On Tuesday evening I should have been watching the England-Germany game. Instead, though, I was at a pub quiz which I’d agreed to attend without realising that it clashed with the football. Thanks to the ‘wipeout’ round (whereby if you get any of the questions wrong you don’t get any points for that round), we didn’t win.
Rather than catch up with what had happened at Wembley by looking up the score on my BlackBerry or watching the news on TV when I got home, I wanted to watch the game itself and reckoned that my belated football-watching experience would be enhanced by my not knowing the result before I watched it on the catch-up. This was, I decided, the perfect opportunity to try something that usually only happens in sitcoms. Could I, in the real world, go for a day without finding out the score before watching the game the following evening?
This particular escapade has long been used as a plot device in sitcoms. My favourite current sitcom, How I Met Your Mother, built an episode around this back in 2007 (being American, the writers of How I Met Your Mother did it with the Superbowl, but the premise is the same – having been obliged to miss the game, all of the main characters try to last the following day without finding out what had happened before watching a recording of the game after work), and back in the 1970s it formed the basis for an episode of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (this time involving football, with the aim being to watch a highlights programme shown the day after the game, because that’s how they did things back then, but the principal is the same).
As I awoke on Wednesday morning, I realised that this self-imposed football news blackout would pose a few problems for my daily routine. I usually like to check what’s going on in the world on my BlackBerry first thing, but this time I couldn’t do so for fear that I might inadvertently see the sports headlines. And listening to the Today programme while having breakfast was also out, because at some point John Humphrys would stop his morning grilling of a politician and hand over to Gary-with-the-sport.
Once out of the flat, the biggest danger came at the Tube station where I encountered lots of people reading Metro. The proliferation of this free morning newspaper meant that I had to work hard not to pay attention to the reading-material of my fellow-commuters (which is tricky as Metro always seems to be more interesting when you’re reading it over someone’s shoulder), just in case I should unintentionally see the sports pages (and for all I knew that game might’ve been front-page news too).
I survived the morning commute with my ignorance intact, and followed it up by taking a different route from Moorgate station to the office – my usual route had to go, as it takes me past not one but two branches of W.H. Smith’s, both of which have the papers at the front of the shop.
Once safely in the office, I was faced with a major threat to my ignorance – the Internet. My job more or less depends on a computer, and like many an office worker I am prone to surfing the Net during an idle five minutes. Alas, the BBC website and all of the newspaper ones were off-limits, as was the superb Daily Mash (satirists have, of course, been known to take the piss out of footballers). Facebook and Twitter were out, too – someone was bound to mention the game. But at least accessing the Internet at work was something that was within my control, unlike going for a cup of tea which came with the risk of seeing a newspaper that someone might have left lying around in the kitchen.
Having survived the office, the last assault on my not knowing the score came with the Tube ride home. Now that the Evening Standard is given away free, it is as ubiquitous on the evening commute as Metro is in the morning. I kept my head down and was lucky enough to get a seat (that doesn’t usually happen), only to find that the man next to me was reading a newspaper. In desperation, I took my glasses off so I couldn’t see the paper – or anything else, for that matter.
This extreme measure ensured that I succeeded, and so it was that, twenty-three hours after the rest of the country, I sat down to watch the game blissfully unaware of the outcome.