Johnny & Al's Football/Olympics On TV

If we didn't know anything about football, would we listen to the wise words of Alan Shearer and say 'Hmmm, yes, very informative'? Do we need some more voices?

Last Updated: 09/08/12 at 16:46 Post Comment

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One of the greatest things about the Olympics is flicking through the TV channels and becoming engrossed, albeit just for half an hour, in some sports you hardly knew existed. This morning, we have been enjoying some horse-dancing done to a pan pipe medley of Phil Collins hits, and women swimming around giant pink inflatable dongs in the Serpentine.

Other sports that we enjoy at the Olympics but would not in all honesty watch at any other time have included archery, taekwondo (whose unsatisfying knees-up, blocked kicks do at least call to mind a football pitch brawl), canoeing and gymnastics.

We find the current vogue for comparisons between footballers and our Olympics heroes tempting but essentially bogus. If we had to read about Laura Trott every single day of the effin' year, as we do with the likes of John Terry and Luis Suarez, maybe we would be sick of her too. And if she received the attention and money of those two unlovely individuals, especially while being viewed through the poisonous prism of tribal loyalty, who knows? She might turn out to be, or might become, an absolute rotter.

As for the viewing experience, we have generally found the standard of punditry and commentary across all sports on the BBC TV to be very high. And, just as with the "Lovely, hard-working, humble heptathlon heroine versus racist overpaid thug footballer" false opposition, it feels impossible to avoid comparing the guest sports pundits to the regular football figures we see on the BBC sofas (or Sky Sports stools).

It seems, to us at least, so self-evident that the likes of Michael Johnson, Greg Louganis, John McEnroe and Ian Thorpe are streets ahead of your Shearers, Andys and Top-Tops that it feels like bullying to mention it. But the fact remains that the week-in-week football talking heads are left in the shade by these less familiar figures.

Why is that? We're all familiar with the argument that footballers are a) thick b) idle c) arrogant or d) all of the above; and thus make unsympathetic broadcasting presences. But could the discrepancy in enjoyment between listening to, say, gymnastics commentators Mitch Fenner and Christine Still compared to, say, Jamie and Lawro, be simply a matter of the thrill of the new? Has familiarity with the same old faces and voices in football punditry brought contempt? If you knew nothing about football and rarely watched it - i.e. like us with shooting, horsey-dancing and sailing - would you be going: "Hey this Alan Shearer guy really explains the things in a way I can understand." As opposed to: "We can all see that he's kicked the ball mate, you don't need to tell us."

Or is it just that one gets so fed up with hearing the same guys going through the motions? With this huge pool of ex footballers around the place, maybe it would be better to spread them around more thinly?

Familiarity definitely breeds contempt especially when the things you are so familiar with are a bit crap most of the time. It seems that TV sees the regular pundit as a trusted comforting presence, hence they have a regular team. This is surely folly. What we really need is the multitude of voices that we've enjoyed at the Olympics. This would keep things fresh and ensure that if someone was on that you don't like, you know they won't be there every week for the next 40.

The Olympics have shown us the more voices are better than fewer. Given that the contracts paid to football pundits are, in some instances, lavish, surely this money could be better spent on 10 occasional contributors than on one. Add in a stipulation that says no-one can appear more than three times in a season and our TV life could be so much better.

This is what the Olympics has taught us; well ,that and the fact that handball is brilliant.

ALSO: Keep your special medicine handy for The Premier League's Most Amazing Moments (Mon, 8.30pm, BBC3).

John Nicholson and Alan Tyers

Alan has ghost-written a book for Premier League legend Ronnie Matthews. It is called 'I Kick Therefore I Am' and you can check it out here.

And read Johnny's book, 'The Meat Fix' here or buy tickets to see him at the Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival here.

Follow Alan on Twitter here or Johnny here.

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