May 05, 2007

Reds & Blues

As I write, boxing fans the world over are being whipped into a frenzy by the make-something-out-of-nothing fight between De La Hoya and Mayweather. Of course, there's nothing new in this. Sport has always been about much more than the game being played out on the park.

Watching the European Champions League soccer match between Chelsea (owned by the Russian Abramovich) and Liverpool (recently taken over by Americans Gillette & Hicks), I was struck at how the game played like one of the bad Rocky movies of the '80's (yes, there was a good one - the first).

Once upon a time, we loved to pit the doughty American against the remote Soviet. Mind you, there is a glaring weakness in the analogy in that Chelsea wear blue and Liverpool red; nevertheless...

Chelsea, under a manager who grows more and more isolated by the day, seemed to approach the tie with a bleak and humourless contempt both for the opposition and the game of football itself, whilst Liverpool sought to box above their weight and rely on bottomless courage and energy (and precious little skill, if we're honest) to overcome the grim leviathan. Viewers were once again presented with a classic confrontation which drew on the earliest storytelling.

This seemed to prompt an untypical bias amongst the TV pundits at RTE (who can usually be guaranteed to offer a fairly even-handed analysis of the game) and they were adamant as the game progressed to a penalty shootout that each of them wished to see the plucky underdog win.

This power to oblige us to take sides is what makes story so very powerful and is something that brandbuilders might weave into their own framework if they truly wish to influence the viewer.

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