Jerry Seinfeld didnt care how a plane reached its destination and football fans should feel the same about the makeup of the teams they support
Jerry Seinfeld used to perform a stand-up routine about aeroplane travel in which he addressed that irritating habit pilots have of informing passengers exactly how theyre going to get them to their destination. Its the utter pointlessness of it all that perplexed the comedian the excruciating minutiae of the cruising speed and altitude the pilot plans to reach, the direction the wind is blowing, the left turn hell make over Pittsburgh, followed by the right over Chicago before he takes the plane down to 15,000 feet. Hes giving you the whole route; all his moves, Seinfeld observed. And were sitting in the back going: Yeah, fine just do whatever the hell you gotta do to get us where it says on the ticket.
Those of us with no particular interest in the byzantine machinations of the increasingly ridiculous annual spending frenzy that is footballs summer transfer window can feel Seinfelds pain. We dont care which players assorted clubs are trying to sign and how everyone involved is going about it, but are content to simply wait for the dust to settle and find out who went where. Try as we might to ignore the countless reports and rumours, often fed to favoured newsmen by players, agents, club spokesmen and assorted other hucksters with self-serving agendas, such is the ravenous public appetite for transfer news that resistance is increasingly futile.
The ubiquity of informed and uninformed media tittle-tattle has rendered it inescapable even when such enjoyable alternatives as the summer Tests, Wimbledon and LeTour are on hand to provide welcome palatecleansers at a time when there is no football. Well, in a world where there is never no football, as little meaningful football as it is possible to have before the new season begins and those of us who enjoy the comparative tranquility of the close season can return refreshed and enthused by the prospect of the imminent football grind.
In an era when the Premier Leagues annual summer transfer arms race seems to have eclipsed even the FACup in terms of fan interest and prestige, those of us driven to the brink of madness by the white noise generated by players, clubs and their people are made to feel in some way inadequate because of our lack of enthusiasm regarding Tottenhams inactivity, Manchester Citys spending or Neymars next move. Its as if not caring about such matters means we mustnt actually like football, when nothing could be further from the truth. We like it very much; love it in fact but could do without the ludicrous hoopla that surrounds it when none is being played.
And increasingly, its a particularly football thing. Most restaurant patrons dont feel the need to obsess over how their food was sourced to enjoy whatever meal that arrives from the kitchen. Movie enthusiasts dont care how difficult it was to sign up AlPacino for Scarface but can appreciate its a damned fine flick. You dont need to understand exactly whats going on under the bonnet of a Ferrari to appreciate the pleasing sound of its engines distinctive growl. By contrast, football has reached such a preposterous point of saturation that needless fretting and handwringing over how exactly and at what cost your team is assembled has become as stressful and time-consuming a pastime as watching that team play.
When this column is appointed president of Fifa, a blanket ban on transfer speculation, baseless or otherwise, will be one of its earliest sweeping reforms. As plans go it is obviously deeply flawed and utterly unworkable, but no more so than many of the wheezes embarked on by footballs world governing body in the past. Come this brave new dawn, instead of spending the summer hiatus monitoring Sky Sports News, the internet and various contradictory newspaper reports for rumour and counter-rumour regarding summer swoops, football fans will be forced to endure a total media blackout on transfer activity before a considerably more exciting Big Reveal on the seasons opening day.
An occasion already suffused with optimistic uncertainty, at least until your team find themselves 3-0 down at half-time, it could only be improved by the thrill or crushing disappointment that would go hand in hand with scanning the matchday programme while the PA guy announces the lineup to discover who is and isnt in your clubs squad. Imagine the shock and subsequent awe of all those seasonticket holders at the Bet365 Stadium on discovering theyll actually have multiple opportunities to find out if Leo Messi can really do it on a wet Tuesday night at Stoke.
An insightful man, Seinfeld also had the inherent ridiculousness of the transfer system covered long before footballs biannual trolley dashes were introduced. Loyalty to any one sports team is pretty hard to justify, he said. The players are always changing, the team can move to another city youre actually rooting for the clothes. You are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city.
Not that theres anything wrong with that, to borrow an iconic phrase from the New York Mets obsessives eponymous sitcom. Its the constant, unavoidable drip-feed of information and misinformation regarding who will or will not be dressed in those clothes that has become no pun intended wearing. Isnt it time all these clubs, players and agents just did whatever the hell they gotta do to get us where it says on the ticket?