Good evening. We interrupt your scheduled broadcasting to bring a live emergency broadcast from the United Nations in New York. Secretary-General António Guterres will shortly address the world regarding a matter of, and I quote, “exceptional international importance”. We go now live to New York, where our reporter is standing by. Hello New York?
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Hello, London. It’s a crisp clear day here in New York, and the world’s media have gathered at exceptionally short notice to hear the UN Secretary-General make this extraordinary announcement. Speculation is of course running rife: I’ve heard rumours of an accidental thermonuclear detonation, the collapse of one or more major American banks, and even one claim that alien life has made contact with our planet. Personally, I think —
Going to have to interrupt you there, I’m afraid. Secretary-General Guterres has just taken the podium.
Hello? Hello? Is this on … hello? Ah, good.
People of Earth! Ahem. Sorry, I’ve always wanted to say that. Today is a momentous day in the history of the human race. You will have noticed, of course, that things have over the last few years got a bit … weird. The climate is rebelling, world economies are thrashing around wildly, and the political world has been rocked by a number of surprise elections.
Obviously as a representative of the UN I can’t name names, but you know who I’m talking about.
It is therefore my great pleasure to inform you all that a UN-led research team has not only isolated the cause of these disturbances in reality and common sense, but has observed that the problem, such as it was, has solved itself. It may come as a surprise to you to learn that responsibility for the state of the world today can be laid at the feet of one institution: Sunderland Association Football Club.
Those of you that follow the English Premier League will know that Sunderland have, for the last few seasons, been fundamentally useless. They haven’t been in the top half of the table for about five years, and every year they’ve looked certain to be relegated. Every year, in fact, they should have been relegated. They’ve been an exercise in chaos, on and off the pitch: managers have come and gone, and the squad is padded with desperate dross. Yet somehow, just about, they’ve stayed in the league.
You might think that this is a minor and largely irrelevant sporting anecdote. But our researchers found that Sunderland were so bad, and their continued presence in the Premier League so pointless and inexplicable, that the very nature of reality was starting to warp. They acted as a kind of black hole in the fabric of common sense, twisting the world around them. Though this may not be a huge surprise to anybody that’s seen them defending.
And it spread, quickly. From the north of the UK it crossed the Atlantic west to north America, as well as moving down through London and off into Europe. Strange even piled upon strange event, until the world began to make even less sense than normal. Time and again, Sunderland squeaked out of danger; time and again, our world teetered on the brink of total logical fracture.
So it is with great delight that I can tell you that the contagion has, we believe, been stopped. Sunderland have been relegated from the Premier League. And while we are not sure how long reality will take to sort itself out, we are confident that in the fullness of time, some kind of vague common sense will reassert itself. As long as we don’t all blow one another up in the next couple of years.
I will now take questions. Yes, down at the front.
Is there anybody in particular that you’d like to single out as having contributed to this great success?
Yes. Our research team was a collegiate effort across several international organisations and universities around the globe. More details will emerge in the fullness of time. However, one man’s efforts truly stood out, and without him we might not be here today. That man, of course, was David Moyes.
When the world needed somebody to fail, he failed. When the world needed somebody to keep on failing, he kept on. And when the world needed a manager that would, when presented with evidence that a task was beyond him, frantically insist to anybody that might listen that it was actually beneath him, he stepped up. Then blamed somebody else.
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He was everything we, the people of the world, needed in a Sunderland manager: relentlessly underwhelming, aggressively uninspirational, tactically myopic, profoundly unimaginative. At one point I even had to check with HR that we weren’t actually paying him. But no. He selflessly and accidentally sacrificed his reputation and his prospects, and the world owes him a debt that can perhaps never be repaid.
Yes, next question …
Right, we’re going to leave that speech there to get some reaction from our panel. We’ll return immediately should any further information emerge. But before we ask for the views of a second-rate stand-up comedian, a restaurant critic who only got the job because her uncle owns a newspaper, and a member of a political party that has no seats, I would just like to inject a personal note. Thank you, Sunderland. And thank you, most of all, to David Moyes.