The football League season in all variants, Premiership, Championship, leagues, is now over, the FA Cup winners Chelsea have done their lap of honour – all except the hapless Michael Ballack – Millwall have beaten their Jinx and Dagenham and Redridge have climbed to the dizzying heights of Football League One. And yet still because of the World Cup and recent events off the field the words of Gary Lineker, cast like “pearls before swine”, remain able to create a stir as well as report events.
Over the season the polysyllabic words that have emanated from Gary Linker, and the sense of competition it has created with the other guests (see posts in “spinning balls” here) most notably Mark Lawrenson, has kept us rapt with attention and added to the perception of playfulness and fun on Saturdays Match Of the Day. The Match Of The Day coverage already had authority, insight and knowledge bolted down now and to this in 2010 they have added cunning linguistics and a sophisticated style of humour. Ok sometimes the humour is pretty basic, but at least it’s funny.
Several sources have commented on his inspired choice of words this season and the reasons for their presence. But whether it is part of a BBC programming strategy, or an in joke amongst the presenters, or even Gary Lineker reaching out to programme makers demonstrating he wants to host non-footballing shows – or much less plausibly him throwing his hat into the ring for candidacy to be the next Dr who it is entertaining. It is one of the many extra elements that helps differentiates the Match of the Day show, and its brand, from other football programmes, which is particularly important with the World Cup almost upon us and so much riding on ITV doing well in the ratings.
The word battles, and humour, also serve to raise the sense of implied and applied intelligence within the show and works to dispel the idea that all footballers are blunt instruments. Though perhaps the Sunday crew of MOTD2 has a little more work to do on this front – which is probably what you get for putting your show in the hands of a Child(s).
I don’t think Gary Lineker intellect was ever in doubt. No one could mimic a third upright of a goalpost for so long and still manage to convince the footballing press he was dynamic goal soccer could be that dumb. And it must have taken a genius, and some fast talking, after his extra martial affairs for him to remain as brand spokesmen for “Walkers Crisps” and yet still manage to poke fun at his not-so now-so squeaky clean image. The hint is that it is agent, Jon Holmes, that is the Svengali and gloved guiding hand and if this happens to be the case Gary certainly takes direction well. However what was in doubt, based on the implied deception around his extra martial affairs, was his integrity.
The resignation from writing his column on the Mail on Sunday http://tiny.cc/0ljdn , The Sunday sister of the Daily Mail, on a matter of principle makes us challenge our views about his personal qualities and our perception of his integrity. But then again football is his life and his income, and as a 2018 World Cup bid team ambassador he may have felt compelled to act. There is also a sense that this will reinforce his position with the England faithful – judging by reaction from the blogosphere and comment on sporting websites since the event was reported – and they in the long run are a much more important stakeholder in his career than Associated Newspapers ever could be.
He may also be sensing that the Daily Mail is inching its way back to the territory it once inhabited as is likely to become the broadcast instrument of the resurgent Thatcherite Tory. This may temporarily extend its reader franchise from 3.5 million upper middle class readers to almost 4.5 million more readers of a greater social dispersion, as it rides the crest of the wave and benefits courtesy of Cameron’s soft touch, all inclusive concept of “Big Society” Conservativism. The question is how long before the internal rifts manifest themselves within the party, the inclusive ideas abandoned, and the cause of reactionary politics once again is taken up by the Daily Mail. The signs of change are already there and advisedly – because of his natural franchise – he doesn’t want to stick around to see them advance.
We only have to look at the impact of The Daily Mail’s resurgent confidence on the type of reporting and editorial it has been generating over the last year. The paper has waded in with reactionary and insensitive comment on several occasions and none of these is more notable than the incident involving Jan Moir, and her venomous and spiteful, never mind hurtful, reporting about the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Stephen Gateley.
We may look back with the benefit of hindsight on Gary Lineker’s decision to resign as a stroke of genius – in the order of the one that saw him present a motion to the Oxford Union when he had just finished his career and thereby established his next one. His actions I’m sure were calculated to disassociate himself from what is a fairly irrelevant paper in terms of sport reporting, but one whose political opinions and actions could have linked him irrevocably to the current political administration and possibly even shortened his career.
The title seems to imply I was talking about Gary’s extra martial affairs (slips one in) and “then sticks two up” a comment on the ending of his relationship with the Mail on Sunday. Actual neither is correct.
As this is Englsitics and we focus equally on words and the context in which they are used, as much as events, you may not be surprised to learn the “slips one in” reference applies to a polysyllabic word he used in one of the last episodes of Match Of The Day and the “sticks two up” the surprisingly ripe comments he used to describe Chelsea’s inevitable success in winning the Premiership, and Tottenham securing the final Champion leave qualifying place.
The word pedant is possibly one of the more relevant words used by Mr Lineker during this season newly packaged and intellectual Match of the Day.
ped·ant (p<뺌ᶔ> d nt)
1. One who pays undue attention to book learning and formal rules.
2. One who exhibits one’s learning or scholarship ostentatiously.
He used “pedant” to describe those , often found in dark corners of pubs, who would pore over the data – in this instance league tables – and not accept an outcome until all possible other permutations are exhausted. Hull City had just enough games left to earn the points to stay in the Premiership, but the commentary team were right to say they were going to be relegated on past form. The pedant at this stage would be arguing the mathematics.
After todays events, the compromise agreement between Rafael Benitez and Kop Holdings Limited (the rather patronising name for Liverpool FC) the pedant could move on to discussing the results he gained and the level of success he achieved. You may even get a cost benefit analysis, a topic that doesn’t seem to interest Roman Abramovich, who has spent £700m trying to win a Champions League with Chelsea.
The more frequently used definition of the word pedant is the second one, to describe someone who flaunts their knowledge. Which takes us back down the pub….
Watch out for the question from your local pedant during the World Cup about the only team to not lose a game and yet no win, or in fact qualify for the second stage of the competition…….the answer?……sorry just being a pedant!