Did we like it?
Despite trying a little too hard occasionally, Gabby Logan made a confident, professional start to her new magazine. Sadly, her efforts to spearhead a new era in TV sports journalism was hampered by studio guests who contributed more hot air than that which blew out of Krakatoa in 1883, and interview with John Terry with less substance than a penniless vacuum.
What was good about it?
• Gabby Logan is a decent sports host, and she proved that once more with a seamless presentation (she only needed to prove it because of her ejection from ITV where the human equivalent of cooling tarmac Steve Rider enveloped all their sports programmes). The general lack of depth is more attributable to the choking malaise afflicting all TV sports journalism, something that Inside Sport should at least try and remedy once it has settled down.
• The report on the Three Blondes In A Boat, who won gold medals in the Yngling sailing event at the 2004 Olympics. Leaving aside the relegation of successful women in sport to an easy soundbite that concentrated on their superficial appearance (even if they may have came up with the nickname themselves), this report focused on how the ‘leader’ of the Blondes Shirley Robertson is trying to make it to the next Olympics in Beijing after giving birth to twins last year. The other two Blondes now have a new team mate and are competing against Robertson and her new team for the right to represent Britain. It achieved the Holy Grail of all reports and documentaries in making you interested in something you hadn’t previously cared for.
• It’s better than On Side, the last time the BBC attempted a sport magazine/interview show. After a promising start, it was ultimately reduced to host John Inverdale and his (invariably male) guests sitting on a sofa legs apart in a visual duel to determine which of them had the largest pair of testicles.
What was bad about it?
• With post-match interviews having shrivelled down to nothing more probing than: “Your thoughts, please.” (Thanks for that, Garth.) We were pessimistic about Gabby’s heralded interview with England captain John Terry; and, alas, our doubt was well-founded.
• We’re sure Gabby would have liked to have dealt with more profound issues and made her interrogation have more depth than a gobbet of snot and spit in a freshly-trodden stud mark but she probably realised she was speaking to an idiot, much like the average footballer (but still two billion times the intellect of Terry’s Chelsea team mate Joe Cole).
• The interview focused on mundane details, such as Terry’s twins, that provided little or no insight into him as a football player – which is the only noteworthy thing about him. He also spoke about how he was locked away in a cell for 22 hours after an incident at a nightclub. Terry was dismissive of the way in which he was prosecuted, and although he was found completely innocent, his friend whom he claimed to be defending was convicted of an offence.
• In order to be beguiled by a football interview, the subject has to be fascinating and intelligent, such as Jose Mourinho, Roy Keane or Zvonomir Boban, and be able to explain how their experiences have shaped them as football players rather than merely the trite, linear observation that spending time in a police cell singularly caused Terry to become the player and person he is today.
• Afterwards, the interview was commented upon by journalists Des Kelly and Steve Bunce. Bunce is a walking exclamation mark who exaggerates everything he says as if this will make it somehow truer. Of Terry’s time in a police cell, he claimed that 22 hours “is like a life sentence”. While Bunce also claimed that Terry spoke about the “internet rumours” that he racially abused Ledley King so that he was “putting it down on record: ‘I am not a racist.’” If everybody felt the need to make a public proclamation to debunk an ‘internet rumour’, celebrities’ faces would be swarming like flies over the media to ‘put it down on record’ their innocence of any alleged wrongdoing.
• But the main problem with the Kelly-Bunce double-act was of the contrived nature of much of their discussion. If Bunce championed the cause of Shirley Robertson and the British sailors, Kelly would predictably take the role of the cynic sneering at minority sports. While when Kelly criticised the farcical Cricket World Cup, Bunce pointlessly drew attention to the £40m that would be pumped into West Indian cricket, despite the fact that this cash had been culled by exorcising the entire tournament of any vivacity and life.
• But the worst exchange occurred after the fawning interview with FIFA chief Sepp Blatter. Kelly remarked: “What has Blatter actually done? He’s going to be remembered for the whiff of corruption.” To which Bunce’s artificial, moronic retort was: “He runs an enormous business. Of course, there’s the whiff of corruption.” This juvenile Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee rivalry, rather than enhancing the quality of furious debate actually corroded the credibility and authority of each of them to a puddle of molten pyrite.
• The Sepp Blatter feature that provoked that exchange was a national embarrassment. Blatter is a pallid anachronism who is emblematic of the archaic practices of sports administration (also see the Olympic Committee), and whose weakness is causing conflict as FIFA is ill-suited to mediate between greedy clubs (the execrable G16) and greedy players.
• Rather than question him on the future of football, the interview (after Blatter showed off a drawing by his grand-daughter) was a snide, disingenuous effort to extort from Blatter a confession that should South Africa be unable to host the 2010 World Cup then England could step in (although to be fair to Blatter, he listed about 10 countries that could step in and stated the same plans had been in place for Germany 2006).
This pandered to the delusion that South Africa is somehow a backward nation riddled with corruption when in fact it hosted a glorious rugby world cup in 1995. And secondly, football fans in England really don’t care where the World Cup is hosted as long as England win it and the kick-off times of the matches aren’t too anti-social (South Africa will be just fine on this count).
The only people who seem to be eternally pleading for England to host the World Cup are politicians (so they can introduce unpopular policies during the tournament in a nationwide mood of fantastical optimism), and people who hate football for 100 weeks out of every 104, who are easily identifiable with their over-reliance on the phrase “the whole country can get behind the team”.