Monday, October 24, 2011
Rafael Van der Vaart for Tottenham Hotspur (vs Blackburn Rovers), 23rd October 2011
I spent a couple of hours in the car on Sunday afternoon driving home after a weekend away. I was feeling a little bit jaded, so to keep myself entertained, I had the radio tuned into BBC Radio Five Live to while away the time and to keep my brain engaged.
I like Five Live. There's a good mix of news and sport, and I vastly prefer their more informal style of broadcasting to that to be found on Radio 4. Sure, there are bits of it that annoy me (Steve Claridge), but on the whole it's a good listen (shifting seamlessly to outstanding whenever Danny Baker is on).
Just recently though, I've noticed a distinct change in the tenor of the sports programming. Football has always formed a bedrock of the station's coverage: until recently, this was the one national radio station where you could hear coverage of almost every big Premier League game.... but you also got pretty good coverage from the other leagues around England and Scotland. The theme tune to sports report on a Saturday afternoon, with James Alexander Gordon reading out the classified results.... it's all a cherished part of our shared national heritage, and it's one of the great things about the BBC that all of this is still intact.
That's not the problem.
What's starting to annoy me is that there seems to have been a shift into a more hysterical style of reporting, particularly about football. The top division of the English league has always been covered in depth, of course, but it seems that now that coverage is not so much focused on reporting what happened at the games as feeding the myth of the English Premier League as being BIGGER and BETTER and MORE IMPORTANT than anything else. The BBC now seem to play a full part in pumping up these players as the new Gods of our society, and when they inevitably fall short of the holy status that we've given them, the BBC now hosts seemingly endless discussions with experts to pick apart quite how badly we've been let down as a nation by these players. Before the last England game I listened to long panel conversations about why Wayne Rooney's personal life wouldn't affect the way he played... and then after the game, more panel discussions about why he in fact he should never have played in the first place and should now be omitted from Capello's squad for the Summer, when clearly he won't be. Frank Lampard was past it, and then he wasn't.... the source of these circular, self-fuelling discussions is seemingly bottomless. Have your say; text us what you think; message us on twitter.... even the most brainless, one-eyed idiot is now qualified to get involved.
By the time I got into my car on Sunday, the Manchester derby was over, but the full, in-depth analysis of events and what they meant was yet to come. The game between QPR and Chelsea was broken up by a half-time interview with Sir Alex Ferguson, and the game between Blackburn and Spurs seemed to be barely reported at all except to fuel the fire of the sub-plot as to whether 100 or so fans demonsrating after the game could get Steve Kean sacked. Mark Pougatch, anchoring the programme, seemed dazed; he was simply unable to comprehend the magnitude of that result at Old Trafford and said so, repeatedly. No matter how many City players and officials queued up to be interviewed saying that it was just a game and was only worth 3 points and didn't win them anything, Pougatch only seemed interested in speculating whether this was the end of a dynasty and a passing of the baton across Manchester.
Lots of other things happened on Sunday in the sporting world: a rider was killed in the Moto GP, New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup.... in the two hours I was listening, neither of these two things were mentioned at all. According to Five Live, it was football or bust. Not just any football either, but only a selective reading of the day's games. We had lots from Old Trafford, of course, together with the commentary from QPR. We heard about Rangers and Celtic... but without a single mention of Motherwell, who are currently 2nd in the SPL, and inconveniently still above Celtic in the league. Not a bloody word. They are simply not on the agenda as it's all about the Big Two.
Seriously, I like football, but there's enough hysterical coverage on Sky to last any sane person a lifetime.... please not the BBC too. In the end, I was saved from my mounting annoyance by my arrival home. I wasn't at all sorry to be leaving Mark Pougatch and his disbelief at the Manchester Utd result in the car.
Imagine my delight when I switched the radio on this morning to discover that Pougatch was presenting Five Live Breakfast, and that he apparently still couldn't believe the result at Old Trafford.....