Premier League Opening Day 2011-2012
A West Coast Sacrifice.
In England, those who care about football concentrate energy to making the noon kickoff or casually commit them to the mid-afternoon starts following the morning’s routines of domestic concerns and social engagements.
In two weeks, La Liga will begin its new season. Those who care about football in Spain calibrate nocturnal energies to kickoffs at 8:00 or 10:00 p.m. This admittedly sounds ideal; summer’s slow change from afternoon to evening stretches the day and allows one to inhabit the lengthening of time for the devoted pleasure of the event.
In California, the beginning of the European season is met eagerly, but expressed as subdued anticipation. Those who care about football in California rewire the circuitry of their circadian rhythms to flow and align with kickoffs as early as 3:30 a.m. (most often Serie A or the npower Championship). On most weekends (particularly after daylight savings when the clock is turned back an hour), at least one Premier League match per weekend has a 4:30 a.m. If all clubs play on the same day, the entire round of matches is complete before noon.
Premier League matches demand that the alarm is set earlier than the workday. The excitement is met by the piercing bleep of the clock radio or cell phone’s dance track, the dragging of one’s groggy carcass out of bed and on to the sofa by way of the coffee maker; feats that go uncredited. Matches are watched alone in semi-darkness.
This is an example of what prompted the invention and wide-spread use of the DVR. It’s an easy $5 per month upgrade of the existing cable package. Problem solved for the time being (there is nothing more annoying than having to drive the machine to a drop off location when the account is closed). These matches are more than 5000 miles away; a tiny distant thing and inconsequential. What difference does it make if the match is watched live at 4:30 a.m. or delayed at 9:30 a.m. after the always longed for beauty sleep?
The DVR is indispensable, but unfortunately incomplete for those Californians with perhaps an unhealthy investment European football. Exceeding the technological capacities at hand, the particular club devotion of left coast partisans can’t bear the fact that the entire world in those future time zones knows whether or not said beloved team has won or lost, while the devotee chose indulgent sleep.
The estrangement is haunting. The choice to sleep in and watch later is fraught with possible reminders of disloyalty and betrayal; the score becomes a unit of information as empty or depersonalized as any other haphazardly encountered. One must hermetically seal oneself off from all forms of media on all devices. The easiest way to ensure this is to stay off the Internet altogether (although the Los Angeles Times homepage is probably safe, but why take the chance…). Next, it is important to make no phone calls and send no texts. Conversely, do not answer the phone and do not look at any incoming texts in case a final score is blurted. For those who don’t understand the etiquette of match day silence (like one’s mother) seem to also have an uncanny timing of trying to get in touch just as the recorded match is in its first few minutes.
A Californian with partisan interests in the Premier League who foolishly chooses to watch their team on delay is a context providing proof that the ubiquity of information and access to it is not always desired. So there.
Avoiding an encounter with the outcome of the match is more difficult with the TV than with the Internet or phone. Turning the TV on to get to the recorded queue is full of landmines. When setting up the schedule of recordings the night before, it’s easy to forget to leave the TV on a channel that will have no interest broadcasting matches or final scores. There are numerous options provided by the southern California channel lineup: any public access channel, a Christian network (U.S. evangelicals despise football or soccer or whatever that socialist sport is called), home shopping networks, the multitudes of CSpans, or one of the many channels devoted to “women’s programming”. This is not as easy as it sounds. The channels selected and set for recording matches—ESPN, GOL TV, Fox Soccer, Fox Soccer Plus— are the channels to avoid before powering down. Last, one must avoid eye contact with scrolling ticker tapes of summary information, which are almost impossible not to look at.
It’s much safer to get up and watch live. It retains emotional salience and meaning. Loyalty and devotion are not questioned. “Live” just feels differently than the simulation of live. Take that antiquated postmodernists. The clammy, queasy, and irregular somatic temperatures of sleep deprivation come with peace of mind. Just before kickoff one can take a moment to look at the glowing horizontal lines of bluish dawn light leaking through the seams between the window’s blinds that will be comfortingly identical every week for the next nine months.