Football as a basic unit is a pure thing, like springwater. It emerges from the wellspring of the pitch, chattering and bubbling with the force of its own naive, childlike enthusiasm. People play football! The ball rolls and flies about, propelled by their feet and heads! Goals are scored! A result is obtained! Pure, bottled-at-source football. Crisp and refreshing.
Of course, springwater is put through a filter to remove potentially toxic concentrations of minerals. Football goes through a filter too; people watch it and have opinions, and the simple, virginal game is pressed through them to emerge the other side. We’ll call this apparatus of opinions the Shit Filter.
The Shit Filter clouds and pollutes football and its grainy little turd fragments swill about in it. Journalist A has an ill-informed opinion on Player B’s performance: a little flake of shit breaks free and dances in the sparkling currents and eddies of Previously Pure Football. Suggestible Fan C ingests it and treats it with the reverence due the collected works of Jonathan Swift. So, the shit’s a little bit infectious. But most fans can think for themselves, football’s a big old reservoir and the atom of fecal matter is too small to take hold. No real harm done, in most cases. But some people are privileged enough to sit by the Shit Filter on a weekly basis, squatting over the opening with newspaper in hand.
We voluntarily chose to listen to a game on Radio 5 ‘Live’ the other night. And Alan Green was involved, pinching off his rancid torpedoes into the stream. ‘Hang on – criticising Alan Green?’, I hear you cry in scorn, ‘what a fucken n00b. Everyone’s done that, and more strogly than you’re about to’. Well, possibly. But this isn’t about his personal rows with managers, or even his inappropriate-uncle ventures into the minefield of racial politics (although dubbing the phrase ‘me no cheat’ over a discussion between Eric Djemba-Djemba and a referee is laying a pretty big fucking mine of your own and belly-flopping onto it while doused in petrol).
It’s just that – to NearPostFlick, at least – he’s a ball-achingly, sphincter-tighteningly, frontal lobe-wreckingly awful commentator. Some like his style of overlaying his own personality, trenchant views and prejudices onto a game. That’s fine. We don’t, but can see why people find it ‘colourful’. However, so much of this bluster, so many of these violent sighs of ‘awful’, ‘abysmal’ or the poetic ‘woeful’ (it’s like listening to football commentary scripted by Samuel Beckett) serve only to preserve the modesty of his lack of understanding of the modern game. His ‘controversial’ opinions are all the media tropes you read about in the red tops, Ctrl & V’d onto your taxpayer-funded airwaves. He seems to think almost every team in the league needs to ‘go direct’. He offers all the matchday insight of a salted slug yet repeatedly overpowers his co-commentator, who sits there cowed with Stockholm Syndrome. He doesn’t even seem to do the research that others do, relying for the most part on recollection. Football seems to be the vehicle that Alan Green has chosen for his self-promotion, and for us, he does not enhance it with his presence.
(But he did the commentary for Olympic Soccer on the Sega Saturn, I think. That was alright. ‘He got the man, not the ball!’ Ha! Brilliant. Remember that? Good fun, that was.)