On Saturday, Jacqui Oatley broke through the testosterone ceiling in becoming the first female commentator on Match Of The Day. Big deal. It’s amazing, isn’t it, that a woman has managed to cause a stir by doing something unremarkable, something that only convention has prevented another woman from having done before?
Steve Curry of the Daily Mail for one was particularly opposed to the very idea. Speaking on BBC Breakfast he stated he was against the notion of females shrieking their high-pitched excitable tones through the telly, feeling it would detract from the beautiful game. Contrast, I suppose, such pained feminine warbling with the high art of John Motson, Mike Ingham and Alan Green.
Steve Curry is a bit of a tit; anyone who has ever heard him speak would surely agree. But his arguments deserve some consideration; all the more so because they are so easy to pull apart. One argument voiced has been that as no women has played the game at the highest level they are unqualified to comment on Premiership football; an argument that means everyone I know should also keep schtum, as should most TV commentators (Mark Bright meanwhile is someone who has played the game at Premiership level, but demonstrates that such experience is no bar to talking utter claptrap on a regular basis). The idea that women’s voices themselves are unsuitable seems especially odd. Presumably no woman can ever pass muster, while Joe Pasquale is suitable purely because he is a man? Or perhaps we should only source commentators from the RSC? If football commentary was the sole preserve of the likes of Joss Ackland then I could see how the arrival of some squeaky voiced upstart could alter the status quo, but looking at the current cabal of MOTD commentators I can’t see how a woman would alter the balance that much.
In the event I thought Jacqui acquitted herself just fine while commentating on the Fulham / Blackburn game; afterwards Gary Lineker pondered that their female commentator had done a good job, to which Lee Dixon gave a resounding “yeah” and then swiftly moved on to discuss the match itself. It was the correct, dismissive response; not to the idea that a woman can commentate competently, but to the fact that it is an issue in the first place. And amongst other things, the reason it isn’t an issue is because in essence football itself is fucked so it really doesn’t matter. To the vast majority of football fans MOTD and the rest are just playing out time. There is a very real chance as I write this that the Premiership, FA Cup and European Cup will be fought out between two teams that everyone hates; it is a tribute to Chelsea that we are now in the situation where even I as a Man City fan can’t really choose between them and United. Whatever the talk of this being a golden era for English club football I’m praying for an AC Milan victory in the Champions League as the only respite we may get from the success of these two unlovable clubs (I’m not sure where Liverpool fit into all this, but I must confess I’m not a fan of theirs either).Football has become so boring these days that whoever commentates on the game is irrelevant.
But anyway, just what is this sacred order of commentators that women are in danger of breaking into? Okay, Sky’s commentators are alright in the main, but have you listened to the rabble on the BBC and ITV recently? Apart from the humble old guard of the likes of Tony Gubba and Mike Ingham who just get on with it and can still do a half decent job, we have some ne’er do wells such as John Motson, Clive Tydesley and Alan Green, and then the young(er) ones like Peter Drury, Jonathan Pearce and Guy Mowbray who think their job is to come up with some ever more painful, smart-alec wordplay for every ill-suited occasion, so showing themselves up each time as smug, preening fuckwits. Is anyone telling me that no woman can improve on that shower of arses?
Women have many faults. None of them can read a map without turning it around up to 270 degrees so that it is in line with the way they are facing, and they seem incapable of successfully parallel parking unless they fully employ all the laws of chance. But were you to ask me; are we saying that a female cannot commentate every bit as poorly as a juggins* such as Jon Champion? Well, then I must insist that they can. From my experience I fiercely believe that a woman can be just as inept as any man out there.
*Juggins n. inf. silly fellow. A great word I discovered while looking in the dictionary for a “J” my son could take into nursery for the “letter of the week” (in the end we settled on a carton of apple “juice”).