The Age of the Idiot

looks into the art of football punditry and lambasts the “generic brand of laddish tedium” currently on our screens

James Corden, the host of "an astounding spectacle of guffawing witlessness" during the World Cup is part of a new, and not overly popular, breed of football pundits. Photo: alun.vega via Flickr Creative Commons

James Corden, the host of "an astounding spectacle of guffawing witlessness" during the World Cup is part of a new, and not overly popular, breed of football pundits. Photo: alun.vega via Flickr Creative Commons

Tim Lovejoy, DJ Spoony, Jamie Redknapp, Ian Wright, James Corden. The age of the idiot is upon us. These outstanding guff merchants have finally completed their insidious rise to supremacy; their generic brand of laddish tedium now saturating any and all football coverage. This staple backdrop of boorish bluster has inexplicably become an accepted part of fan culture, with its appalling mix of sycophantic cheerleading and preening self regard. It’s time to reclaim football from the fakes.

A fundamental misunderstanding of the average football fan is the only explanation for the inexorable rise of these bandwagon-jumping non-entities with their slavish devotion to the Premiership and its Big four. The worst of all is surely Tim Lovejoy. Despite being a flimsily inauthentic indictment on the nature of the new age supporter, a Chelsea fan who also admits to following Watford, he is mistakenly regarded as a representative ‘man of the people’. During spells hosting both Soccer Am and the BBC’s 606 phone in show, Lovejoy has been routinely exposed as a fake fan of epic levels whose braying arrogance and crushing lack of humility know no bounds. But he’s mates with ‘JT’ and ‘Lamps’, so at least he keeps suitable company.

Under this new regime the World Cup has become a prime platform for such empty, gurning stupidity of the kind that routinely replaces entertainment or insight in football broadcasting. The number of times Diego Forlan, a double golden boot winner and eventual player of the tournament, was referred to as a ‘Manchester United flop’ hinted at the obscene levels of ignorance and Premiership bias that influenced much of the coverage. But the nadir was surely reached when ITV, the ultimate idiot’s lantern, decided to screen James Corden’s World Cup Live, an astounding spectacle of guffawing witlessness, everyday for the duration of the tournament.

Worse than the ubiquitous presence of Corden himself was that of the crass adverts with which his programme was punctuated. Intended to amuse the simpleton supporter, they instead made you despair at the media’s interpretation of the average football fan. These adverts largely consisted of massed ‘lads’ engaging in tasteless banter and drinking garish alcopops, a helpful indicator of just how far we’ve collapsed into our own stereotype. The blokey young men featured in these commercials, with their identikit haircuts and uniformly gormless expressions, looked the sort to talk about ‘the footy’, proudly regurgitating TalkSport-fuelled nonsense, each propelling the others’ idiocy.

In the aftermath of England’s second round exit to Germany, the nation was awash with such unenlightened opinion emanating from these populist media outlets. Rather than acknowledge the England players’ technical inferiority to their opponents, sanctimonious complaints about their wages, their lack of ‘heart’ and ‘pride’ became dominant themes in all too familiar lament. Fabio Capello was routinely attacked for his impudent foreignness, with such eloquent masters of the English language as Ian Wright condemning his supposedly limited linguistic skills. A proposed solution to this imagined problem was to appoint media darling ‘Appy ‘Arry Redknapp as the new manager. The tabloids, whilst conveniently forgetting about ‘Arry’s patchy management record and dubious financial dealings, trumpeted his Englishness and united in unspoken adoration for his roguish cockney persona and Paulo Di Canio based anecdotes. The backslapping cosiness of it all must be why his son, Jamie ‘tight trousers’ Redknapp, is never stuck for work at Sky.

And with this grand network of bluff, guff, idiocy and pretence aligned against the football supporting public, distorting perceptions of the game and what it means to be a fan, it’s little wonder that many succumb to the Sky endorsed stereotype. As the voice of the reasoned supporter is increasingly excluded from representations of football and its followers, the gaping void of vacuous stupidity widens at our expense.

10 comments

  1. I find your article ridiculous. It is over written and makes you sound pretentious. All the afore mentioned at least have a SENSE OF HUMOUR, and brighten up our day with a bit of lightsome conversation. These “idiots” work very hard to raise money for charity, at the end of the day they are just NORMAL guys trying to make a living. It sounds to me like you’ve learned a few fancy words at UNI and now think your a cut above the rest of us “guff merchants”

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  2. giv em all a break

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  3. @rhay

    I found the article quite funny actually. I don’t think it’s particularly pretentious, just well written. He’s raising a good point. The media treat football fans like total idiots. Every year, the pundits they appoint seem to rely less on brain power and more on star power. That’s just the telly though. The transfer rumour crap that circulates every year in desperate attempts to sell papers is just another example of the level of intelligence football fans are thought of.

    Perhaps it’s linked to the actual intelligence of football fans – otherwise why would they keep buying the bloody papers and having idiots like the first commenter loving it.

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  4. Out of interest, I’m wondering if the author listens to the “Football Ramble” podcast? They make alot of the same points. I’m not having a go, just wondering. I completely agree with the article, although disappointed not to see Adrian Chiles on the list of annoying clueless every men.

    As the tight trousered one might say, this article literally makes a lovely little argument.

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  5. Oh and Rhay, I find you ridiculous. What sense of humour does Ian Wright show? When has Redknapp offered anything witty? Who actually cares for Adrian “look at this funny fellow in the crowd” Chiles? They’re not funny at all, apart from in a “lol look how useless Richard Keys is” way. I mean on MNF the other week Keys asked Andy “Cliche King” Gray if penalties were now easier for goalkeepers! I mean wtf? His reasoning was that some people had missed some recently.

    Your argument about the charity stuff is laughable. First of all you don’t have any idea how much these people getting paid silly amounts of money to sit around and offer Andy Townsend-style gems such as “goals change games”, are giving to charity. Even if they were giving alot, it’s neither here nor there. Good pundits can give money to charity as well you know.

    I think the problem is ITV and Sky offer a TV version of The Sun’s football coverage (ie. vacuous rubbish) and the BBC (for what little football they do get) are hardly offering the Guardian/Times/Telegraph-style quality analysis.

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  6. I like James Corden, but his World Cup Live programme was awful. I just couldn’t watch it. However, I do think all these people you mention would appeal to the average footballer, who let’s be honest, is not that intelligent.

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  7. Great article, although quite how Paul Merson manages to escape unscathed is a bit of mystery!

    I suppose like it or not this is just a case of broadcasters catering to their audience, especially so during an event like the world cup when a large percentage of viewers may not be regular football watchers. Any insightful tactical analysis might be lost on too many to make it worthwhile.

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  8. 1 Oct ’10 at 6:58 pm

    Nick St George

    This article is brilliant and nothing needs to be added really. A great analysis of the media’s pandering to the modern day football ‘fan’.

    (By the way, the irony of criticising an article that is lambasting the simplistic nature of the mass media for being ‘pretentious’, primarily because it is well written is astounding.)

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  9. great article – really well written. Check out this piece in The Scotsman http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/sport/Tom-English-39The-level-of.6364084.jp

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