Tyranny of the expert summariser

I wrote something grumpy for last week’s New Statesman about football, the BBC and pun-soaked platitudes. Here’s how it began:

In the early Noughties when broadcasters still bothered to find new uses for the interactive red button, the Beeb began offering viewers of live football three audio options – the TV commentary, the Radio 5 Live commentary or the sound of the crowd. Public service broadcasting at its best and, naturally, I chose the crowd.

Now that there’s no such choice, I press mute instead. Anything to escape the reverse alchemy that invariably results when middle- aged men with lip mics share commentating duties. Tell me I’m not alone.

It’s certainly not this column’s role to do anyone out of a job – especially in these recessionary times – but surely football-watching would remain undiminished if we did away with the odd commentator or co-commentator, sometimes laughably referred to as the “expert summariser”.

Where we crave insight and analysis, we get platitudes and pre-prepared, pun-soaked soliloquies to fill the dead air. (Really, what’s wrong with dead air?)

You can read the full thing here.



‘Hunter Davies is away’

And when he is, I get to write The Fan column in the New Statesman. Here’s the opening to the piece that appeared in last week’s issue where I crudely draw a line from a comic book character of the late 1970s to modern day fans paying £62 for a seat to watch their team playing away. Oh, yes…

You can learn a lot about modern-day football from those comic strips of the 1970s and 1980s. No, really. Not from the idealism of Roy Race (of Roy of the Rovers) but from the pragmatism of the lesser known Jon Stark.

Nomadic and mercenary, Stark appeared in the short-lived Scoop comic and was dubbed a “footballer of the future”. He’d pick up £250 per goal and a £1,000 match fee if his team won. He was a no win, no fee footballer.

OK, so those numbers require a few more noughts at the end and that “no win, no fee” bit has clearly been rethought but as a proto-modern footballer, Stark was pretty near the mark. I’m not talking about the full-length leather jacket, the checked flares or the mullet that was more Alan Biley (Google him) than Marouane Chamakh (and him) but rather the attitude of the 21st-century player.

Continue reading….