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Monday, August 24, 2009

Why nobody waits for the fat lady anymore

During this climactic sporting weekend of the summer media coverage of sport overtook the games themselves. During Test Match Special on Saturday the Australian commentator Jim Maxwell, who was otherwise impeccable, kept having to tell his listeners back home to walk away from the radio while he updated them on what was happening in the rugby match between Australia and the All-Blacks. I fear that they wouldn't have thanked him for reminding them of something they either knew already or were taking rigorous steps to avoid knowing. On Sunday I was keeping up with the last overs via a combination of Cricinfo and the Ashes thread on Twitter. This latter told me that catches had been dropped seconds before Cricinfo did. It was a classic case of a thousand amateurs being faster and more accurate than one professional. Before the last batsmen had arrived in the middle the crawler on the Sky Sports Score Centre on my iTouch was confidently announcing "England Win The Ashes".

I was even more disturbed by the Premiership table on the BBC Sport website. I am told that this now updates automatically as matches are going on. This meant that they were showing Spurs at the top of the table with nine points seconds before the final whistle had gone at Upton Park. I know it would have taken somebody even more pessimistic than me to think that England and Spurs weren't about to win but there's something not quite right about this habit of spending emotional capital before it has been gained. It reminds me of the flat feeling you get if you open a birthday present as soon as it arrives, rather than waiting for the big day. All media is acutely aware of the fact that they're only one of thousands of different ways of getting information and therefore their natural reaction is to make sure they're the first with the news, even if it hasn't quite happened yet. Witness OK's Jade Goody "tribute issue" which went on sale before the poor woman had died. I fear this is the way of the future.