4000 Holes


Wednesday, 21 February 2024

JERRY (answering phone): If you know what happened in the Mets game don't say anything, I taped it. Hello... Yeah, no, I'm sorry, you have the wrong number… what? Yeah, people do move!

(Kramer walks in)

KRAMER: Boy, the Mets blew it tonight, huh?

JERRY: Ooohhhh, what are you doing?! Kramer, it's a tape! I taped the game, it's one o'clock in the morning! I avoided human contact all night to watch this!

This was the world’s introduction to Kramer in the pilot episode of Seinfeld – him ruining Jerry’s evening by revealing what happened in a New York Mets baseball match. It’s a familiar situation for anyone who has ever tried to catch up on a match while not knowing the result.

There was a Friday night game to start the 2019/20 Premier League season, with Liverpool facing newly-promoted Norwich City at Anfield. I was at a family celebration and one guest was recording the match at home so that he could watch it in full later. He made it clear to everyone that he didn’t want to know what was happening, while others were inevitably checking for updates every five minutes, as is now customary. 

Sharing little sympathy for his request, one person cryptically shouted: “A former Rovers player has scored!” (Grant Hanley had scored an own goal). The guy wasn’t even a fan of either team, but he was going genuinely apoplectic that people were teasing him and spoiling the match.

I totally understand his predicament having had my own experiences in trying to avoid hearing the score of matches I want to catch later. Even the slightest hint at any detail creates an imperfection on the purity of watching it in a way which is effectively as good as live.

Back in November 2002, Rovers were getting beaten 1-0 at Southampton with a penalty from James Beattie. It was the match after which Gordon Strachan called Brad Friedel ‘Superman’, because his team had put the Rovers goal under incessant pressure but only had a slim lead to show for it. “He must have got changed in a telephone box,” Strachan said. Meanwhile, Tugay had been sent off. 

I was watching Final Score at 4:45pm, desperately clinging onto the slim hope of a late update from St Mary’s with news of a Rovers equaliser. Realising it was never coming, I switched off the TV before ‘FT Southampton 1 Blackburn Rovers 0’ flashed up on the vidiprinter. 

In my mind, we hadn’t lost the match if I hadn’t heard confirmation of the result, so I decided to delay the disappointment until the highlights in the evening. And I could actually extend some hope for a few more hours! Imagine my amazement watching The Premiership on ITV when I saw Andy Cole score a late late goal to seal a 1-1 draw.

Just one month later it was déjà vu. Rovers were losing 1-0 at Bolton this time and it was at least four minutes into injury time. I repeated the trick but clearly without much hope of a repeat. Incredibly Craig Short had scored a 96th-minute equaliser.

The surprising excitement created by those two incidents eventually resulted in me deciding to completely avoid tuning into score updates from 3pm on Saturday. This was only for Rovers away matches while I was away living on a university campus, which at weekends made for the perfect sleepy environment needed for the mission.

While it’d often only be about five minutes of action to watch later in the highlights, it was like watching a condensed full game live, with emotional reactions to action coming out at fast-forward speed.

Birmingham away in December 2003. Rovers were having a wretched autumn, sinking to 19th in the league, but had started to turn the corner with recent wins against Everton and Spurs at home, and Barry Ferguson was starting to look like the quality £7.5m player we’d hoped for.

This was my first experience of the perils involved in not finding out the score. I’d done sensationally well to make it past 10pm and to the start of The Premiership but inevitably the Rovers match wouldn’t be shown until much later and my impatience was growing.

Bloody advert breaks on ITV! I angrily flicked the channel to BBC1 and unwittingly stumbled into the sports news. Not only that, it was immediately after the phrase “If you don’t want to know the score, look away now.” A perfect full-screen image of the Premiership results from the day popped up, with ‘Birmingham City 0-4 Blackburn Rovers’ right at the top.

This was probably the strangest mixture of joy and anger I’ve ever experienced at finding out a Rovers result. I was completely beaming with happiness at seeing a thumping away win – the third 4-0 on the road of the year – but at the same time, I was absolutely furious about the self-inflicted spoiler. Watching those highlights without knowing the score would’ve been as good as the escapade gets.

However, important lessons were learnt from the fiasco, and by February 2004 I was looking forward to another attempt at success with an away match at Charlton. It would turn out to be one of the most famous games in the club’s history due to a goal by a goalkeeper. The potential enjoyment level was sky high. Imagine not knowing that Brad Friedel had scored that day all through your Saturday night and waiting to watch the highlights…

The Rovers match was again inevitably in the second half of the programme but the TV remote would be left well alone this time. However, before commercial breaks, teasers would always be shown of forthcoming matches with Des Lynam attempting to keep viewers switched on. “Stay tuned for some late drama at…” 

You will never guess what happened next…


As spoilers go, this topped the Birmingham debacle. Once again, the same mixture of joy and anger returned. And while the snippet didn’t reveal the actual score, anyone who knows anything about football would be able to work out the result. Goalkeepers usually only go up for a corner if their team is trailing by one goal late in the match. Clearly, Rovers had scored an injury-time equaliser. 

The joy did outweigh the anger for this one though… until I saw the epilogue. Claus Jensen scored an even later goal to make it 3-2 to Charlton. Televisions were nearly thrown out of windows and doors knocked down. Moments like this just make you think of giving up on everything. Coincidentally, Friedel's reaction also perfectly captured the feeling of accidentally seeing a spoiler.

So, if it was tough in 2004, there’s seemingly no chance of success in 2024! There are so many more pitfalls nowadays which can result in contamination from the outside world. Obviously this is a result of being permanently plugged into smartphones with social media, pop-up notifications, phone calls and texts. 

Even if you do manage to silence or lock away your phone, the standard risks remain; such as overrunning news when you switch on the TV, firing up your car and finding the radio is on, or walking past a pub and catching sight of a big screen through the window. It’s like there’s a black hole dragging you in to the details you desperately don’t want to know.

The potential comedic value means that Seinfeld is not the only sitcom which has referenced the mission. A famous 1973 episode of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? entitled ‘No Hiding Place’ centred around the lads trying to win a bet by avoiding the Bulgaria v England result all day until the evening highlights. 

TERRY: “Don’t turn your head. There’s a television dealer on the left and they’ve got a dozen sets on.”

BOB: “Oh, it’s alright, it’s only The Magic Roundabout.”

TERRY: “That won’t stop them. ‘We interrupt this programme for an important announcement and pillocks to poor old Zebedee.’”

The lads successfully made it as far as I did in 2003/04. “Don’t switch on yet, you might get the ITN News! You know what those lot are like, they load you into a false sense of security, then BANG!, suddenly there’s the football results.” 

Earlier, Terry had partly caught sight of a newspaper billboard stating ‘ENGLAND F…’ leaving them to wildly speculate what it could mean. [SPOILER ALERT] It was ‘England Flooded Out’. The climax of the episode saw them discover that the match had been postponed. 

There’s also a reference in American sitcom How I Met Your Mother. In the episode ‘Monday Night Football’, the friends miss their annual Super Bowl get-together due to a funeral, but agree to watch the tape the following night. Ted constructs a device – the ‘Sensory Deprivator 5000’ – to allow him to pick up a takeaway order from a sports bar, but the others have already failed the task in various innocuous ways, yet have to keep up the pretence during the watchalong.

These days I don’t try to avoid hearing Rovers updates, but I have got into the regular habit of having a Sunday switch-off – avoiding all sport updates after noon so that I can look forward to Match of the Day 2 at 10:30pm. 

One notable success during lockdown was watching the highlights of Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool and Man United 1-6 Spurs in a wonderful 30-minute glut of surprise goals. But another recent failure was entering a seemingly risk-free zone – BBC’s Top 10 popular stories for some general news updates – and finding out that Man City 6-3 Man United had made the list!

Perhaps the number of people still doing this kind of thing these days is so miniscule that the “Look away now” line in the news is an out-dated relic. However, if it was cut from the scripts, it would probably cause a similar level of outrage that came when the BBC axed the classified results from Radio 5 Live.

It must live on as part of football culture! The younger generations are now unfortunately well aware of the struggles of self-isolation. That should turn out to be the perfect training for the far bigger challenge of keeping quarantined from a football result. 


The above article was originally published in Issue 106 of 4,000 Holes. Please support our work by purchasing an occasional copy! There are plenty more crazy stories from the Brad Friedel era in Issue 107 – the Noughties Special – which can be ORDERED HERE.

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