The live sports game might be a little too Messi for the likes of Apple
All the news, rumors, and tips you missed last week.
By David Price, Editor, MacworldJUL 17, 2023 11:19 am PDT
Welcome to our weekly Apple Breakfast column, which includes all the Apple news you missed last week in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a Monday morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.
Real life isn’t like TV
One of the nice things about “Ted Lasso”—a show that has “nice” covered pretty thoroughly–is its willingness to embrace the complexities of sport and life. The team doesn’t always win; the players don’t always pull together; their supporters don’t always use clean language; the characters suffer and grow in various ways over the course of the three seasons; and their fictional world contains just as much racism, homophobia, and general unpleasantness as our own. I applaud this honest approach to storytelling. But I will also insist that it has its limits.
Yes, the team (spoilers incoming) are relegated from the Premier League at the end of the first season. But they do all right afterward, even (more spoilers) defeating their bitter rivals in a climactic table-top showdown in the very last episode. Yes, the characters face prejudice, mental health issues, and relationship worries, but only within the neat parameters of a sitcom redemption arc. Gay characters come out and are supported by their colleagues. Prima-donna strikers learn the value of teamwork. Even cynical journalists are charmed by folksy self-deprecating humor to a degree that would be surprising, to say the least, in our world.
What I’m trying to say is that, for all the window dressing around “issues,” Ted Lasso remains a sanitized version of the messy, ethically ambiguous, and often frustratingly unfair world of professional sport. And I think this stands as an illuminating demonstration of why sport and Apple are always going to make strange bedfellows.
Take cricket, for example. For selfish reasons, I’ve long cherished the hope that Apple would buy the rights to stream international cricket, and perhaps one day it will. But it’s a maddeningly complicated sport that doesn’t make for neat storylines.
The rules (or technically the laws) are almost impossible to explain to a newcomer, and players are often accused of cheating even when they follow them to the letter. New franchise leagues have flooded the sport with money but the three most powerful countries are doing their best to hoard it all. Verbal abuse and physical intimidation are baked into the fabric of the game, while its history is inextricable from colonialism and the British class system. It’s a sport riddled with racism, sexism, privilege, mental disintegration, and cupidity. It’s also, when the stars align, one of the most beautiful and thrilling human activities you’ll ever see: as it was once memorably described by the great England captain Douglas Jardine (himself no stranger to controversy), battle and service and sport and art.
I’m no polymath when it comes to sports, but I suspect and hope that fans of tennis, say, or rugby league would recognize their own favorites in Jardine’s description. Sport is a wonderful thing. But it is also profoundly messy. It is often, as we say nowadays, problematic.
Does that sound like something that would fit with Apple’s carefully curated brand identity? Can you imagine Tim Cook being okay with football hooliganism, blood doping, and threats of a broken arm? This, remember, is a company that, like a dinner party host from 1952, forbids developers from writing apps about politics, sex, or religion. If I wrote an app that simply listed the most offensive cricket insults, I sincerely doubt it would be approved. Or, for that matter, one that repeated the ‘jokes’ that Asian cricketers were allegedly subjected to in the Yorkshire dressing room some (but not enough) years ago. And unlike in Ted Lasso, the perpetrators of that abuse did not redeem themselves neatly in time for a season finale.
Then again, if the aggression and greed of professional sports aren’t enough to put off Apple’s brand consultants, perhaps they will be dissuaded by its capriciousness. The hot property in soccer remains, as ever, Lionel Messi, who is arguably (and also actually) the greatest player of his era. Messi must now be richer than some of the smaller countries, thanks to Apple and Adidas luring him to the U.S. with profit-sharing deals (as outlined in a fascinating and detailed article by The Athletic). Apple is certainly making the most of the signing, airing his unveiling by Inter Miami on Sunday, his first training session this week, and planning an all-out blitz for his games. But this doesn’t mean his arrival will be a success. The history of football is littered with big-money flops. Messi could lose form, pick up an injury, or simply fail to capture the imagination of the American public. And sometimes, sadly, self-belief isn’t enough.
We’re in for a change with Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant. But is it the change we really need? In this episode of the Macworld Podcast, we talk about Siri as we approach a future filled with tools based on artificial intelligence! Stay tuned.
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