On Saturday evening, many people watching Match of the Day on BBC One HD were without sound for the first 45 minutes or so.
Some would call that a blessing in disguise.
It didn’t matter to this writer, who skips through the analysis in the studio and sticks to the in-game action instead. Even if he did feel like a mad man either watching silence or commentating himself like he was playing Football Manager.
Don’t judge me, please.
But it did lead me to think about something that seems a hot button with everyone these days. Are pundits getting worse? Are they taking a little too much flak? Do we really know what we want from our half-time talking heads?
Let us start with those paid for their opinions. There’s a number of different styles to pick through with all varying degrees of usefulness over every media platform, the know-it-alls, the not-too-risqué and the all-too-risqué.
Starting with everyone’s favourites with the know-it-alls. These are your Monday Night Football, European football clever-clogs that tell you the little bits you didn’t see and what you should be expecting from your overpaid superstars.
There’s a lot to like about what they bring. They pry through the game long and hard to give you something extra that you might not have caught on first viewing or simply didn’t know about to even look out for.
Sometimes what they can say is overly complicated, sometimes you are left a little lingering, hoping they’d delve in deeper. But the likes of Gary Neville or Jamie Carragher can’t give all their secrets away, otherwise they may be out of a job.
Honestly, there should be more in this category. A few are on the borderline, mainly the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves, but at least these are trying to add something to the game you’ve just watched rather than telling you with words what you’ve already seen with your eyes.
That moves us perfectly on to the next type, the not-too-risqué types. This eclipses most of your pundits you see, the non-offending smart shirt-wearing former professional who doesn’t try to stray too far from the given path.
They may go on a slight angry rant if something has grieved them over the course of the game or if it has been grinding them down in the past few weeks but they stick by the line. Say nothing too untoward, don’t have too much explanation it what has happened and give us a brief overview.
The perfect middle-managers of the pundit world. Keep it short, sharp and to the point so that everyone can understand what is said without making those tuning in feel like morons.
Personally, I don’t have a huge problem with the Jamie Redknapp’s and the Alan Shearer’s of the world. They sometimes come up with something interesting but it’s more of a shame that they don’t go deeper when you want them too.
All in all, they are just a little too vanilla.
For those that prefer the taste of hot sauce and blood, there is the all-too-risqué types. The blood and thunder types that thrive in saying the exact opposite to everyone else just for the kicks and then thrive in their role as the heel to the watching audience.
I shouldn’t even have to mention names here, it’s the ones that sound ridiculous even when they make a valid point. They go over-the-top, get annoyed at the slightest thing and a fair few of them still live in the dark ages where you could kick seven shades of something out of the opponent without consequence.
These glorified shock masters should be culled. A controversial opinion should be welcomed with evidence but they never present any, hoping their shouty and aggressive attitude is enough to convince you that they are right.
So what do we want? The general feeling as we just want something added to our content. The more conscious viewer of the modern age wants analysis that gives us more of a “why” instead of a “how”, examples to show us both and ideas that give us though on how our own teams perform on a weekly basis.
We want stories, insight into the different teams and the reasons why certain things are done in a certain way. For example, the excellent panel of journalists on the European Football Show always come packed with little tid-bits on every team or even player that adds to the experience, even if they aren’t ex-pros that “know” every in and out.
Which is why there’s such a backlash against the status quo. We aren’t Neanderthals any more, the holier-than-thou attitude from those that act like it simply because they were gifted the talent to make a career out of it does not mean they can look down on us that only have the mind as sharp.
It’s proven in some of the absolutely outstanding work done out there by writers across Europe, by the superb stuff done by analysists and the social media age that have given us more access than ever. Former agents, coaches, scouts have given us tools we could have only hoped for in the past and it’s time for ex-pros to step up their game in time with that.
Overall, punditry should continue to be varied and give us a little more on every broadcast. The additions like those from writers and even ex-referees explaining decisions thoroughly without any bias has given us more, stating the rules as they are written rather than with the tinted glasses of a footballer.
The hope is that the current generation coming through are watching the love for the likes of Neville and Carragher and they follow suit. Give us a little more, fill our minds with your knowledge and more importantly, stop those who can fast-forwarding.