Wednesday, 25 March 2009

I Don’t Know Why I Love You, But I Do…

I haven’t had a television for a while now. But if I were to buy one, one of the main reasons would be to watch Match of the Day. I, like many, have been known to schedule my Saturday night around the show - which is crazy really, because for many reasons MOTD is truly awful.
Not having much of a yardstick to measure it against, I might not be in a position to properly gauge, but I am still fairly confident MOTD is one of the smuggest, most infuriating and most poorly produced programmes on television just now.

The BBC has always been liberal with the taxpayer’s cash. Handing Steve McClaren a huge wad of cash to offer his views during Euro 2008 on 5 Live was, I know, perceived as a kick in the teeth to many England fans. Here, after all, was the man who had failed to guide his country to the Finals, maddening millions with half-baked observations on those that had actually made it there. Hadn’t he pocketed enough from his failure?

As an Irishman (living in Scotland at the time) I admit chuckling at the irony. It was a glitch on the otherwise commendable record 5 Live has for recruiting expert opinion. MOTD, however, is a different matter entirely. In Mark Lawrenson, Alan Shearer and Alan Hanson, they have possibly the most ill-informed panel ever to have graced our screens, collectively possessing all the insightfulness of a blind goldfish.

I was of the understanding that part of a pundit / commentator / co-commentator / broadcast journalist’s job was to offer expert, authoritative opinion. At the very least, a basic understanding of the rules of the game should be expected. However, I recall on at least one occasion, “Lawro” having to ask John Motson how many substitutions were permitted in a game he was co-commentating on. Whilst he may not have the opportunity to make such slip-ups on MOTD, it gives us an idea of this cretin’s credentials.

Xenophobia is something public bodies are constantly striving to eliminate. Yet on the sofas of MOTD, it is alive and well. Case in point: Kevin Davies earlier this season took Frenchman Gael Clichy out with a near knee high challenge. From whatever angle you look at it, it was a red card: a career threatening challenge.

What was Lawrenson’s reaction? To call the Arsenal player a ‘Jessie’. Davies was eulogised as a ‘hardworking pro’. The tackle was adjudged to have been a ‘good, honest English challenge.’ I am quite confident if the roles had been reversed, the ‘experts’ would have been up in arms over the nerve of Johnny Foreigner. Similarly, when Kevin Nolan almost took somebody’s leg off with a late challenge recently, he was described as ‘not that kind of player.’ Funny how it’s always the players that supposedly ‘aren’t like that’ making exactly those sorts of challenges.

The bias is blatant to the point of embarrassment. Last weekend, Steven Taylor of Newcastle (a player with a nasty, nasty streak but frequently defended as ‘an honest pro’) punched Russian playmaker Andrei Arshavin square in the face. What was the pundits’ reaction? Well, nothing of course. The editing crew at MOTD felt this assault wasn’t worthy of 30 seconds footage. It reeks of base level jingoism, the likes of which are unseen since Jackie Fullerton’s last commentary on a Northern Ireland game.

You would think Alan Shearer would know better, having only recently retired from a career during which he suffered numerous horrific knee injuries. But he’s obviously been given his brief. His insight is pathetic. Is stating the obvious enough to justify his undoubtedly handsome salary? I think not. When Andy Townsend wheeled out his Tactics Truck on ITV’s Champion’s League coverage, I cringed, but at least he was showing some tactical nous.

Alan Hanson has long since become a parody of himself. The rate at which he pedals his clichéd, hyperbolic ‘quotables’ is excruciating.



Nobody’s asking you to adopt a Thom Yorke-esque approach to punditry, Al, but do have a bit of perspective, man. If Hanson was indeed shocked on the regularity he purports, one would expect his hair to be a more brilliant tone of Linekar.

Surely there is not a program on television which gets so many of the basics wrong? Surely, there is nothing else out there in which the individual rudiments – the analysis of football matches, in this case - are all so annoying, hackneyed and prejudiced?

So why the Hell do we all love it so much?

For the rest of the season, I have decided to challenge Bagpuss Lawrenson. His results predictor on BBC Football’s website can’t be too difficult to beat. Can they?

The video below shows a slightly alternative stylee of punditry. Messr Eamonn Dunphy:

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