Our European guru educates and enlightens
“The Brazilians do it, the Argentinians do it, the Danes do it…”
“Even educated fleas do it.”
That famous exchange between Mike ‘should have been a racehorse’ Channon and Brian Clough, recalled by Harry Pearson in The Guardian is a reminder of just how lacklustre football punditry has become.
As Martin Kelner, picking up the point in Monday’s Grauniad,
noted, for Alan Shearer to suggest that the Germans “always seem to
make it through to the finals even when they’re not playing well”
doesn’t seem fantastic value for our ever expanding licence fee.
What we’d like from Magic Al is some clue as to how Joachim Low, in
Kelner’s fine words, “managed to manoeuvre his ordinary players into
the final while geniuses like Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole are on
Such insight – indeed, virtually any insight – was lacking. As was any
explanation for Motty’s increasingly bizarre pronunciations: Xavi
became Sharvey, Aragones ended in a sh and Low’s surname sounded like
“lurrve” in Mottyspeak as if the German coach was a womanising soul
The only memorable bit of punditry from this tournament endures for all
the wrong reasons. I’m referring to Andy Townsend’s observation that
“Servette was literally right up his backside there.” (That might not
be word for word as I was being shouted at by a Scottish drunk when he
said it and various permutations of this quote have bloomed, like Mao’s
hundred flowers, in cyberspace.)
The only other decent bit of punditry came from the aforementioned
drunk who, as Portugal laboured and fell over against Germany, shouted:
“Portuguese men of war my ***!”
It was refreshing, a few Euros ago, when the BBC made token
acknowledgement of the fact that they were screening a European
football tournament and invited folks like Ruud Gullit and Johan Cruyff
on their panel, so they could briefly disturb the humdrum consensus
that passes for discussion on BBC and ITV.
Cruyff could be
perspicacious or incomprehensible, sometimes a bit of both, but he was
fascinating to watch. As Martin O’Neill, who played for Clough, can be
when he gets going.
What really grinds my gears, as the sleazy dad said in Family Guy last
week, is that the BBC and ITV seem a bit embarrassed about football.
Sky Sports’ relentless cheerleading can get oppressive but surely
there’s a middle way? At least Andy Gray sometimes tells you stuff you
wouldn’t have spotted. BBC and ITV could do with some of his passion.
Instead, they mosey on down the middle of the road, as if they fear
that if they don’t spoon feed us, or get too tactical or
confrontational they’ll alienate the apathetic masses awaiting their
weekly dose of Last Of The Summer Wine or Heartbeat or the channel
hoppers, flicking over in the ad break, to check the score.
The importance of these casual viewers explains why, just before the
cameras return to the stadium for the second half, Gary Lineker was
contractually obliged to persuade a cohort to confirm that “there are
more goals in this game, aren’t there?”
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is a great motto.
It’s not working spectacularly well but we can’t be bothered – or don’t have a clue how – to fix it isn’t so snappy.
broadcasting, at least on British terrestrial TV, has become an
innovation free zone. The bottom of the barrel labelled “Alan Hansen
looks appalled as yet another defence fails to live up to his exalted
standards” has now been thoroughly scraped.
The only upside is
we don’t get too many horrors like Townsend’s tactics truck, a
wonderfully superfluous vehicle that left us wondering if he’d been so
confined because of some personal hygiene problem or because his
colleagues detested him. Which would have been harsh because, having
interviewed him, he’s a very nice bloke. (He even apologised for being
boring, bless him.)
In Euro 2008, Vienna was the excuse for the BBC to spend much of one
half-time in Vienna extolling the virtues of Carol Reed’s great movie
The Third Man. All utterly irrelevant – apart from the geographical
coincidence – but a relief from interchangeable reports from the man in
the fanzone, so pointless they made Gazza’s ‘meet the people’ outside
broadcasts during France 98 look BAFTA worthy.
I suppose we were lucky no wag at the Beeb sought to draw comparisons
between Euro 2008 and Vienna’s role as the birthplace of
psychoanalysis. Mind you, I’d have paid good money to watch a half-time
clip with a working title like: Observations on the tension between the
id and the superego in Roberto Donadoni.
Motty was innovative in his way. Very much so in fact. Those
pronunciations. The way he never said “Indeed” without emphasising the
invisible exclamation mark. The way he fawned over Iniesta’s “guile on
the left” just seconds after the Barcelona midfielder had shown as much
guile as a lentil.
But with Motty going, Barry Davies gone and Clive Tyldesley irrelevant,
some rejuvenation is in order. Or maybe they could stage a
regeneration. It’s done wonders for Dr Who.
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