DID you enjoy the new-look Match of the Day on Saturday night? I thought the updated format was excellent. No overpaid presenter, no annoying commentators, no mind-numbing studio pundits, just the sound of the crowd.
Sorry, Mr Lineker and all those sporty colleagues of yours who downed microphones in sympathy with you being suspended, but what’s not to like about all that? Others obviously agreed with me, because the programme remarkably attracted half a million more viewers than MoTD usually gets!
I’m not surprised. Well before the current controversy over Lineker’s Nazi jibe about asylum seeker policy and his subsequent sanctioning by the BBC, I took to turning down the sound while watching football on TV. I tell you, it’s a transformative experience.
Sitting there in peace and quiet, you realise that commentators are for the most part an irritating distraction – particularly as these days there’s not just one of them gabbling away while you’re trying to follow the action, but two or even three.
An even more compelling reason for getting rid of them is that the basic idea of a commentator on television is daft. Obviously you need them on radio. But with the telly, you’re watching the game and you’ve got someone telling you what you’re seeing. It’s illogical.
Then at half time, a few more pleased-with-themselves pundits in the studio will tell you what you’ve just seen. At full time, it gets worse. They’ll tell you yet again what you’ve just seen, but will dissect it in stupefying detail – kick by kick, pass by pass, foul by foul, nose clearance by nose clearance, ad nauseam.
It’s all part and parcel of the ridiculous padding around some televised matches. A game lasts 90 minutes, but for a big match the whole broadcast – especially on Sky or BT Sport – can stretch over three or four hours. There’s the build-up, the player profiles, the predictions, interviews with fans and managers, followed later by ‘in-depth’ analysis, reaction, feedback and talking points.
I scrupulously avoid all that, switching on a few seconds before kick-off, making a cup of tea at half time and switching off at the final whistle. I don’t need Sky’s gobby champagne socialist Gary Neville (the Fred Kite of football) or the BBC’s robotic Alan Shearer ploddingly pontificating about what I’ve just watched. I can make my own judgments.
It’s not as if most of these so-called experts are any good. You’ve only got to look at the Colemanballs column in Private Eye magazine for hilarious examples of their gobbledegook.
Some simply don’t know what they’re talking about. For instance, during last week’s Liverpool v Manchester United game, when United went one-nil down, Neville assured us: ‘Man United usually get better in the second half.’ In the second half, United shipped six more goals.
So it was a real treat to watch Saturday’s truncated, pundit-free Match of the Day. I note that reviewer Jack Seale in the Lineker-supporting Guardian – naturally – hated it, calling it a joyless ‘scab’ version of the usual programme, even bemoaning the lack of theme tune. Er, if it was a scab version, Jack, surely you crossed a televisual picket line by watching it?
It remains to be seen what will happen over Lineker, with BBC director-general Tim Davie under fierce pressure to back down. But for now, just think of all that money we licence payers are saving from Lineker’s £1.35million a year pay and the doubtless hefty remunerations of Shearer, Wrightie and Co. I think the Beeb may have a winner on its hands.
PS: Let’s enjoy a few Colemanballs – first from the master himself, David Coleman (1926-2013):
‘If that had gone in, it would have been a goal.’
‘He is accelerating all the time. The last lap was run in 64 seconds and the one before in 62.’
‘The front wheel crosses the finish line, closely followed by the back wheel.’
‘Forest have now lost six matches without winning.’
‘This evening is a very different evening from the morning we had this morning.’
And some of his disciples:
‘If you can get through the first round you have a good chance of getting into the next one.’ – Nigel Worthington
‘For those of you watching in black and white, Spurs are in the all-yellow strip.’ – John Motson
‘It seems that they’re playing with one leg tied together.’ – Kenny Sansom
‘If you can’t stand the heat in the dressing-room, get out of the kitchen’ – Terry Venables
‘There’s such a fine line between defeat and losing.’ – Gary Newbon
‘There was nothing wrong with the performance, apart from throwing away the game.’ – Glenn Hoddle
‘My parents have been there for me, ever since I was about 7.’ –
‘I can see the carrot at the end of the tunnel.’ – Stuart Pearce
‘I’d love to be a mole on the wall in the Liverpool dressing room at half-time.’ – Kevin Keegan
You can see lots more at the brilliant Footballsite.