Renaissance of the saturday conference: on the same wavelength

Pandemics aren’t all bad: With the Saturday radio conference, you can even listen to bad stand-up soccer.

Stand-up soccer can also be painful, but radio makes it beautiful Photo: dpa

I can’t take it, I can’t take it anymore, I don’t want to watch it anymore." Gunther Koch’s voice rolls over. It’s May 29, 1999, and the Bundesliga is experiencing one of its most exciting final matchdays since its inception. A total of five teams can still be relegated in these two hours. There are probably more listeners in the ARD radio conference than there have been in a long time. If we had been sitting in a moving car in these last minutes before the end of the game, we would have stopped.

Admittedly, on the current match day there was far less dynamism in the 3:30 p.m. slot than in Gunter Netzer’s hairstyle, but even these sparse events don’t stop the radio reporter from using energetic heckling to create small moments of suspense. That the one or other scene is blown up bigger than it actually was in hindsight must be forgiven. Radio lives on images that are created with words. One wants to startle when Julia Metzner’s voice suddenly announces itself from Stuttgart. If you don’t want to be reminded of the drama of soccer every minute, you can read a live ticker.

The reporter (who used to be all men) is the last link between high-performance soccer and the memory of a childhood spent in front of the backyard radio. He may have left his great moments behind ("Rahn should shoot from the background …"), but he is currently experiencing a resurgence. The radio conference encompasses every spectrum of interest. Be it with half interest as background noise from the next room or as a substitute for the ardent supporter who can’t go to the stadium at the moment. It’s possible that this is precisely what makes it so appealing. The soccer experience as we are used to it has been reduced to the sporting event. The glamour has disappeared, but so has the extensive social fabric that surrounds soccer.

Whole Saturday evenings were once used by the circle of friends to analyze games, and it was not uncommon for the whole day to be devoted to soccer. Grossly negligent lunchtime drinking and being an expert for a day. But now the spectator experience takes place primarily at home. How the Bundesliga madness is consumed is up to each individual – and since King Football is no longer as much in focus as the management of some clubs would like, sometimes only the kitchen radio will do. Or the car radio, the cell phone radio while walking, the radio at work.

The reliability that the conference starts at the same time every Saturday, that the individual reporters introduce themselves briefly and don’t lay a carpet of information over a game for 90 minutes, but instead keep an eye on the important scenes, is downright soothing. Radio is the result. Maybe I don’t want to know whether the center back has become a father for the second time, but whether he jumps high enough when he has to. I would like to have this scene explained crisply. Then back to Bremen, where 90 minutes of stand-up soccer is played against Freiburg. This game, for example, won this past Bundesliga Saturday with the fact that radio can’t broadcast pictures.

"Radio, radio, radio – the fastest medium in the world." What Gunther Koch breathed into the mike, completely out of breath, when Eintracht and Hansa Rostock saved themselves on the last matchday of 1999 in the class preservation, may shake pity in front of today’s technical achievements and possibilities, but probably this statement still applies. Only the pictures of Hansa’s Slawomir Majak, dressed only in his underpants, cheering towards the turn after the final whistle are the envy of all those who were able to see the game live.

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