Those who can, do. Those who can’t get a cushy job in the TV studio.
Isn’t it odd that Danny Baker’s few minutes on Match of the Day became for some people one of the most abiding memories of the World Cup? It wasn’t as if we didn’t already know what a strange, detached bubble the TV people live in, but to see them thrown into such stark relief was jaw-dropping. They were so uncomfortable to be made to look so inarticulate.
And it matters. David Hepworth writes that: “Obviously MOTD was not responsible for yesterday’s mugging [by Germany] but it does set the critical climate in which football is judged in this country. In this it has been responsible for encouraging complacency.”
What the MotD management should be reminded of (and they were by the Baker cameo) was that the programme is part of the entertainment industry, not the football establishment. That doesn’t mean it has to be flippant or funny, just to make the audience feel good for listening and watching. During the Germany match, the BBC’s performance was arguably worse than England’s. All around the country, people were angry at the team or the linesman, or getting worked up behind the team in blinkered optimism – whatever the case, emotions were running high and things were being thrown. But the commentators just continued making puns about Klose’s name which wouldn’t have (and didn’t) amuse my nine-year-old. How we needed Jonathan Pearce for this one. At half-time, there must have been millions of viewers who were pumped up, thinking: “we might be all over the place, but incredibly, we can still win this”. Cue the BBC’s glass-half-empty studio panel, the most miserable, boring bunch I’ve ever had the misfortune to sit and listen to. All the more irritating when you know Baker and Kelly are a phone call and a contract away. Christ, I’d rather have listened to James Corden.
Don’t worry, I shan’t rant any more about how useless most of the good ol’ boys in the studio were, because it’s now been so eloquently done elsewhere. As Iain Macintosh says: “You expect this kind of thing from ITV. They’ve always been useless at football, but it doesn’t matter. Their coverage is self-funded, propelled by the adverts that they occasionally smear across the most important part of a match like a toddler’s snot. You don’t get mad with ITV for being rubbish because it’s like getting mad with a puppy for pissing on the carpet. It’s what they do and, in a way, it’s your fault for letting them in the house in the first place. But the BBC is supposed to be a bastion of quality, a stronghold against the forces of commercialism. They’re supposed to be good at this, for pity’s sake.” Read Iain’s excellent piece here.