Thousand yard stare

There are many reasons to reminisce about home when you’re a few thousand miles away from it. Often, it’s not what you might have expected before you left. A chill wind. Peering out at the pissing rain during an English summer. Less flagrant use of car horns at junctions. And of course, for those of us afflicted by an obsession with a particular game involving a spherical ball, the UK’s coverage of professional football.

Now, while the UK is somewhat of a cultural sponge in regard of the US, you’re hopeful it’s still some way away from introducing any sort of “banter zone” into it’s football programming. 606, You’re on Sky Sports, TalkSport and others may have allowed some more of the more “choice” football opinions a platform to be heard on a national basis, but you feel a certain nadir, some sort of terminal cultural Shark Jumping will have happened once any sort of “Banter Zone” washes up on Britain’s fair shores.

Fortunately, the Fox Soccer Channel compensates for its slightly over-bombastic presentation of the sport by adding a hint of Dour Scotsman to it’s football round-up program; while Bobby McMahon is erudite and highly knowledgeable about world football, the sunny Texan skies have made him a little too optimistic than can be normal for any still-native Dundonian.  And as a man who considers himself a quarter Scots, I feel I can legitimately make a sweeping generalisation about 25% of my heritage, hopefully without being more than 75% hypocritical.

One program my nostalgia wore out pretty quickly for was Match of the Day. Some aspects of the “sameyness” of home are comforting, but the droll semi-interested chat of Gary, Alan & Lawro (as the show should be called) is not one of them. FSC’s Banter Zone may be the most ridiculous title for a segment of a TV show ever, but at least you can tell it’s not taking itself as seriously as you might think. By contrast, Gary Lineker has almost reached a sneering pomposity in the way he way presents MOTD, vaguely complimentary towards the Big 2 while snarkily dismissive of most of the other 18 teams in the league. The self-importance on display has you actively searching for the last known location of Andy Townsend’s tactics truck, before you realise it belongs to Andy Townsend and report it to the police for being double parked.

The BBC’s coverage has such a high opinion of itself that it doesn’t realise how much of an irrelevance it is danger of becoming. Zero innovation in its presentation. The same old faces spouting the same old cliches year after year, while some bright spark at BBC Sport thinks that adding Mick McCarthy and Harry bloody Redknapp to the panel line up is in some way going to freshen things up. Motson-lite stats-obsessed commentators, most of whom deliver with that dash of social judgement on proceedings that is so unnecessary. It’s just not very good. Sky Sports may be the devil incarnate, but at least they don’t treat their viewership like a bunch of total dipshits.

America will never care about soccer in the same way that Britain does, but at least it doesn’t treat it with the same complacency as MOTD. So with that in mind, I’m off to get involved in the Banter Zone on twitter.

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