Miles Kington: Soon to be appearing on a screen near you: You!

Shots of the crowd are becoming as important as the shots of the game itself - and the crowd doesn't even have to be at the game
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The Independent Online

At the end of the Rugby Union Heineken Cup Final, in which Munster beat Biarritz at Cardiff, at the end of the game they flashed on the screen's shots of the home crowds going wild in O'Connell Street, the main street of Limerick back home in Munster. You could see the whole street jam-packed with people , all cheering the victory.

What you couldn't see, of course, was the crowds in the main street of Biarritz, shoulders slumped, silently dispersing and wandering off home with the bitter taste of near-victory in the back of their throats. At least, I didn't see it. Yet surely the cameras must have been there, just in case. . . . .

"So, if Munster win," you can hear the TV executive saying, "we'll cut to the shots of the home crowd in Munster. . ."

"Munster isn't actually a place," says his assistant. "Limerick is the place."

"So, why's the team called Munster?" says the boss.

"Because that's the name of the province in which Limerick is the main town."

"So why isn't the French team named after a province?" says the boss. "How come one small French town is playing an entire Irish province?"

Perhaps he doesn't say anything as controversial as that at all. Perhaps he just says that if Munster win, they'll cut to Limerick where the entire population is watching the game on a big screen. And if Biarritz win, they'll go to the main street of Biarritz.

"Do they have a main street in Biarritz?" says the TV boss. "It's not all casinos and private villas, is it?"

Perhaps he doesn't say that at all. Perhaps he just orders people to have the cameras ready in Biarritz. The point is that shots of the crowd are now becoming as important as the shots of the game itself, and the crowd doesn't even have to be at the game. You can see this in Test Cricket coverage, where the cameras are constantly straying into the crowd to pick out interesting looking people, pretty Asian girls, old Englishmen in boaters, absorbed children, but above all chaps in outlandish costume which you suspect have been donned merely to attract the TV camera in the first place.

Not only does the camera like to pick out faces in the crowd, but these pictures are also being seen on big screens at the game. You know this, because very often the faces - who do not know they are being shot - suddenly see themselves on the big screen and their unself-conscious behaviour suddenly turns to self-awareness, or a mixture of confusion and pleasure. "Hey, look, it's us on the screen!" they say, and they point and they laugh, at which moment they become useless as TV material and the director cancels the shot.

Even if this has never happened to you in a stadium, it must have happened in a shop, like an off-licence. As you are waiting for the man to process your card to make yourself the legal owner of some Sauvignon Blanc, you look up at a monochrome monitor screen (CCTV is the last refuge of black-and-white telly) and you see an aerial shot of some shifty, seedily dressed bloke at a counter, and you suddenly realise it's you. Well, me, actually. It's a nasty moment. In my case, I sometimes feel impelled to draw a gun and hold up the shop, just to justify my sordid appearance, though so far, luckily, I have always come out without my gun, so I just avert my eyes and slink out into the street.

But when the crowds in O'Connell Street saw themselves on the big screen, they were in euphoric mood. Their team had just won, and so they were cheering and waving. To cap it all, they now saw a picture of themselves cheering, so as one man the vast crowd said: "Hey, look, it's us!" or perhaps even, "Would you be looking at that now!" and started to wave .

What the TV audience saw was not the people of Limerick cheering their team but waving at themselves on the telly.

If, as Oscar Wilde said, the 19th-century dislike of Realism was the rage of Caliban seeing his reflection in the mirror, I wonder what he would have said about the delight of Caliban seeing himself on TV.

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