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If you've ever played an old 1960s or early 70s Gibson SG guitar, you'll know that they used to go out of tune all the time, especially if you had a whammy bar fitted.
One good dive bomb on it and the whole thing was out of whack. If you were playing in a hot room or a damp atmosphere, the same thing would happen. I never worked out quite why this was but you stuck with it because they're fantastic sounding guitars - just listen to those early AC/DC records or Frank Zappa's early 70s output, to name just two.
But playing live, especially when you had two guitarists using them, they were a nightmare and led to a lot of in-between numbers re-tuning. Then technology made this a lot easier with electronic tuning devices which you just plugged your guitar into and the display told you when you were in or out. Great you might think, but rock n roll has long been played a bit flat or sharp because it was an organic, analogue, visceral, raw art form which was played in the moment.
You'd tune up and when it was about right you'd say, 'That's close enough for rock n' roll' and away you'd go.
That expression, 'close enough for rock n roll' meant you didn't actually need to be right in the pocket in order to sound bloody good. If you watch any live film of bands in the 60s and 70s, more often than not at some point someone's guitar is out of tune. In one of the seminal moments of rock n roll history, Jimi Hendrix plays Wild Thing at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 with a Stratocaster that's out of tune, but it doesn't matter because it sounds magnificent. I saw Eddie Van Halen on Van Halen's first tour of the UK in '79 playing riffs that were like aural gravel thrown into your face on a guitar which constantly needed tweaking to keep it in tune. It didn't spoil anything. It was awesome.
However, once we could all prove we were in or out with the electronic tuners, everything got a little bit less organic and wild, or at least you had to somehow unfetter yourself from the discipline of the technology. And it created arguments. 'Someone is out' the bass player would say. Everyone would then check and no-one was and yet the bass player was convinced it wasn't right. Did you go with what the gadget told you or what your ears told you? All of us pointed to our tuners to prove we were in. Thus the old concept of 'close enough for rock n' roll' was moderated by the technology and it brought its own problems with it. Eventually the kit on those old SGs was improved and now they're a very reliable guitar but, as anyone who has played an old one will tell you, it's not the same. They've tamed the beast.
But there's a natural human instinct to look to technology to solve all life's problem and we've seen this in football too. Now, this season, we will have goal line technology for the first time. Most people see this as progress and also see anyone who opposes it as a stupid Luddite. I always opposed it but actually I'm not a Luddite, I just know what is going to happen in the future and I know this season is the start of a major change. It is the thin end of a very big wedge.
Obviously, knowing in an instant if the ball has crossed the line or not isn't a problem. No longer will any side be cheated out of a goal. Fine. But here's what will happen. At some point there will be a big title-deciding game. Let's say Manchester United are playing Chelsea and need to win the game to win the league, a draw hands it to Chelsea - this is not likely under David Moyes, I know, but go with it. Danny Welbeck hits the ball against the underside of the bar, it bounces down and back into play. United appeal for a goal. The referee gets the word that the ball has indeed crossed the line. It's 1-0 to United. Chelsea accept the decision, kick off again and in the last seconds Juan Mata plays a through ball to Fernando Torres who slots it home past David de Gea's silly hair to equalize 1-1 giving the title to Chelsea. But wait, the linesman has his flag up for offside. The referee spots it and rules the goal out. However, replays instantly show Torres was onside. United go on to win the league as a result of that incorrect call. The technology benefited the reds but no technology was able to help the blues. And that is manifestly unfair. Mourinho is so outraged he paints himself with woad and rides to the FA naked on a horse to protest.
It is logically unsustainable to use technology for only one instance when it is available for other instances. It is simply more unfair and unjust. When you don't use any technology, you can excuse it all away as the luck of draw if the officials get a call right but when you have a single form of technology, you warp the process utterly. If you want one type of decision to be 100% correct, you have to have all decisions 100% correct or you're no further forward.
Consequently, after the United title win, replays will be brought in for offside decisions. It'd have to be. Then the next season the title is won by Chelsea when Eden Hazard scores a match-winning goal but is instantly shown to have fouled a player in the build up. The officials are pilloried by all and sundry. OK, now we have machinery to judge goal line decisions and offsides but why should we allow other crucial mistakes to go unspotted? That's unfair. And so soon every goal will be reviewed to make sure it's clean from start to finish because any referee who lets a bad goal stand will be slaughtered. All officials will stop trusting their own judgement and will default to technology. The game is utterly changed.
This season we are opening a Pandora's Box. So we stand on the verge of a major change in the culture of football. It seems innocuous enough but it really isn't. I realise in a game worth so much money that it's inevitable and I understand why it's so widely supported. But a wider and more important question is, will it really make football more enjoyable? As Test match cricket this summer has proven, trying to use technology to get decisions right can cause its own problems, especially in a game where such nebulous concepts as intent have to be judged.
Football is not a science, it's an art form, in some ways just like rock n' roll. Human imperfections are part of the attraction and they are the grit that makes football's pearl. By letting technological solutions to refereeing become the norm - and that is what will happen - we risk sterilizing the game. Frankly, I'd rather football was just close enough for rock n' roll.
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