I listened to a piece by Tim Franks on radio 4 the other day about the ‘language of sport’. I say I listened; actually I heard the title, then the first 30 seconds or so, and thought it sounded interesting. But then the real rigours of the morning took over, and the main thrust of the piece was lost in the need to make tea, to attempt to make the bathroom wall-mounted radio tune in to anything other than Moyles and Evans and to ponder the question of whether shaving in the bath really does save time.
I wonder if anyone defended the use of language in sport in this piece, for surely nothing produces as much inane conversation and commentary than sport, and football in particular. Much of the inanity is centred in the pub, both before and after games, and during if the match happens to be on live TV. However, as any man will know, your oldest friends are often those people that you can’t really remember having a proper convrsation with, and therefore when you do get together, a solid moan about your respective football teams always helps to pass the time. It’s also easy to make friends in the pub when the football is on the TV too; you simply walk up to the bar when you’ve just arrived, and catch the eye of the nearest chap:
Me: ‘What’s the score’
Them: ‘One all’
Me: ‘Good goals?’
And so you’ve made a new friend. It’s actually almost a ritual, akin to getting in to a taxi and asking him if he’s been busy that night. The ritual is obeyed, the conversation may flow…
The less defensible inanity comes in live commentary, and the pinnacle of inanity in the post-match interview. This is where the real language of sport descends into cliche. It also serves the public’s insatiable appetite for all things round-ball related. If a shark stops swimming, it dies, and it’s as if we feel the same fate awaits us unless we keep talking about football.
I’m certainly as irritable as the next person, and here are my four gear-grinding commentary irritations:
- ‘1-0 down inside 5 minutes; it’s the worst possible start’. No. It. Isn’t.
- ‘A goal just before half time; what a great time to score’. No. It. Isn’t.
- Any time a challenge is referred to as a ‘potential leg-breaker’
- Anything with an inappropriate use of the word literally: ‘he’s literally dead on his feet’, ‘he’s literally covered every blade of grass’…
And as for post-match interviews, if you ever hear a question that isn’t rhetorical, and basically just an introduction for the huge headphone-wearing, large knot in tie-adorned footballer to finish the rest of the sentence, I’d like to hear about it.
‘So, an 8-0 win, and you scored a double hat-trick’, you must be pleased?’. Hmmmm, let me guess, but I bet the answer will start with ‘obviously’.
If you fancy a chortle on the gloomiest day of the year, have a listen to the first 15 seconds of this: