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.