Something strange woke me from my reverie. Not that I was reverie-ing, just lightly dozing. Trying to watch eight matches a night for three nights is not easy. You think I just sit there, slumped? Oh no, it's exhausting, working out what's going on, who's playing, is Christmas over yet, who is the Prime Minister.
Usually I rely on someone like Brian Marwood to keep me from totally nodding off. When he says for the tenth time "in this football match", I manage to stir myself. "Brian, we know it's a football match. That's why we switched on." Or Andy Gray going on about "this greasy pitch". "They been pouring chip fat on it then, Andy?" I yell back at him. "Someone's used too much hair gel, eh?" Pitches can't be greasy, Andy, not when it's just rain on grass. "Slippery" is the word you want, son.
All the advertisements around the grounds also help keep me awake and wondering. "Duck and Cover", for example. Is it a pub, an insurance firm, an instant meal? And "Rainham Steel". I didn't know they made steel in Rainham, but if so, do they expect people at football matches suddenly to think: "Hmm, at half-time, I won't have a pie, I'll order a couple of tonnes of steel instead"?
Then I realised what had awakened me. All the empty spaces. I've noticed this already at Highbury this season, gaps at the away end, even in Premiership games, though just a few, not enough to register on the Richter scale. (Remember him? One of Harry's dodgier signings at West Ham.) But when it comes to Carling Cup games, and many of the European ones, at home and away, we are now seeing vast empty spaces.
Do the seats cost too much? I don't think that's the reason. At most Premiership clubs, the early cup games are often included in the season ticket you have already bought. So you are not paying extra money. Unless you are an away supporter.
Are we then perhaps overdosing on footer? There are so many live games on television, either all at the same time, leaving us to choose, or one after the other, such as all day and evening on Saturday and Sunday. Some fans can't quite be arsed to get up out of their seats, or leave the pub, to drag themselves to the actual game.
On Saturday, for example, there were two live games on Sky for which I had paid extra, because they were on Prem Plus. I must be mad. In fact, I've paid twice. At our Lakeland home, I paid £50 for the season, back in July. I tried to switch it when we got back to London, but not only would Sky not let me, they charged me £75 for a new subscription for what's left of the season - ie, a much bigger sum, for a lot fewer games. Bastards. Don't get me started.
Anyway, the timing of these two games, which now appears normal practice, was 12.45pm and 5.15pm. If you want to see a game live, and fortunately there are a lot more Saturday three o'clock kick-offs this season, which is what nature intended, you can't see the two TV games, not properly. I managed only the first half of the 12.45 game on telly before leaving for Arsenal. Even rushing back, I missed the first half of the second game. Yet I've paid for all three, and wanted to watch all three.
The timings are so stupid, working against those who want to support their local team. There must be many fans who are beginning to think fuck it, I'll stay at home.
The first football game seen on television was in 1936 between Arsenal and Everton. It was filmed, and shown later. In 1938, the then FA Cup final was shown, but only part of it. From the 1950s, the FA Cup final was shown live, every year, oh the excitement, taking your seat on the sofa, hoping to see the wives in their best frocks and beehives. Regular weekly football on TV began in 1964, with Match of the Day screening highlights on Saturday evenings. Since 1992, and the creation of the Premiership, we have had a whole TV company, Sky, whose marketing is based on having exclusive live football.
During these 68 years, almost on the hour, it was said that television would ruin gates. Seemed logical, but it never did. Could it now be about to happen?