Match Of the Day’s presenters “abject” performance is not perfunctory

The presentation by the Match Of the Day Team  this weekend was anything but perfunctory ( i.e. performed merely as a routine duty; hasty and superficial), and certainly not abject (i.e. utterly hopeless, miserable, humiliating, or wretched), in fact it was very enjoyable even if some of the matches weren’t.     

As per recent weeks we were treated to a more evolved style of English from the MoTD Team on Saturday 6th March.  The aforementioned “perfunctory” and “abject”, was joined by the double appearence of the more accessible  “salivating!”  which begs the question why are so many ‘longer words’ being used and why now?

My earlier posts mused on Gary Lineker’s use of “apposite” -and its mispronunciation- and the after match interview that used “galvanised” in a question directed at Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy; the later being widely commented on as it was uncertain if either understood what it meant.  There has always been the odd word that seems out-of-place in the reviews, but this time my interest is kindled by not  just the words used, but by the fact the vocabulary stretching extended to the ensemble cast: well Mark Lawrenson and Gary Lineker – to which Alan Shearer was an admirable foil.  

This leads me to speculate that either the BBC is ramping up the speed of adoption for its new editorial policy, the maverick writer is working overtime, or they have been monitoring Twitter and football related Blogs and noted the interest. I would not be too surprised if both Gary and Mark also independently review social media sites as this represents a great way to develop their ideas and positions.

A strong sense of positivity and fun appears to pervade the show at present and I have noticed a greater use of humour, aphorisms, and ‘tongue twisters’ –  such as the one about Wayne Bridge last week ( “there has been a lot of water under the bridge……bridge too far?”) relating to the infamous non-handshake – over the last few months.  On Saturday this sense of impishness extended to the usually more serious business of the match analysis, with the word ‘salivating’ being used by Mark Lawrenson to describe a goal opportunity for Bolton against West Ham that he was speculating Alan Shearer would have enjoyed.  He followed this up by using the word “abject” to describe West Ham’s defending  ( ), before ending the review in typical  footballing style by postulating that any points for West Ham from the game would have been a “mugging”.  

The use of a much higher grade of descriptive words was not lost on Alan Shearer, who commented on the expressions being used by Mark Lawrenson, “he’s come up with some interesting words tonight” . Gary Linekers, response  “I think you both have” spoke volumes and reinforced the sense that even if the new vocabulary is not part of a more expansive planned editorial approach they are responding to the notice being paid to the  issue online and particularly at Twitter ( #matchoftheday).   

But why is this happening and is it part of a corporate decision or more individually inspired? In the previous blog I speculate it was the BBC using a mainstream programme to resist ‘dumming down’ and to encourage the use of proper language in the face of the onslaught from text speak or slang.  There could also be a plausible sociological reason. The gentrification of football.

Football always has had a universal appeal, but until 45 years ago it was still regarded as a working class sport.  With the massive influx of capital and financial interest in the game, and the expansion of the high-end corporate entertainment certainly over the last twenty-five years a gentrification of the sport has been in progress. Football’s presentation, be it in terms of grounds, publicity or the expected behaviour of its participants or supporters, has undergone fundamental changed: so why should not the language used to describe it change too?   

The appeal of football is simple it gives marketers, advertisers, financiers and broadcasts a wonderful backdrop with which to conjure. One message can be delivered through a variety of channels, and cultivated to be received in many different ways. It also engenders emotional attachment – club and country – and very few things do that any more. With so many brands and organisations crawling over football it would be understandable if they wanted the language used to be accessible to all, but also of a style that they would want their family brand or movement to be comfortable associating with.  Food for thought.

On a much lighter note: I love football, but I think even if I didn’t, I feel there is definitely some magic here and I could possibly be drawn to watch Match Of The Day just because of the interaction between the presenters.  The rotating triple act, that includes on differing occasions Alan Hansen, Mark Lawrenson, Shearer, Gary Lineker and Lee Dixon, is a piece of genuine light entertainment programming brilliance, but if your listening BBC don’t give them a quiz show!