Thursday, 17 April 2008

Trivia matters

Did you know that turtles can breath through their bottoms? Or that there are more mobile phones in the UK than people? Apparently, there are no public toilets in Peru and four out of ten people that come to a party in your home will look in your bathroom cabinet? What's more, Captain Kirk never ever said "Beam me up Scotty". Not once.

We are a nation of trivia lovers. Completely useless facts that you can amaze your friends with - at work, down the pub, at the football. We like simple, quick, snappy morsels of information. Easily digestible, not too complicated. We can't concentrate for too long so short sentences and brief paragraphs are more likely to be read. This logic is applied in many national newspapers (most notably the tabloids) and on our TV screens; the success of programmes such as Eastenders and Coronation Street is founded on twenty second clips that don't tax our brains. We struggle to consume and process anything more complex or anything overly lengthy.

And trivia fits this bill perfectly. The word trivia comes from the Latin "trivium" which means "where three roads meet". People would gather at these intersections and discuss everyday and unimportant matters. There's another piece of trivia for you.

In the world of football, trivia is king. It fills the spaces between the games. We are bombarded with statistics, facts and figures that we can quite easily live without. But the point is, we love it. All the instantly forgettable information about players, teams, managers, competitions, games, fans, grounds. Access to the whole gambit of football trivia is made so much easier nowadays with the Internet. At the touch of a button I can tell you where Michael Owen was born (Chester), which football club is immortalised in the classic film Spinal Tap (Shrewsbury Town) and why the Aston Villa mascot Hercules the lion was sacked (for pawing Miss Aston Villa on the pitch at half time). When it comes to football, we bathe in an ocean of trivial matters.

Indeed, trivia matters.

And in the build up to this season's FA Cup Final the trivial facts play a part in the preparation. Six weeks separate the semi-finals and the final so we need to quench our thirst for useless information. How else do we while away the days waiting for the big game to come around?

Some examples. Cardiff City have been allocated the West end of Wembley for the final, the opposite end from the one they had in the semi. The winners of the FA Cup Final will receive £1 million from the FA. Portsmouth will play in their all blue kit whilst Cardiff City (who lost the toss) will play in their black away strip, as worn in their quarter-final and semi-final victories. This year's final referee will be Mike Dean (aged 39). And, probably most interestingly, Cardiff City and Portsmouth have never met before in the FA Cup. Both clubs have long histories in the competition; Cardiff eighty seven seasons and Portsmouth ninety eight. Cardiff's debut in the FA Cup came in 1911 with a defeat against Merthyr Tydfil whilst Portsmouth's sojourn into the competition was heralded with a 10-0 thrashing of Ryde in 1898.

So the game between Cardiff City and Portsmouth on May 17th will be their first ever FA Cup encounter. A bit of trivia I'll no doubt be boring my friends with over the next few weeks.

And another piece of trivia to end on? Every day is about 55 billionths of a second longer than the day before it. Nuts, that means it's longer than I thought to wait for the FA Cup Final.

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