If I needed any more reminding that the Olympics were over, after the dead babies and the world's madness returned to the newspapers' front pages, it was the absence of Jessica Ennis from the newsprint, which finally convinced me that the nation's holiday from horror, had ended. I am not entirely sure exactly what Jessica does - some multi-event thing which may or may not include swimming and skiing - but I certainly have enjoyed appreciating her delts, pecs, traps and abs (alas her glutes were considered beyond the pale, even for the cognoscenti of physical culture), while our holiday from horror lasted . And, having so admired her Amazonian delights, I will always be grateful that I will never feel hurt at being called a big Jessie ever again.
But, being an actual Jessie, I did tend to notice how Ms Ennis's golden-girl status did seem to come at the expense of others. After all, I noticed, team GB was replete with robust gals of undoubted babedaciousness, so why just Jess?; I kept asking. I couldn't forget the other Jess, the unlucky Jessica Varnish who not only lost out on a medal, but it seemed that no one was interested in her tears, and just concentrated on her fellow sinner, that other bit of GB glamour, Victorian Pendleton, who substantially got amongst the medals later. They completely ignored the babe from Bromsgrove because she did not fit in with their preprepared narrative. Ergo, they are not selling inspiration as they claim, only advertising for sponsors.
It didn't seem quite fair, somehow and it is obvious that most of the claims made about the Olympics being superior to other sports, are bogus.
Worst still, is that as we build up to the start of the paraolympics, there are not only no golden girls or boys, there are no images at all, as far as I can see. Obviously, with Tanni Grey-Thompson now retired, they might not have an obvious candidate, but it would seem likely that when it comes to needing a bit of sponsors' cash paraolympians need it more than the genetically gifted elite. No doubt, local star Eleanor Simmonds was overjoyed to get her MBE but nothing sends the message of approval better, than hard cash.
The conclusion is that the top Olympic brands, like Ennis, Pendleton and Tom Daley, are not given lucrative sponsorship deals because they are in the paper, but that they are in the paper because they have lucrative sponsorship deals. And newspapers tend to do exactly what their sponsors tell them. Unfortunately, those who hand out the sponsorship cash forget that most of us can less realistically aspire to be as gorgeous as gold medallist Jess Ennis or the Pendleton babe, and are more likely to aspire to have the courage and determination of those paraolympians, whose names we are not encouraged to remember.
It's just not a fair world but the media manipulators do love to tell us that it is.
Which is roughly what I was saying when I was watching the recorded highlights of Villa's defeat at West Ham last week. I kind of reached the same conclusion as above, that the media combine to manufacture some neat story which is easily told and easily understood.
So bearing all this in mind, I was being totally daft to have got so flipping mad, at Match of The Day's highlights of West Ham versus Aston Villa last weekend, because it stank of editorial manipulation. I felt justice was not done and that the truth was completely ignored in preference to some editors desire to repackage the footage into something they could fraudulently flog to the viewers. It very much seemed that a substantial part of the plan to sell on Sky's product, is that every result must be presented as a just outcome. So they spend rather too much time telling us how every decision of the referee is correct and how every outcome is the right outcome. Blatt is in his heaven and all is right in FIFA's world.
Saturday's was a particularly good example, where the edit and the pontification of the commentator combined to produce a rather crude idea of how they wanted the match to look and how it was to seem. They had decided that they would create an edit where there was little doubt that West Ham deserved to win, and that is exactly what they did. It was only the controversy of the goal, which gave the game away. When a commentator, whose acquaintance with the rules of the game and in particular the offside law, have consistently been revealed to be vague (at best), starts handing down judgements, the desire for a preferred outcome is revealed.
The one thing the Olympics proved, is that football relies too heavily on the judgement, caprice and creative input of the officials for it to claim that actual outcomes are a reliable indication of excellence. The opinion of some gobby commentator does not change that fact. It is no surprise that the events which enjoy the most prestige, tend not to depend upon opinion to decide the winner.
After all, last season's Premiership title was decided by the dubious intervention of the referee.
Obviously Villa weren't great last week but the BBC's creative edit made them look a lot worse. The match statistics show that Villa had more shots on goal than West Ham (10 to WH's 8), and rather more on target (6 to 4) than Allardyce's men but no one could have known that from the highlights. Villa had more possession too (51%) but the edit showed West Ham doing all the attacking and having substantially more shots.
This all seemed to have been arranged to justify Mike Dean's capricious intervention, by presenting West Ham as the team which deserved to win. But no one who has read the offside rule lately, could really fathom the referee's interpretation of the rule, unless they were willing to ignore the part of the law which says that an attacking player is offside if he/she is seeking to gain an advantage, from that position. It is never enough for any sort of contact from a defender (which must include the goalkeeper) to render an attacker onside. It is never the case that an attacker can cleverly play the ball off an opponent to put his team-mate onside, as a player might create a throw-in or corner by the same means.
West Ham's win relied entirely on the capricious intervention of referee Mike Dean, and Villa's performance should be judged in that light.
But obviously, as we understand that the bigger clubs tend to get the favourable decisions, Villa can expect to get more such lousy decisions and more such partial edits, if they are seen as a club with little or no ambition. Once a club has established the public image that they are poor and in decline, there is never any outcry at injustices, as people just can't get past the perception that they are a poor team which does not deserve anything more. Injustice to such teams is always presented as tragic fate and never outrageous malfeasance.
So I say to Villa, do not go gentle into that long good night.
And let's face it, if the Villans were dispirited by such an excusable loss to big Sam's boys, they will be under the frog, should their team not get something against Everton on Saturday.
Everton and Villa must be considered peers, when it comes to comparing financial turnover and status. But no one can seriously doubt the quality of Everton's manager and as far as the value of their squad is concerned, Everton are a little ahead of Villa by a few million quid but divide their total between 20 players, rather than Villa's 26, which includes Makoun and other players who have rendered themselves unavailable because they earn too much. Everton have high value players in defence (Jagielka, Baines and Heitinga) and midfield (Fellaini). Villa have Darren Bent and Gabby (injured) in attack.
On paper at least, Everton should be expecting to win this one. Their strengths seem to align with Villa's weaknesses and so it might be tight but if Lambert's promise of all-out attack materialises, then anything is possible.
Paul Lambert said Villa fans need to get down and get with it. Here's Noddy reminding us how it should be done.