To mark any mild coincidence or lukewarm drama in football, a commentator will often breathlessly scream that YOU COULDN'T HAVE WRITTEN A SCRIPT LIKE THIS’.
Given that the world’s most-watched television show is about a 14-year-old bastard who battles an army of frosted zombies to ride an aunt who can communicate with fire-breathing dragons, the scriptwriters of the world are unlikely to be plunged into a deep existential angst by Landon Donovan scoring a late goal for the United States against Algeria.
To many of those who have written scripts about football, the more accurate response is probably that you wouldn’t write a script like this. Or at least you shouldn’t.
Football has largely evaded critical literary gaze since it morphed from a method of curbing the masturbation habits of Victorian boys into an acceptable, global vehicle to launder the image of brutal, dictatorial and flagrantly anti-humanitarian regimes.
And for good reason: aside from a host of noble outliers a vast swathe of football books, movies, TV shows, advertisements and songs are utterly and irredeemably shite.
But that doesn’t mean these turds should be ignored.
Why? Well, they are often fundamentally hilarious, and have the added benefit of making the reader/viewer feel very good about themselves: it is good for the ego to know that not even you could stoop to write something this bad.
It is also comforting to know that in an age where culture is curated by faceless algorithms for our own, personal preference, there exists a cohort of people who know so little about the human condition and their basic tastes that they would sanction, fund, film, and market three Green Street films.
It is from this shared passion of the ego-massaging turkey that arises THE REDUCER, a weekly podcast which picks apart an example of football culture: be it a movie, TV show, book, song, or advertisement.
It is co-hosted by Gavin Cooney, a sportswriter in need of pathetic validation by laughing at the underwhelming work of others and Seamas O’Reilly, a writer who earned brief international fame as that guy who took ketamine beside Mary McAleese. (He is also known as an Irish Times columnist and enemy of BBC current affairs presenter, Andrew Neil).
Each week, Gavin (that’s me, by the way, I’ve written the last two paragraphs in the third-person but I am going to stop doing that now) and Seamas are joined by guests to smugly take apart a piece of football culture in spite of no evidence that they could produce anything better
We've already clocked up sixteen episodes thus far, and topics have included: the absurd FIFA propaganda movie wanked out by Sepp Blatter, UNITED PASSIONS; the execrable LOVEJOY ON FOOTBALL, whose contents are so crass and insulting that pod guest Greg Spring wondered "I don't know how he leaves the house knowing this is in circulation, it's like a 300-page dick pic; the first two novels written by actual real-life football man Steve Bruce; the amazing character study of Brendan Rodgers that became of BEING:LIVERPOOL; the curiously, offensively dull autobiography of DENNIS WISE (who "drives a hard bargain, yarn-wise") and many, many more.
In some brief back-slapping, the show was named by ESQUIRE magazine as among the best 50 podcasts of 2018 and a reviewer of the most recent episode called the Tim Lovejoy episode a "good summation of a dead soul".
To get access to the entire back catalogue for free, just subscribe to THE REDUCER on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
The arcane iTunes chart algorithm (against which we validate our lives) rewards ratings and reviews, so please tell the little comment box on iTunes if you like the show (or if you hate it) - that helps us out enormously. But above all, if you like the show - tell a friend and/or the swathes of people following the digital approximation of your self across your social media feeds.
I'll be supporting each episode with articles here on Balls so keep an eye peeled for those.
Please get in touch with us with your own reviews of what we've covered, your suggestions for other potential topics, and if you feel you've got the expertise (or are comfortable pretending you have) on a topic, get in touch to come on the show.
Let's end with a song. Here is arguably the finest song ever recorded. It's called CINNAMON STICK and was recorded by the, er, England squad for the 1970 World Cup squad.
It's a classic.