I’ve been watching a little bit more football than usual recently and I’ve been thoroughly dispirited by the school boy level of punditry on display. At least Big Ron and co used to have a bit of fun (“and the boy done good, ball whipped in, and the lads there, eyebrows up at the backstick, BOOM, a goal”) but the latest group of retired players, who given a parallel universe, would be my peer group in more than age, are pretty woeful.
Whether it’s the BBC’s blind determination to make Robbie Savage into a modern day version of Statto, or Michael Owen dulling extolling the virtues of centre fowards playing for the team by “winning” penalties and free-kicks every time they get the ball, it makes me feel more than a little bit stabby.
This all came to a peculiar head for me on Saturday watching the West Brom vs West Ham FA Cup match. The first goal from Ideye looked border line offside but was given. It took the pundits in the studio two different camera angles and freeze frame to dourly conclude that it was probably offside. Considering that these lads are ex-players they should be able to see the irony in this; If you have to look at an offside decision in freeze frame from two different angles to make your mind up then the player is onside. Benefit of the doubt to the attacker plus the need to make a decision in real time outweigh this sort of studio analysis time and time again. Yes, call out the obvious two yard offsides that are missed but lets ditch the computer mapped analysis because if we need to get that far in, the benefit of the doubt should already have been given.
It’s odd that the sports channels seem hell-bent on filling the screen time with ex pros who were far more charismatic on the pitch than they ever will be in the studio or commentary box. Just because a person played the professional game, doesn’t mean they can read or interpret a match better than someone who hasn’t. I can watch a bad tackle in live play that with every successive replay looks more and more like assault, then attempted murder, then some sort of evil Satanic ritual, only to hear the ex-pro lament that it was a harsh decision, and even if he did go in two footed with studs showing, there was obviously no intent because the lads not like that. Fortunately these boys haven’t infiltrated the newspapers to the same degree and whilst there are plenty of ghost written columns (anything Lawro “writes” features the words Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan/some poor sucker.)
Obviously you can’t ghost present, which is a problem…