Thursday, 17 June 2010

"Our knowledge...is limited."

This scathing review of the World Cup televised commentary goes some way to confirming something I'd suspected: that England don't do well internationally because most English people involved in football are thick. Indeed, they revel in their thickness:
Before the Algeria versus Slovenia game in Group C on Sunday, Shearer seemed to be speaking for the entire BBC panel when he said, "Our knowledge of these two teams is limited." Limited! What the former England striker was saying was that he hadn't done his homework, that he hadn't spoken to any of his vast array of contacts in the game, hadn't tapped into the BBC's huge research machinery, hadn't even bothered, seemingly, to peruse the internet for some background on Algeria and Slovenia or even flick through a newspaper or a magazine. Shearer was content to sit in front of the cameras and tell the viewers that, really, he didn't know much. Hardly a revelation to those of us who have groaned our way through his anodyne commentaries in the past, but embarrassing all the same.
[...] 
And here's another one. The Beeb got carpeted by some viewers for their treatment of that Algeria game. So what happened before the kick-off in yesterday's lunch-time match between New Zealand and Slovakia? In a six-and-a-half minute introduction just one player out of the 22 on show was given a name-check, and here is how it happened.
Lee Dixon: "Slovakia have got some decent players, Hamsik, the pick of them. Young player, plays on the left side."
Gary Lineker: "He's at Napoli."
Lee Dixon: "That's right."
Alan Hansen (chuckling): "Somebody gave you him, by the way."
What Hansen meant, I think, was that his colleagues must have been fed the Hamsik reference by another party, that they couldn't have come up with his name all by themselves. It's not like Dixon or Lineker produced a dossier of facts about Hamsik, a file of information on who he is and where he has been. All they did was mention his name and the fact that he was rather good. That was it. Hansen seemed to think this was worthy of a gently-mocking put-down, as if the other two were some kind of class swots. As such, he was almost revelling in his own ignorance. 
There's a lot of this going about, on BBC and ITV. The level of punditry is cringe-making. It's lowest common denominator stuff. Patronising and insulting, much of it. Emmanuel Adebayor's mobile phone started ringing in his pocket live on air the other day. His respect for the viewers didn't even amount to him making sure the thing was switched off. Edgar Davids has been unintelligible, Gareth Southgate hasn't said one interesting thing, Kevin Keegan has been nothing more than a cheerleader for England and Andy Townsend has been his usual bland self, trotting out statements of the obvious with a rapid-fire gusto. "I tell you what, for me, he's gotta hit the target from there!"
And you are paid how much, Andy?

OK, some of the people name-checked here aren't English. But aren't they conforming to an English lack of expectation about how clever one should appear when talking about footie? It's surely no coincidence that it's the Scots and the Continentals - the former traditionally and the latter in more recent years - who have usually been over-represented and sometimes (like now) dominated top-flight management. And who can forget the taunting of Graham Le Saux for being gay because, one gathers, he admitted to reading The Guardian?

I'm sure most people who follow the sport can recall many more examples of brainlessness, of how intelligence is thought of as a bit suspect. I can't see how this isn't going to affect performance particularly as footballing cultures in, for instance, Holland and Italy seem to make a virtue of being articulate and, good God, clever.

(By the way, the review's by a man called English writing for a Scottish newspaper - so balanced, then.)


H/t Alex Massie.

4 comments:

Brit said...

Yes the TV pundits are spectacularly ill-informed, because TV insists on using former players rather than journalists, like, say, Gabriel Marcotti from The Times. Ian Wright is the worst, he's never said a sensible thing in his life. Not so sure if that has so much bearing on England's international performances though - two out of the last three managers have been forriners, after all.

Football has always been anti-intellectual in this country, but sometimes I think that's just as well.

Francis Sedgemore said...

The funny thing is, David Beckham is routinely lampooned by middle-class English satirists as thick and inarticulate. Yet, whenever I hear him speak, Beckham comes across as thoughtful and well-spoken. I guess that disqualifies him from providing football commentary services come the day when he retires his boots.

Sean said...

England are always great to watch but easy to beat. The reason is simple we practice or try to practice attacking football, which if you want to win anything is not the best way of going about it.

The WC will be one by the team with the *best defence, this point is lost on most English football fans, thus you get the collective gloom after not beating the USA by 6 goals to nil.

Historically football has been about letting off steam, the best way to do that is to leave your brain at home.

*06 Italy, 2 goals conceded one an own gaol

*02 Brazil, 4 goals (2 in a dead rubber game

*98 France again 2 goals

And on and on.

Gaw said...

All: But I'm sure they lose because they're thick. That and all the other reasons.