You sit in the car like a child. It’s early February and you’re starting to sweat profusely because you rushed into the front seat without taking off your outer layers and the heater kicks on. You’re hearing the same words you heard two weeks, two months and two years ago at around the exact same time: ‘Football results ranked, (as always) read by James Alexander Gordon’.
The sports report the music dies down and, for a few minutes, the relative mania for what you just watched subsides. One person, one voice – at least 60 football results will be read calmly, quietly, perfectly. It’s the epitaph of another Saturday afternoon of English football.
You are playing a game, with yourself or with someone else listening to you. You hear the home score and have two seconds to guess the away goal tally, clues offered by the iconic intonation. Will it be “null”, Gordon’s voice pronouncing the “i” somewhere between three vowels and stopping on “u”. Will it be a four or a five, said with a flourish like a quiet, understated exclamation mark? Will you ever hear “Forfar 4, East Fife 5”? Of course you won’t: it’s an old Eric Morecamble joke anyway. Yet there is always next weekend.
This weekend BBC 5 Live did not read the full football results. Charlotte Green, who succeeded Alexander Gordon, is silent. With the addition of the live 5.30pm Premier League match to the station’s must-see, the BBC explained, sports report was condensed and time for classified results wasted.
There is change and then there is cultural barbarism; you’ll forgive the hyperbole when I say it comes close to the latter. The explanation offers reasoning but no infallible excuse. If you can’t find five minutes between 5 and 5:25 p.m. for tradition, you’ve underestimated its importance.
Never mind that people can find the day’s football scores elsewhere, via social media or a host of live score apps seconds after the final whistle. Never mind that most of the reactions of weariness will come from those of us whose fondest memories go back 50, 40 or 30 years. It doesn’t matter if you’re still listening now. Just know that thousands more are, and once or twice a season at least you’ll do the same and be transported back.
At worst, nostalgia is distorted into unnecessary isolationism. But no one mentions the sunny highlands here. We’re just wondering if we need 25 minutes of match previews, interviews and instant reactions instead of tradition. Sometimes the best argument for something’s existence is that it’s been around for as long as we know it. Being an anachronism doesn’t have to be an insult; here is the biggest compliment.
The joy of radio in the modern age of media lies in its familiarity. It doesn’t need to be everything to everyone, it doesn’t need to just seek out new audiences, and it doesn’t need to try to persuade kids to listen. sports report. It is his majesty. It is a national service program, produced to inform but also to comfort: the same voices, at the same times, discussing more or less the same things. Players, managers and clubs may change, but the framework remains the same.
We will miss the ranked football results. Not because it leaves a void in our weekly schedule and certainly not because we won’t be able to find out how Stranraer fared. But because it’s an unnecessary loss of tradition for football fans at a time when their experience has never been so threatened. “Change in the name of progress three; zero sporting heritage”.