Have I mentioned how much I enjoy the Guardian's minute-by-minute accounts of European football? A regular group of Guardian staffers sitting in the news room, watching BBC or Sky coverage of the match on a 14 inch TV - then relaying their acerbic and/or witty comments to dozens of readers around the globe through a continually updated page on the Guardian website. Key to the accounts, however, are the constant interruptions from readers with their own opinion of the match, the staffer, or the weather in Milan. It's football coverage like you would find in a pub.
And many of the observations are knee-bucklingly funny, like these two from Georgina Turner's coverage of last week's Man U - Italy match:
24 mins: "How does the crowd sound," Eleanor Giles wants to know. Intoxicated, in a word: there's a pretty good atmosphere. Things are just starting to settle down for United, but their forward play bears a vague resemblance to pigeons flying into glass buildings, at times.
54 mins: Has there been some kind of mass release-into-the-community today? It seems the entire sex offenders register is logged onto this game tonight. Huge Bridget Jones pants, no picture, now bugger off.
Or how about these from Barry Glendenning's report on the Barcelona - Chelsea game:
6 mins: Jose Mourinho is looking very agitated on the bench and is scribbling away in his little blue notebook. Perhaps he's writing a song, or has just thought of another superlative with which to describe himself in his post-match press conference.
15 mins: ... It's worth bearing in mind that perma-tanned bottle-blond Anders Frisk is reffing, so he likes to flash the cards around in order to get himself on the television.
18 mins: ... I think the only thing Jose could do that would surprise anyone in England at this stage is to loudly declare that he's not quite as competent a manager as Peter Reid or Gerard Houllier while walking around dressed in sackcloth and ashes and ringing a big bell.
And here's Barry commenting on the quality of feedback flooding his in-box:
Most of what I've seen of Liverpool this season has been as unsightly as what's left of Hunter S Thompson's head, but any time I suggest that they're anything less than wonderful I get hordes of angry Scousers sending in emails accusing me of being a Manchester United fan or a "cockney loving football newbie prick" (thanks for that Stephen Horner).
Now - just imagine if you could entertain a conversation like that with your local paper? Immediate praise, logical reinforcement or criticism as they publish - that's what frightens the old guard hacks.