Middle ages column: what had to be proven

With video evidence, soccer has become modern. As a symbol of a society that takes the game more seriously than the murderous reality.

Referee Manuel Grafe makes a gesture to video evidence after a SC Freiburg goal Photo: dpa

The most beautiful gesture a soccer referee has in his repertoire is the advantage gesture. On the website of the SWR I found it described wonderfully like this: "For the visual indication, the referee can, for example, take both arms forward while running or hold them up at an angle. He can also just call out ‘advantage’ to alert the players to his decision."

And then the game is on, the advantage gesture is an enabling and accelerating gesture that requires an ensemble performance from all involved, with the referee as conductor.

These referees were sometimes divas – sometimes they were even exclusively divas, that is, they were really bad referees; but they were where they were supposed to be: On the pitch, beautiful with or without hair. With the introduction of video evidence, that’s over.

In an interview with Deutschlandfunk, child psychiatrist Michael Winterhoff articulated the following observation, which is currently much quoted: "Overall, the adult has changed, and in recent years dramatically, this has been reinforced by smartphones. Go to the city, look at the faces – rushed, annoyed, irritable, depressed – and if you ever have one who is radiant and relaxed, you already think – exaggerated – he has taken drugs."

Rushed, annoyed, irritated, depressed – that’s exactly how video evidence-dependent referees look when, surrounded by other pack-building junkies, they put their finger to their ear to better understand the controller. The game is destroyed by this.

What made soccer, the Aristotelian unity of time, space and action, is gone. The game is no longer a closed drama, but embedded in the distraction culture of the present – and in this respect it is finally contemporary and modern.

Neurotic fear

The sepulchral gesture of soccer is then also the moronic screen border, the coffin is built with it, someone just has to put the lid on it.

Video evidence transforms a game into a deadly serious endeavor by turning it into a ludicrous video game, while at the same time the truly deadly serious happenings in our society – such as the Wall Strip death zone in the Mediterranean – are increasingly dragged down to the level of optional perception.

The neurotic toddler fear that a penalty might not be given is greater than that of climate change. The world cannot agree on whether Assad or Volkswagen are poison gas killers or perhaps not, because there is always someone, possibly on the left or simply on the payroll, who claims the opposite and sows sufficient doubt that the slaughter can continue: In soccer, however, there is now iron certainty in the infinite expanses of fan debility.

And ultimately, of course, I’m grateful for that. Because after 40 years of watching soccer, that’s enough. I can now focus all my efforts on not throwing the advantage of the time I’ve gained into the arms of the smartphone, but instead go in search of creative boredom in the evidence-free zone – preferably on the nearest soccer field.