At the end of a productive week you shuffle off to your living room for some deserved rest. You plonk yourself down on the comfy couch, arrange a smorgasbord of snacks on the table and tune in to the game of the week.
Everything is aligned for an ideal Sunday afternoon fiesta when suddenly it seizes you like fingernails scratching a blackboard: your game’s commentator is a serial abuser of proper diction. He stumbles through a mangled version of English leaving a trail of nonsensical doublespeak. You toy with the mute button on your remote. Suddenly, those pending chores seem feasible.
The soccer in the Barclay’s Premier League is compelling if one enjoys watching overpaid athletes chase a ball around an acre of manicured grass, but the colorless commentary of their sweaty endeavors is repelling.
The main play-by-play presenters are engaging enough; having mastered elocution they provide pleasing commentary. Sure they occasionally say something stupid but it sounds utterly convincing with their English accent. Besides, they are at least amusing, unlike their inarticulate sidekicks.
These sidekicks are invariably ex-players with indecipherable enunciation, woeful vocabularies and bad pronunciation. When they say something stupid, which would be about every minute, it sounds utterly stupid. Here’s a mild example: “I agree on their form, John. Just last week [team] played away to [team] and came away with a result.” Pardon me, I don’t mean to be a stickler for details, but would that result be a win, loss or draw? I don’t have time to track all the scores.
This is more than the trivial inconvenience of a displeased fan whose Sunday afternoon is ruined by the hackneyed analysis of his chosen pleasure. Televised soccer is big business and the Barclays Premier League is the pinnacle. Games from the much ballyhooed league draw massive audiences from Sydney, Australia to Sidney, British Columbia and in hamlets, villages, shanty towns, communes, burgs and major cities betwixt and between.
Surely it’s time to match the Premier League’s obvious marketing prowess with slicker production. Let’s start with some remedial training for the inarticulate sidekicks.
Ironically, we can stay within the self-indulgent world of European soccer for guidance. The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is the controlling body for European football. Like many unions their regulations are somewhat annoying but they did get one thing right: they instituted a licensing program for potential managers/coaches that culminates with the pro license required to manage a soccer team in the top level of a nation’s league system.
If it’s good enough for coaches it’s good enough for football pundits who try to communicate their presumed superior knowledge of our favorite sport.
When we allow a tradesperson into our house to fix the plumbing or electrical wiring, for example, we ensure they are licensed. Since our spare time is precious, we should demand no less from the football presenters we invite into our living rooms — they should be credentialed lest they unwittingly ruin a perfectly good game.
Would-be football analysts should attain a minimal level of core competencies before pursing their vocation. Communicating to millions of viewers is the nub of their business, so it makes sense they should communicate clearly, if not entertainingly. To that end, a yearlong curriculum that emphasizes fundamental English usage, elocution, diction, vocabulary and public speaking is essential job training.
Former players once skilled with foot on ball, too often put foot in mouth. A football analyst license geared toward effective communication won’t overcome years of intellectual dereliction in school, but it might minimize their gibberish.