As modern day football fans, we are spoiled with the range and depth of coverage dished up to us every week across a multitude of channels. Sky’s monopoly on the Premier League has been challenged by BT, a welcome new comer to that broadcasting arena, and although the cost of subscription packages to the different sports providers is a little on the excessive side, most football fans are happy to pay it.
But although the quality of coverage in a visual sense is at an all time high, unfortunately for us, the quality of commentators and co-commentators is at a soul crushingly all time low. We can throw the pre/post game pundits in there too for the most part – don’t let Neville and Carragher’s excellent analysis distract you from the glaringly obvious either, they are the one green shoot emerging from a shit heap of mediocrity.
Let’s start with the original broadcasting super power: Sky Sports. Immediately we hear Martin Tyler’s dulcet tones when we re-imagine some of the Premier League’s greatest goals in our minds. When Tyler and Andy “the sexist super pig” Gray commentated in tandem, they were the perfect accompaniment to the on field action. After Gray was axed, Tyler’s enthusiasm began to noticeably erode. Sure we get the odd moment, usually when a player whose name ends with a vowel scores (Drogbahhhhhh etc), but Tyler seems to have lost his oomph. Maybe decades of doing the same thing will do that to anyone anyway. Maybe Premier League teams need to sign more players whose names end in vowels to give Tyler that re-usable soundbyte he constantly searches for? Or maybe Tyler is completely underwhelmed by his new wing men?
Sitting next to Alan Smith is bound to seriously counteract any ardour. Smith is like an emotional succubus, a one man monotonic killjoy whose voice would be better suited to a role behind a desk at his local Council, telling you which forms to fill out to have your wheelie bin collected. But you know what? Smith is probably the least annoying member of the entire co-commentating roster…..
Niall Quinn’s appearances have thankfully been curtailed a little of late, probably because of the mass pigeon suicides from the gantry every time Quinn’s unique brand of “telling it like it is” commentary got an airing. “If Spurs score next, it will change the game”. Yeah, cheers for that Niall. “He’s scored two goals now and will want to complete his hattrick!” Well, fuck me, there’s an angle I hadn’t contemplated, thanks again Quinny.
Away from the Premier League, Sky inflict Gerry Armstrong upon us during their Spanish football coverage. It’s uncomfortable to hear a man ejaculate live on air every time Barcelona play a one-two. And while Gary Neville holds the record for the longest orgasm on air (Torres vs Barcelona), Armstrong is way out in front in the multiple orgasm stakes. Then of course, it’s back to the studio for wine and tapas with Scott Minto and guests with broken English. “The team iz in a bad moment”, yes of course they are Gaizka.
Outside of the commentary box, Jamie Redknapp sits unabashed in his bias, crooning over former clubs and slating their rivals. He has stopped his misuse of the word “literally”, but only after he was arrested for wasting the Fire Service’s time after saying a player was “literally on fire” once too often (not sure how that one didn’t make the papers). Redknapp’s struggle to find the right words to express himself makes him come across as aggressive a lot of the time and he loves to pass the buck to his fellow pundits when he runs out of steam, finishing points with a “….isn’t that right Thierry” or a “….what do you think Ruud?”
Monday Night Football with Neville and Carragher has been a revelation. Detailed and insightful analysis undistorted by club loyalty or bias. But sadly it stands alone. Just have a think. Is there any other programme that ticks the boxes in the same way? Have we been reduced to a couple of hours of decent punditry for an entire week’s football? It certainly looks that way; somebody is surely missing a trick here.
BT Sport have also been on a solid rotation of twaddle, using Robbie Savage and Owen Hargreaves among others, but Michael Owen gets all the gigs at the moment, or “Michael fucking Owen” as he is known on Twitter during games. With Owen, we really have hit rock bottom. He is a grey scale man commentating on a technicolour world. Next time you hear him, count how many times he utters the words “as I say”. Your final count will astound you and you will despise him forever. And if you haven’t noticed this already (I hate to do this to you), listen out for his bizarre mid sentence pauses:
“As I say he ran clean through and he………………………………………………shot in to the side net. As I say…………………………………………………he could have done better there.”
If all that isn’t irritating enough, it’s blabbed to the tune of a horrendous accent that reminds me of Morse Code, leaving listeners with a knot in their chest. Throw Owen on top of a game that your team loses and you have the recipe for the perfectly ruined day.
These days, supporters often throw around the idea of a commentary free sound option for games, which I think says more about the quality of commentator we have rather than the role of commentary itself. Good commentary can greatly add to an occasion – people remember famous lines forever. They are iconic enrichments of magic moments.
But right now, the “commentator’s curse” means something entirely different to the term’s light hearted origin.