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.


  1. I look forward to the first time the 'jumping the gun' goes spectacularly wrong ("cricket world hails triumphant Australian 250 last wicket stand!").

  2. Paul K10:48 am

    Happened with Michael Jackson's death in an even more widespread fashion - the "thousand amateurs" requiring Wikipedia to shut its doors.

    But it is one good remaining reason to actually attend live events nowadays!

  3. We were following TMS on the radio and Sky Sports on the TV. Wickets happened on the radio seconds before they happened on Sky.

    I think I am right in saying both cable and radio signals travel at the speed of light, so the delay must be in the time it takes encode and decode video signals. Either that, or the BBC's technicians are that little bit sharper than those at Sky.

  4. Seems to be happening more in all forms of journalism. Bloomberg published something about Steve Jobs being dead a while back and didn't the Standard website run something about the Lockerbie bomber being refused release last week, incorrectly? It's going to keep happening as news outlets write various outcomes of situations before they happen to have the news as quickly as it happens.

    At journalism college, we had a talk from someone from Bloomberg who told us with great pride that they had published the news about Manchester winning the super casino contract story 0.4 seconds faster than any of their rivals. Joy.

  5. Would you count this as part of the same media impatience to present a resolution of sporting endeavour which is still actually going on?

    A headline on the BBC Sport website following Liverpool's home defeat against Aston Villa:

    "Title bid not over, says Benitez".

    So Liverpool's manager has felt moved to react to people ruling out his boys for the title after all of three games. One of which Liverpool won.


  6. Three words: 'Dewey Defeats Truman'.

  7. It's only the way of the future if we allow it to be so. If enough of us develop a type of loud and public aversion to not waiting for the fat lady perhaps, just perhaps, sopmeone miught actually notice.

    I personally have an aversion to showing the permier league table now. The first weekend was hilarious: Arsenal top after beating Everton. Well, who'd have thought? The table is barely worth even loking at until around 7 or 8 games in, when the anomalous early results start to get corrected

  8. Anonymous8:32 am

    While matches are in progress the BBC's Premiership table shows league positions based on current scores.

    If West Ham had equalised the table would have changed.

    That is all.