of those special days of the year. Last night should have felt like Christmas Eve and this morning I should have been buzzing with excitement…but I’m not.
I’m looking forward to today but just like so many events we’ve had in 2020 it just doesn’t feel quite the same. In case you were wondering I’m talking about the South Wales Derby, one of the two biggest days in the football calendar when Swansea and Cardiff represent their respective tribes in the annual quest for footballing superiority.
Before I go any further I think I need to point out that compared with the great losses many of us have experienced this year a football game seems inconsequential. To be honest that should probably be true in any normal year, but it does help to underline how this pandemic has affected so many areas of our lives that we always took for granted.
In a year when many of us have lost loved ones, when we have been unable to comfort each other, or see, or hold, or cwtch those we love, a game of football should mean very little. In a year when we have come to accept that we talk to friends and acquaintances from behind our masks; that we maintain a safe 2 metre distance afraid to shake hands let alone share a welcoming kiss we should put things into perspective. It’s obvious that football bragging rights for 6 months until the return leg should be way down our list of priorities, but I miss the normality, the little petty obsessions I used to have that this year has taken from us all.
I’m trying to work out exactly why this has happened. Maybe its because so much of our obsessions are communal experiences, we thrive on each other’s enthusiasm. Take for example the rugby internationals this autumn. On the weekend that Wales played England I had to remind my kids that it was happening. I actually forgot and didn’t tune in until half way through the first half. It seemed that the empty stadium left an empty feeling as I tried to feign interest on my sofa. Now on any other occasion we would have shared in the build-up all week, we would all have been talking about it in our offices, workplaces, pubs and clubs. As a family we would have planned when we should have our lunch to make sure we were all gathered around the TV dressed in red. This autumn…none of that.
The other strange thing for me is that I’ve lost interest in all sport even football. Its not for lack of TV coverage. At one stage in the summer there were a couple of games on every night. There has been a glut of goals…but, without the crowd it all feels a bit antiseptic. On some of the satellite coverage you can choose to watch with artificial crowd noises. The option of listening to an empty stadium always comes with a Parental Guidance warning as its quite possible that we might here some choice language from the players and coaching staff that we never normally hear above the roar of the crowd.
Its enlightening in many ways but where possible I tried to go for the channel with crowd sounds.
Somewhere in a little box sits a sound person with a bank of buttons that they can press to mimic the crowd reaction. The trouble is they always seem to press the buttons just a millisecond too late. In a real match the crowd anticipates the action, their spontaneous cheers and boos, and oohs and ahhs is as swift as a murmuration of birds changing direction in a split second. The with sound fx options is better than nothing but it’s not the same.
I’m sure that when we get back to normal going to sporting events will be one of the most exciting things we’ll be able to do again but I’m wondering if some things will never be quite the same again.
I think people will want to go to see live music, visit theatres, go out to restaurants, head back to the pews of their churches and visit their local pub. For all of the online zoom parties, church services and gigs from people’s sheds all of these are best experienced as communal activities. One thing that might change is how we watch films.
In the old days a private screening theatre for films was reserved for the rich and famous. Nowadays most homes seem to have a wide screen TV, sometimes big enough to cover a lounge wall. There are sound bars and surround sound systems which recreate the cinematic experience whilst at the same time shaking the vases off the mantlepiece. It’s almost as if we didn’t need cinemas anymore.
I’m trying to think of the last time I went to the cinema. Its possibly when a new Stars Wars episode was released at Christmas or a maybe the release of a new musical film like Mama Mia that I wanted to see for research purposes and didn’t want to wait until the DVD came out.
I loved the cinema experience, the smell of the popcorn and hotdogs in the foyer, then the excitement of walking into the room with the big screen. But did I enjoy having to ask people to stand up to allow me to get to my seat or sitting behind the tallest guy in Swansea meaning I had to bob and weave to see the action. It wasn’t cheap either. Recently both Warner Bros and Disney have said they will stream their new releases causing dismay and panic for the cinema chains. I suppose it makes sense for the producers, if they have total control over how people consume their product it means more money for them.
For all of the talk that things will never be the same Post Covid I expect we will soon forget the daily pain and anxiety we all felt in 2020. Let’s hope that next year we look back at that strange year we all experienced together, and we get back to obsessing about the things that mean nothing at all… like a football match between Swansea and Cardiff. Oh and by the way…Uppa Swans!!!