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We Get What We Deserve With Football Punditry

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Football is the biggest sport in the world.

Its England’s national sport, beloved by millions and one of the few things, if not the only thing that really unites us a country and creates any sort of national spirit for a couple of weeks every two years (four or more years if we balls things up and don’t even qualify). There are TV and radio stations devoted under the guise of ‘sport’ to relentlessly stuff football down your throat till your gagging and choking.

So if football is so popular, then why as a nation do we put up with idiots giving us patronising dull stupid dumb drivel for every game we watch?

To quote a younger but always magnificent Danny Baker, sports departments on TV ‘are the last bastion of slack, feeble, smug, shoddy, empty, crass, lumbering clichéd lamebrain semi-masonic outrage’. Every week these moronic imbecilic self-satisfied buffoons put Shearer, Hansen, Lawrenson and others on the Match of the Day sofa.

These people don’t inform us of anything, do little but commentate over footage we’ve already seen, use every cliché in the Football Book of Cliches (which must be the size of Eric Pickles’s bill at McDonalds) and do sod all except irritate the hell out of the watching public.

Why are all football pundits ex-players though? Film critics aren’t directors or actors, food critics aren’t chefs, why are football pundits always ex-footballers? Is it because you have to have played football at a high level to talk about it? That’s nonsense.

I’ve played enough football to know all the basics of the game and read a damn sight more Jonathan Wilson books than any pundit ever has. To take this point further, I’ve never manufactured a table or a chair. But I know a good chair from a bad one, in the same way that though I’ve never played top level footballer I know a good team and a good player from bad ones.

Of course if ex-footballers were as eloquent and thought provoking as ex-cricketers then it wouldn’t be a problem, but footballers lack the intelligence and telegenic qualities of pundits in other sports, along with having grating voices more likely to give you tinnitus than an appreciation of say Victor Moses in the Wigan attack. They know nothing of tactics or methods of playing the game (or if they do they pretend not to), have no natural eloquence and also treat football with incredible faux seriousness.

The Sky Sports Soccer Saturday team know no more but are at least light hearted and jovial with it and don’t treat football like a documentary on the famine in Africa. You’ll get some cheap laughs if you’re not irritated by the ‘banter’.

On Match of the Day, transfer deadline day or a big European game on Sky you get this ludicrous seriousness about things. Freddie Sears’ possible loan move to Gillingham or a return of the fitness of the Arsenal goalkeeper in a dreary Champions League group stage game are the sort of things that get hype they don’t deserve.

Worse still is pundits terminology. ‘stonewall’, ‘deffo’, ‘pen, ‘OG’. Not to mention every decision is a definite. It’s a ‘definite foul’, ‘definite free kick’, ‘certain goal’. Well sometimes decisions are contentious. There are incidents in football that are not black and white, occasionally there are several shades of grey (and I’m not referring to Adrian Chiles’s suits).

There’s the foibles – Ray Wilikns saying ‘my word’, Jamie Redknapp saying ‘literally’, Graham Taylor claiming a commonly used word as his own; Gary Lineker’s bad jokes, which are all annoying.

There’s the stereotypes; that Italians are defensive, Germans dull and boring, Spaniards and Portuguese divers. ITV are the worst for this. For example I watched the Barcelona-AC Milan match and saw Jim Beglin condemn every foul as a dive by the player pushed, shoved and hacked by opponents. I somehow doubt he’ll say that when Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard go down easily in the forthcoming FA Cup final wherever he is commentating.

Pundits are useless. They’re dumb. They can’t talk clearly or humorously. They’re not very good at their jobs with the odd exception (Gary Neville and Lee Dixon spring to mind-both right backs incidentally) and get paid handsomely for not being good at their jobs. Yet they’re a ubiquitous presence amongst football matches and programs.

And you know why?

Because we the public deserve them. With people’s dumb questions on 606 and Talksport, their hair trigger propensity to take offence at every perceived slight at their club, the refusal to embrace any sort of intellectual talk on the game, we get what we deserve, reap what we sow. Dumb stupid ineloquent lethargic coma inducing xenophobic foghorning walruses. Literally. My word.

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Comments (4)

  1. Love this article. Really sums up the frustration I have to endure listening to smug ex pro’s.

    That wasn’t rain at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, that was Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend crying their tears of infinite sadness, all because Messi had been shut out.

    Football royalty deserves better than that, where are your manners Chelsea?

  2. I’d disagree with the argument that football punditry is dumbed down because ‘the public’ [whatever that means] are dumb, peoples ‘intelligence’ of a subject is determined by what they read and the questions they ask will reflect that.

    You may reply that it’s a market mechanism and the media is merely setting dumbing its analysis down because it thinks thats what people want. Well the fact that Jonathan Wilson, Zonal Marking etc has become so popular, and that the blogosphere has exploded with more in-depth tactical analysis shows that people were crying out for a higher standard of punditry.

    A related point is that if you listen to American football pundits talk, the level of conversation is unbelievably high. My head spins when I listen to commentators discuss the intricacies of ‘plays’ and stats and percentages. I wouldn’t say that fundamentally Americans are more intelligent about sport than the British, it’s just the media there hasn’t dumbed down the analysis, whereas in the UK they have.

    • I kind of agree, but visit forums, listen to talk in the pub and listen to 606 or Talksport. They talk similarly to how they talk on Sky or ESPN or MOTD.

      You say Zonal Marking and the like are popular, which they are which is great because sites like that are terrific. But that’s in relative terms. They still get dwarfed by the cliched nonsense you hear on the big channels and big websites.

      I wish we’d get more enlightened football chat. I’d enjoy football much more. But I still don’t think it’s what the majority of people want (unfortunately).

      • Perhaps, but I think those larger media outlines are more resistant to change and will take more time, peoples attitudes take even longer.

        Its a good sign that Jonathan Wilson has a column in World Soccer magazine, and Zonal Marking’s Michael Cox has one in FourFourTwo. Plus, in the rare times when I can stomach Talksport of Alan Shearer you hear a few phrases like ‘systems’ creeping in from time to time which you never did before.

        Also, Gary Neville is doing very good in-depth analysis on Monday night football, which is having an effect on the level of discussion. After his piece the Sky correspondent interviewing Wenger before the match asked him how did he play to deal with the wing-backs in Wigan’s 3-4-3 and Wenger looked totally surprised as if he’d never been asked such a question.