The BBC’s vast wall-to-wall coverage of the Olympic Games is nice. Relentlessly nice.
“There’s been an upset at the Archery,” said the very nice Hazel Irvine on Wednesday morning and over we went to watch the nice English girl with the plaster on her cut chin (an archery accident? A shaving accident?) releasing arrows from a bow that would have allowed Robin Hood to rule the known world; the sort of bow that trained CIA assassins might use against the tree people of Sumatra if they ever threw their lot in with Al Qaeda.
A futuristic 007-style weapon with sights, weight calibrators and crossbows.
“I could do that” my six year old son suggested. As the ladies looked through their mercury-balanced sights and shot mostly nines or tens, the commentator chimed in with analysis such as “I say” and “My word, this is close.”
When the English girl unexpectedly won, she and her opponent – Deepika Kumari, the current world number one – smiled, embraced and waved at a crowd so tiny that the directors of Tobermore FC would have been embarrassed.
“Isn’t that lovely?” ventured the archery pundit, Liz Mynott. It was like a Lassie Movie.
A “Thorpedo” Shocker
Then it was back to the studio where Ian Thorpe, the legendary Australian swimmer, was discussing the pool antics with the very nice Gary Lineker.
When I heard Thorpe was part of the BBC’s punditry team I was thrilled. The Thorpedo himself! Surely this would be an Aussie with attitude.
It turned out he had attitude in abundance - the attitude of a respectful teenage boy being introduced to his girlfriend’s parent’s for the first time!
The Fosters Lager Adverts portrayal of the Aussie male are obviously totally up the left. According to the “Thorpedo,” to paraphrase Monty Python, “Every swimmer is sacred. Every English swimmer and even the Irish ones, have a great chance of doing well.”
“What do you think of James’ chances in the 200m freestyle?” asks Lineker. “The heats look very tricky.”
To which the only truthful answer is: “Get a grip Gary. The boy hasn’t a f***ing mission.” Instead, Thorpie goes for “Look Gary, I think James has a great chance of doing well.”
Gary pushes on, “But it’s a very difficult heat for a young man ranked only 87 in the world this year, is it not?”
“Look Gary, sometimes amazing things happen in the Olympics” says Thorpie, smiling sincerely in the manner of a young Mormon on your front doorstep. “This is where dreams are made.”
Ten minutes later, James is out, having finished last. “Look Gary,” says Thorpie, “It’s been a brilliant experience for him and he’s done himself proud. It will stand him in great stead for Brazil in four years time.” (Yeah, only if he hasn’t got a proper job by then!)
Dull, dull, dull, dull, dull. English sports commentary and punditry has become like politics. Everyone is on message, that message being niceness and blandness: “England ladies have scored against Brazil, wouldn’t it be lovely for the game if Brazil got one back?”
It was in the unlikely surroundings of the Equestrian Park that the mask almost slipped. Just for a split second. The Germans and British eventing teams were locked in battle for the gold.
The British nerve went first. So when it came to the crucial round for Germany’s Michael Jung and his mount, the Brits were relying on a German mistake. Sound familiar?
It was at this moment that the dam of political correctness almost burst. As Jung’s horse brushed agonisingly against a fence on the way over, just failing to dislodge the bar, pundit Ian Stark blurted into his mike: “Ah, just need to touch one a little harder.”
Then, seconds later, he spoiled it all by apologising profusely: “Oh my goodness. Sorry! Did I really say that?” when what he really meant was “the lucky German b*****d!”
I could imagine that in the gap between what he blurted out honestly and the subsequent false apology he received a furious message on his pager from the BBC spin doctor.
Pundits Shouldn’t Do
I don’t think we want this in Ireland. I was walking through the city centre this week with Paddy Heaney when a workman’s van drove up onto the pavement beside me and stopped.
“You’re wile f***ing sore on that Spillane man, Brolly” shouted the passenger, his body halfway out the window.
“Really?” I asked.
“Naw, only messing Joe, keep giving it to the c***!.”
Having delivered that important message, the van drove off, lurching back off the pavement and horn blaring as driver and passenger shook their fists triumphantly out the window.
There seems little point in punditry unless you are going to speak your mind. Why should it be any different from the way we discuss players and games in the pubs before and after matches?
When we talk about the games amongst ourselves we don’t dress our words up with political correctness. We aren’t objective. We don’t use doublespeak. So why we should we do it on the television?
The truth, or at least any particular person’s perception of the truth, leads to friction and interest and debate. Saying what’s on your mind is the essence of a civilised society. The BBC has done us a service by showing us the ghastly world of deliberate niceness.
On that basis, I have decided that I shall continue to give it to that Kerry c***!