Things that I think and do
I’m a firm believer that there are few greater pleasures in life than watching sport in the pub. Sitting in a little booth with pint in hand, watching football, rugby or cricket (pretty much in order of preference) of a weekend is hard to beat. Bring a pre-game crossword into the mix and the perfect afternoon is complete.
Most pubs – in Leeds at least – have the facilities for this. You can wander into most places of a Saturday afternoon and it’s almost guaranteed that one or more of the major sporting events of the weekend will be on.
Sadly, as you may have noticed, this joyous activity is restricted in general to weekends – with the exception of the odd midweek international every few months. This means that from Monday to Friday pubs have to find something else to put on the box.
Well actually they don’t. They could definitely turn them off for the week and avoid monstrous electricity bills. The problem is that pubs choose instead to keep a stream of crap TV going throughout the week, which means that our ability to socialise is impeded by the constant glare of the screen at all hours. Wetherspoon’s, for instance, opt to have badly-subtitled 24-hour news channels on display throughout the day. If that isn’t a complete waste of TV licence money I don’t know what is.
You might think that it would be easy to just ignore the TV and get on with civilised conversation, but you forget that in pubs there is a screen in your line of sight wherever you sit. It’s like the opposite of Big Brother.
My experience in the pub last night is a prime example. It was 10pm on a Friday, so there was no live sport of any variety, and there were no recent highlights to show. So instead of allowing us to gossip and natter freely among ourselves, the powers that be decided to show WWE on one screen and F1 highlights and interviews on the other. To be fair to them, they did turn the volume on the TVs off so it wouldn’t combine with the aggressively loud music and disturb us any further.
Of course F1 is of no interest to anyone whatsoever, so that wasn’t too much of an issue. Surprisingly, it was the WWE that proved to be the biggest impediment to sensible discussion (or at least as sensible as you can get after a couple of pints).
For those that remain blissfully unaware, WWE – or WWF, I don’t really know the distinction – is glorified wrestling. It’s a distinctly American institution (so of course not in any way ‘World’) and seems to revolve around highly choreographed and over-dramatised “fights” between bulked-up musclemen on steroids with various quirky characterisations.
For some reason this bizarre stage-managed spectacle held a huge fascination throughout the evening. It’s clear that every part of it is scripted and the fights are likely to inflict less actual physical harm than a pillow fight with a rabbit. There was a stage when I was about ten or eleven that WWE was somewhat en vogue, and even we as children knew it was completely faked.
I think that what makes it so watchable is its totally fantastical setup. At one point we were seeing two muscly chaps glowering at each other ominously while muttering what must have been derogatory comments into a microphone. This was clearly meant to increase tension. So far so good.
But next thing we knew there was a dwarf, a woman of ample proportions and a 7-foot tall giant all dancing together in the ring. They were then joined by a bloke in cowhide trousers who flamenco-ed to the ring and proceeded to get slapped around by the giant man for ten minutes.
Obviously while watching this display in utter bemusement we weren’t talking much, unless it was to make some disbelieving remark about WWE’s fantastical idiocy. It’s like Made in Chelsea, which counts on the same horrified fascination to keep viewing figures each week.
I doubt there was anyone in the pub last night that actually wanted to watch WWE without the sound, and we already know that no-one has ever wanted to watch F1 anyway. All of which makes the decision to have the TVs thoroughly pointless.
The atmosphere in a pub when the sound of football commentary is blasting across the room and the fans are enjoying the beer and burger offers is a great thing. The atmosphere in a pub when WWE is staring you in the face to a soundtrack of deafening 90s pop is less electrifying.
Which is the precise reason that, unless there is some live football, rugby or cricket on, TVs should be turned off and the pubs should do what they’re designed to do: leave us to talk about football and other world problems with a comfortable glass of ale.