SPARE a thought for poor old Scottish football while it is marginalised and forgotten over the next few days.
When will the newspapers and broadcasters ever find column inches and airtime to cover Celtic's Champions League efforts? Will space ever be cleared for news from Rangers' pre-season tour of north America? First Wimbledon, then the Open, now the Commonwealth Games: just what do our ignored, unreported footballers have to do to get some precious media exposure?
Okay, enough sarcasm. Football dominates day after day, but something unusual will take hold before this week is much older and it will be a welcome break from convention. Those of us who must confess to having little interest in the Commonwealth Games can still recognise its significance for Scotland and especially the host city, Glasgow. The general public do not noticeably engage with swimming, cycling or gymnastics except during a narrow window every four years when their interest spikes, at the Olympics. Commonwealth Games come and go on the margins. This one will be different because it will be force fed to us whether we like it or not, just as football usually is.
The Herald and all other Scottish newspapers are going to be clearing pages and broadcasters emptying their schedules for exhaustive coverage of issues we didn't care about last week and won't much care about in a month. But we will care right now. Athletes, cyclists, boxers, table tennis folk and all the rest are going to rise to prominence over the next few days because their triumphs and failures will be presented as big deals. And because they are presented as such, we will engage with them. People who have yet to give the Commonwealth Games much thought are about to be surprised by how caught up in it they get, and that will be down to the wall-to-wall coverage. There will be pictures and stories of sportspeople crying or kissing gold medals in the media spaces where we're conditioned to seeing stuff about Celtic and Rangers signing someone or moaning about some triviality.
The Games will be inescapable. The Herald's sports department is going to empty once it all starts, reporters gallivanting here, there and everywhere. This football reporter - seemingly the only sports hack not accredited for the tournament - will be left behind like the last chicken in Sainsbury's, having been told to "keep an eye on the football" while the rest scatter to enjoy Glasgow's firework show. This will feel different and new. It must be the way things are in those countries with far healthier and more diverse sporting cultures than ours.
Two years ago Herald colleague Kevin Ferrie wrote a perceptive column about the damage done to Scottish sport by the media's suffocating obsession with Celtic and Rangers. Kevin was writing from a position of frustration, as an enthusiastic champion of minority sports whose triumphs and dramas receive scant coverage while the media remains enthralled by the Old Firm. A clutch of reporters were in Austria for Celtic's pre-season camp. The champions were followed to Dresden for a weekend friendly and will be accompanied when they face Tottenham Hotspur in Helsinki. Rangers are being very well covered in America while playing teams no-one has heard of. When Andy Murray was at the Australian and French Opens this year no Scotland-based reporter was sent to cover him. What a bleak message that sent out. How small and impoverished it made Scotland look.
Football always has been and always will be the backbone of the country's sports media, and so it should be. The national sport draws in spectator numbers, investment, sponsorship, readers and viewers at levels which blow away all the other games. But it dominates to the extent that all else struggles to grow in its shadow. Scotland is a great football country (without being a producer of great football) but no claim can be made for it being a nation with a broad, diverse, truly popular appetite for a range of other spectator sports. The rugby clubs have had to work so, so hard to draw crowds and attention. You couldn't blame them for resenting how effortlessly football is indulged with its endless daily coverage.
The next couple of weeks will be good for Scotland and good for its sports media. It will be refreshing and stimulating to see lesser-known names and events taking over the back pages. The competitors and their followers should make hay while the sun shines. Football will soon renew its grip.
AND FINALLY . . .
There may come a day when "Twitter storms" are recognised as being so numbingly dull, and so 10-a-penny, that they are blessedly ignored by the mainstream media. They are a curse, the equivalent of reporting shouts among drunks in a pub. The latest (well, at the time of writing) is Nir Biton getting abuse for sticking up for the Israeli Defense Forces.
Plenty of Celtic supporters have made salient and legitimate points about how he can possibly defend the atrocity of his country's disgusting slaughter of the people of Gaza. But, Twitter being Twitter, there has been plenty of filth, poison and laughable calls to "sack him" too. Roll on the day when Twitter abuse isn't considered news.
As for Biton, he is entitled to his opinion, even when his country's actions are repellant.