Ian Wood: Switch on, tune in, turn down

IF THE pace of this column seems more leisured than usual, it is probably because I've decided that if I drag it out long enough I'll be too late to catch the England v Germany World Cup match which is, at the moment of writing, upcoming. I don't care who wins, I just don't particularly want to know about it and, more specifically, I don't want to hear about it from the army of fevered commentators and analysts whose rantings make the howl of the vuvuzela sound almost heavenl

Everyone has his or her limit and I've long since reached mine. There's surely a market out there for some enterprising bod who can come up with a TV set capable of presenting a football match while eliminating the commentary.

Indeed, I know it can be done, for I once experienced it in the town of Carmel while attending the US Open golf championship at nearby Pebble Beach in 1992. A small party of press colleagues had made the short journey along the coast and, while wandering aimlessly, as is their wont, had decided to call in at an attractive hostelry – another of their wonts. When we entered, it became apparent that something was going on. A football match was being shown on a large screen and the place was packed with Danes with their faces painted red. Their national team was in action and doing well going by the racket, though the interesting thing was that there was no commentary whatsoever. Such uproar as there was came from the Danes in the pub.

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Whenever something which required clarification occurred, it was relayed to the viewers by means of captions. Players who figured in outstanding moves or controversial incidents were featured and identified in the usual fashion. Nothing more was required. We watched the whole match, which the Danes won, and, once we'd got the hang of things, the lack of commentary was no problem. After all, why should it have been? When you go to a football match you don't get a commentary. You don't get action replays and you don't have someone wittering on about irrelevancies while you're trying to follow the game, which isn't difficult as most of us have been doing it since childhood. We don't need to be told what a foul looks like, when a goal has been scored or missed or when a referee should have gone to Specsavers.

It's all this technology. If it's there, it seems it has to be used to the point of pain and whether it's needed or not. This is why it's practically impossible to walk along a pavement these days without constantly having to spring out of the paths of people apparently out of control and walking towards you with eyes glazed and wires sprouting from their ears. Failure to take appropriate avoiding action is liable to result in nasty collisions, for it's a safe bet the oncoming zombies won't change course. They're not programmed for that.

Golf has its technology but it's comparatively mild stuff, for in the end it comes down to someone either swinging well or swinging badly. A golf club is just that and whether the material it's made of is shot from guns or spawned in outer space, it has to be manipulated by someone who knows how and there's no way round that. A duffer might propel the ball further than he used to, but going further is not necessarily a good thing if a shot's going the wrong way.

Progress is all relative. This struck me as I was going through my collection of failed and rejected clubs the other day. It's a sort of ritual I perform during which I pick up a few of them and snarl at them, telling them how much I detest them and reminding them of their defects and why they're mouldering in this dark place instead of glorying in the great outdoors as they might have been had they behaved themselves in a reasonable manner. I came across an old 3-wood which jogged a chord.

It was of a type with which I'd taken my first faltering step into what passed as new technology when I was about 13. Because of the shortage of clubs during the Second World War, I'd spent my formative years playing hickory-shafted clubs, some of which had been cut down for me. The clubs served their purpose, though to no great effect and there were times when I felt I could have kicked the ball further. This was because I was outgrowing the shorter ones and was fed up with the rest of them. I lusted for steel.

Then one day, my father took me to Gullane and we played the No 3 course. During that round, my father must have sensed a crisis brewing and he let me play a second shot with his steel-shafted 3-wood. Suffice it to say that I connected well with the shot and, as the ball soared away on a trajectory quite unlike anything I'd managed before, I knew that things would never be the same again. Of course, I didn't know then that they wouldn't be much better, but it was a good feeling while it lasted.