Mission Impossible

Mission Impossible – how do you avoid the score before watching a recorded game?

For many years, in the interests of marital harmony, I have recorded the televised Rugby League matches rather than watch them live. That way, we enjoy a meal, have a drink, watch a film etc. I watch the game, oblivious to the score, the morning after. Result – everybody happy.

In the modern age, this is becoming increasingly difficult. In fact, to tie in with the new film it is almost Mission Impossible. (I bet the music is now going through your head!)

Back in the halcyon days before smart phones, iPads and 24×7 media the biggest danger was walking into the local pub. No matter how many people you told that you were avoiding the score there was always somebody who thought it was funny to tell you. As times changed we were more likely to find ourselves in restaurants but with the same outcome.

Football too

It’s not just a rugby league problem, football is just the same. In 1997, my employer at the time held a big IT conference in Stratford. A dinner was arranged on the Wednesday evening – nicely coinciding with England’s vital World Cup qualifier against Italy. No problem, we would skip the dinner and watch the game in the bar. The management got whiff of this and made the dinner mandatory. A compromise deal was struck with the hotel. They would video the game and show it in the bar from 10.30. A full radio blackout was agreed and policed by everybody. By 10.20 we were gathering in the makeshift stadium, drinks sorted and a nice atmosphere building. The first attempt at starting the video ended with a blank, grey screen. The room fell silent. Would the IT department be defeated by technology (again)? A second later, Alan Shearer appeared to a huge roar then blank again. In the silence that followed, an American voice from the corner, not one of our hundred strong group, said quite clearly “I don’t know why you’re bothering, England lose one to nothing.” The ensuing silence was so threatening that even Jack Bauer would have had a slight wee. Needless to say, the perpetrator left very quickly. The atmosphere fell flat and by the end of the inevitable defeat there were only half a dozen hardy souls left.


Of course, technology has moved on in the intervening years and made things far more tricky. Facebook, eMail and Twitter have to be avoided at all cost in the lag between the match kicking off and watching the final tackle. Other technology traps exist. The Sky+ box itself has a nasty habit of surprising me. Just as you press stop at the end of a film, the channel has inevitably changed to the match, just as Eddie Hemmings mentions the score. I am very quick when it comes to hitting the mute button but sometimes not quick enough.

The main BBC news mentions rugby league about as often as I drink Pimms- except when I am avoiding the score – so no news.

The episode that triggered this piece happened at 10.02pm on Friday, a few minutes after the hooter had gone at the semi final. A text message on my phone – could be important. Like an idiot I looked and it was those nice people at the RFL telling me that Leeds were in the cup final. As a Bulls fan that was a double whammy – our old enemy reaching the final and me knowing the result of one of the most eagerly awaited games of the season. I did watch the game after I had calmed down and it was worth it for the gem from Dave Woods in his commentary. “There is a rumour in Leeds that Superman wears Kallum Watkins pyjamas” – priceless.

Of course, the Super 8s start on Thursday. Once again I will be watching it delayed. I will be unplugged and not near the phone. Short of somebody hiring a plane to buzz Burgess Towers, dragging an 80ft banner behind it surely I am safe.

Burgess – Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

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