I hate to break it to you, readers, but the future despises you. That the upcoming round-number anniversary of the moonshot calls forth the memory of Kennedy's famously fulfilled promise only highlights this. You see, back when Jack made his proclamation, our forefathers — and maybe our foremothers too, if their false moustaches could deceive the local curate — would eagerly queue up for a turn at the kinetoscope, where would be played a cylinder informing them that by the year nineteen-hundred-and-eighty-five, we would all be living on Mars: being waited on by Plutonian butlers, having our nutritional needs satisfied by means of some kind of benign laser being shone up our noses, and establishing kickass nuclear launch facilities (one red planet is quite enough, is it not?).
In reality, as we sadly know, by 1985, NASA had given up faking moon landings, and Manchester United were FA Cup champions. Times were bleak; promises were broken.
There is a modern version of this phenomenon. We live in the midst of a media revolution. Some years ago, boffins, to use the tabloid vernacular, told us that we would all soon be interconnected by means of computers no larger than a standard household mangle, and that we would have so many television stations, broadcasting all day, every day, that we would need a device to control the set remotely. Our minds would consequently be expanded and peace would descend on our planet as we all listened to Mozart together in glorious communion.
Sadly, these wise folk were burnt at the stake as Protestants and never got to see their vision borne out. Well, half-borne out. True, we could listen to Mozart with our international brethren. But in reality, the internet, this vast virtual city, is filled with porn, cats and probably cat porn (hey, I'm not looking it up). People spend more time online irregularly updating their blogs and looking at x-rays of people who have various household objects located uncomfortably about their person than bettering themselves or the human race.
In other words, the bigger the field, the more the bullshit. Witness the coverage of the death of Michael Jackson. Now, I'm no member of the legion of the tedious who have somehow contrived to be offended by the fact that this has been a major news story. This was the death of Michael Jackson, after all, you loathsome stains of misery. But very quickly, with person after person stating and restating nothing more than the bare fact of the matter from a variety of locations in an array of media, it felt like someone was repeating a word over and over (over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over over) until it has lost its meaning. By the time the sun had risen on the Friday morning's acres of nothingness, it had become, weirdly, numbing.
Which sees us crassly segueing into football. Transfer gossip has probably existed ever since those grimy northerners stopped playing fair and began to give Scots suspicious-looking "supervisor" jobs at the cotton mill. Back then, such gossip would have been reasonable, as its outlets were limited: the terraces, the pubs, the Athletic News.
Things have changed. Newspaper sports sections have got bigger; indeed, papers who would once have seen such flim-flam as beneath them now often contain pull-out football sections. There are twenty-four hour sports stations — there are twenty-four hour sports news stations, which I'm sure is a harbinger of something ominous. Combine these with the aforementioned interwebs, and the space given over to what all blogs of this nature are required to call at least once every six months the "beautiful game" is, if my maths don't fail me, infinite.
The trouble with this exponential (oh look, my maths fail me) increase in capacity is that there is not necessarily that much more of substance to fill it with. This is bad enough during the season, when the gaps between matches are the occasion for the reporting of imaginary managerial feuds and non-committal press conference responses turned into declarations of war. In the close season, with just as much capacity to fill, there is practically nothing of substance to fill it with.
And so we get the steaming nonsense of transfer rumours. There is little discerning or discriminating about these. The football pages — assisted immensely by the hall of mirrors that is the internet (O! Brave new media!) — are, I am pretty sure, the result of a tear in the fabric of spacetime through which all possible transfer realities have poured. If a story about a certain player moving to a certain club turns out to be rubbish, don't worry! Just go to the next absorbent puppy-urine soaker-upper provider and presto!, the player is going to another club. For twice as much money. And if that turns out to be rubbish...
This is not to say that none of these stories are ever correct. I mean, if you put an infinite number of football writers in front of an infinite number of word processors, one of them would eventually guess where Javier Mascherano will be in September.
Though none, it seems, would know where Michael Owen was headed.
During the last gleeful application of free-market principles, I ventured that despite my growing aversion to the stuff, I would probably have it fed intravenously as the hours to the deadline receded. Well, I didn't. Which is to say, I did, only so I could be put out of my misery regarding the Arshavin deal, like a hedgehog waiting for the car to reverse back over its still-just-about-twitching body and let its soul fly to hedgehog heaven, where Arsenal don't lose as much. (By the way, Arshavin totally signed BEFORE the deadline. Okay?) The transfer columns are now something I instinctively skip, just like the racing pages or the listings for TV3.
Maybe it's just a function of age; maybe there comes a point when nothing about these stories can surprise you and that's that. On my own personal Premier League Southgate Rankings, for instance, every team in the top flight moves above the Southgate Parallel within weeks of a new season's beginning. Maybe, once more, it is because there is so much noise out there that echoes rebound back off other echoes. Last year, seeing Hull in the Prem was deeply weird at first. But soon they became part of the furniture — a lying, whining, zealously over-lacquered part of the furniture, but a part of the furniture nonetheless.
Whatever. Transfer rumours, which not so long ago I faithfully pored over, are dead to me. The only way to deal with the close season to assist m'colleague in making shit up. But I have a question which remains unanswered: have I — who have effortlessly bestridden the information galaxy like a hyper-intelligent and slightly cynical colossus since birth, who was taught my letters and numbers by television puppets, who registered my first note of scepticism at the advertising industry just before my third Christmas — conquered the media, or has it defeated me?