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The dream has to be that the BBC produces mediocre football TV regardless of gender. Women threw themselves under horses for that dream. The boys like the girls...
There are two responses to being told "well, football's all a game of opinions, isn't it". The first is "Ha! Says you!" which is as satisfying as it is immature. The second is violence. The third - and to all the pedants who went back to the beginning of the paragraph to check: made you look - is to resign yourself to it, saying something along the lines of: "Well, it isn't really, because it's a game of things that actually happen, but having opinions and arguing about them is a handy way to fill the empty spaces in this desperate life. Look, either we argue about this or I tell you what I actually think of you, and neither of us will enjoy that."
And so to Gareth Bale. Ever since he was quarried from the living rock by the King of the Welsh Dwarfs, ever since the Grand Druid breathed life into his faintly simian form, the Tottenham winger has provoked some extreme opinions. You want proof? We asked* three people "What do you think of Gareth Bale?" (*Well, okay, we didn't ask them. But they were asked, and that's the main thing.)
Former manager, Harry Redknapp: "He's an amazing, amazing talent and he's after the Ronaldos and Messis of this world."
Anonymous Arsenal fan: "He's a [bad word deleted] Welsh [bad word deleted] diving [really bad word deleted]."
New team-mate Lewis Holtby: "He's [bad word deleted] brilliant! He's [bad word deleted] brilliant!"
Let's start with Redknapp. There are many ways in which Gareth Bale resembles Lionel Messi and/ or Cristiano Ronaldo (delete according to preference). They all have two legs, for example. They all have some hair. And they all kick balls for a living, sometimes in remarkable and exciting ways. So Redknapp's opinion isn't completely ridiculous. However, Bale doesn't come close to Messi and Ronaldo in the most important way - the incredible consistency with which they perform the incredible - and that's why tucking the Welshman in after those two freaks is, though doubtless great motivation, just a touch over the top.
(Of course, if you take Redknapp's plurals - "Messis" - literally, as Jamie doubtlessly does, then you have to start wondering whether Bale is better than the average of Lionel Messi, plus his dad, plus his mum, plus Cameroon midfielder Georges Parfait Mbida Messi and all of his family, and so on and on, and the whole thing gets a bit silly. So let's not.)
On to the Arsenal fan. The man in question was very angry at the time and, in his fury, had decided that Bale's Welshness and occasionally creative relationship with gravity - good and solid facts, basically - were things about which he'd like to have a good shout, and to hell with the question. Perhaps it was only the trifling question of relevance that prevented him having other opinions like "[bad word deleted] Lima is the [bad word deleted] capital of [bad word deleted] Peru", or "For any [bad word deleted] right-angled triangle, the [bad word deleted] square of the [bad word deleted] hypotenuse is [bad word deleted] equal to the [bad word deleted] sum of the [bad word deleted] square of the other two [bad word deleted] sides."
The only real opinion in there is that "he's a [really bad word deleted]", and in a sport containing all manner of such he's far from the most egregious, annoying celebration notwithstanding. Indeed, he seems kind of pleasant, in a simple sort of way, like a farmhand from a costume drama who pines vaguely and hopelessly after the flighty heroine before dying in an unfortunate stable fire. Diving's annoying, aye, and so's playing for Tottenham if you're the other way inclined, but the evidence doesn't really stack up.
So to Holtby. To be fair to the entrancingly neat
traitor German, he wasn't so much asked his opinion as driven by circumstance - Bale having just enflamed one into the net past a suddenly broken Ben Foster - to scream it loudly at anybody and everybody who happened to be nearby. But that tells its own story. Because while Bale's not the most reliably excellent player in the Premier League, or the most imaginative, or even the most gifted, and while he certainly isn't among the very best in the world, there aren't many other players in the Premier League with such capacity to make the disinterested neutral say "[bad word deleted] hell!"
Take Saturday's goal against West Brom, or the Robben-esque Super-G through Norwich's midfield the Wednesday before, or any other of the peaks of a fairly remarkable and ever-expanding highlight reel. That's what being brilliant is; that, ultimately, is what the sport should be for. The best opinions are the spontaneous ones, those that fall out of your mouth when your jaw drops. And Bale, right now, more than anything else, is in the business of dropping jaws.