Room 101

John Russell gets it off his chest.

Room 101, or at least the TV version, is the mythical place where celebrities of various ilk are invited to nominate items which they consider should be cast permanently into the dustbin of history. The only problem with this splendid concept was that the unelected arbiter on all things useless was Frank Skinner. Unfettered by any constraints emanating from anyone coming from Sandwell sans Dudley I offer the following selection:-

First, by a million miles is this abomination dreamt up by armchair television pundits after discovering that producers had found a slow-motion way of determining whether a tennis ball was in or out and thus ensuring that John McEnroe would no longer be able to challenge myopic line judges.

But freeze framing on the flight of a tennis ball is a long way from freeze framing to decide whether an onrushing forward has stuck his shoulder or his toe out an inch too far across a mythical line which he is unaware of. Worse, VAR has led to a change of the rules about handball so it need no longer be a matter of intent. Touch the ball with your mauler, however innocently, and no only may you have conceded a penalty but stand to get a red card as well. This has been nade worse by stopping the game after it has happened and the time the whole thing takes to decide. Other sports, too, have fallen into the all seeing eye of VAR to their ruination. Ask Frankie Dettori.

The penalty shoot-out.
Players have been shot when fans have taken the name a little too literally after they have missed a crucial score. The shoot-out is particularly cruel if the outcome is undecided after the first five kicks, because that inevitably means responsibility falling to someone who may be unfamiliar with the art of actually putting the ball into the opponent’s net from twelve yards.

Everyone remembers the names of those who have failed in the simple task of scoring from the spot but truth to tell no one should ever miss a penalty. With the notable exception of Mark Bosnich versus Tranmere Rovers no goalkeeper has ever properly saved a shoot-out penalty. They merely have to stand there and collect the misdirected tatter. But the powers that behave never managed to come up with anything better because “The fans love it.” Except that nobody has ever asked the fans of a team condemned to spend another season in the third division.

Years ago, when the ground of Shrewsbury Town was nearer to my home than the current edifice is, I frequently attended the Gay Meadow when Villa weren’t playing. They used to have a half-time competition when home youths competed against a visiting fans to run unchallenged from the halfway line to try to score, or not. Great fun, that, and as far as I know no fan was ever shoot for failing.

Fergie Time.
The ball is never in play for as long as sixty minutes, much less ninety, but the now so-called added time is a mythical number of minutes dreamt up in the imagination of an unseen official – annoying when the New Street train is timed to leave Witton station at 17.05. But the obvious answer to this conundrum which impinges on so many results may be worse than the cause.

Three points for a win.
As far as I know this was only introduced as an experiment “to encourage attacking play” but I am not aware as to when it was ever voted through, except by default. It is particularly invidious when it comes to the World Cup and leagues of four, when a first game draw is likely to be a route to expulsion. And truth to tell it has not had the desired effect in preventing full-backs passing the ball around between themselves and has seldom made a jot of difference in the final league standings (American term – I know these things.)

T20 cricket.
Is there a greater abomination than this attempt to turn cricket into a version of American softball? The unparalled joy of spending a whole day in the sun with my scorebook on the terraces at Edgbaston has been consumed in favour of those fans with an attention span little more than the length of a B movie. Worse, batters (see, I can be gender aware) are now required to slog to the detriment of the old-fashioned concept of building an innings, much to the detriment of proper cricket, where a maiden over now has fans feeling cheated.

Rugby – either version.
Just what is the point of this game except as an adult outlet for the playground bully? Does any spectator have the slightest idea why a referee has awarded a penalty?

I have acted as a timekeeper in the days when there were such people and I have raked the sandpit but I am at a loss to understand why competitors in field events indulge in overhead clapping. We know you are there, get on with it. Besides, it only tends to emphasise failure.

I could go on and on but feel free to add to this list as is your wont.