Peter York on ads: Not just a matter of life and death - No 190: Sky Sports

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The Independent Culture
Nick Hornby is a nice enough little person but he's got a lot to answer for. It's not fair to say that he was single-handedly responsible for every sedentary middle-class person in the land affecting a keen interest in football, but he certainly did legitimise the ecstatic, therapeutic, male bonding group view of it. Some things are better left unsaid.

Most of the things you shouldn't say are said very loudly by Sean Bean in the Sky Sports football commercial. With all the authority of his fictive When Saturday Comes character and his real aspirations to the Sheffield line, Bean says words like "ecstasy, anguish, joy and despair". With all the authority of his Sharpe character he leads a sort of solo military march across a football pitch.

It all starts quite spookily enough, with Bean saying, "Life, it can be difficult ... you know that," to slow strings and a choir. This is intercut with ecstatic crowds, followed by a succession of positively Snowdonian pictures of black and white footballers in black and white, some famous, some not, but all looking noble, statuesque, unclothed and moody - many in chiaroscuro, some shower-wet. As these start winding up so does Bean, with a lot about people being there for you and giving you a sense of belonging. Get a load of this:

"It's part of our history, it's part of our country, and it will be part of our future (tomorrow belongs to me!...). It's theatre, art, war and love. It's a feeling that can't be explained, but we spend our lives explaining it. It's our religion, we don't apologise for it, we do not deny it. They're our team, our family, our lives. Football, we know how you feel, because we feel the same."

The other thought that comes to mind from this cleverly made, elegantly filmed, expensively cast and scripted mission statement is of Rupert Murdoch, the Sky Lord. Can it be the fortunes of Aston Villa that he follows so assiduously from all his offices around the world - or is it just the media-sector share prices?