Separating the personal and the talent

Bill Wyman, Chiellini, Football, Italy, Jimmy Page, Liverpool, Roman Polanski, Suarez, Uruguay, Woody Allen, World Cup

So, he’s done it again. Luis Suarez, perhaps angling a move to Juventus, has decided to get a taste of Italian football early. There were early refereeing controversies, but for the most part this has been a glorious tournament of excitement, attacking play, and goals. It comes as no surprise that a major blotch has come eventually and, unfortunately, the culprit was even more predictable. Trying to account for any potential Evertonian bias, surely Suarez has far passed the point of no return. Does morality, as Oscar Tabarez has claimed, have no place in football? It is a place of rash tackles and confrontation, but biting an opponent not once, twice, but three times? The fact that these do not constitute his worst offences, after the Evra incident, is a damning indictment. Perhaps biting is a sign of affection in Uruguay.


What comes through in these situations is the disconcerting tribalism of it all. The use of t-shirts to support Suarez in the midst of the racism incident was an appallingly mishandled piece of blind loyalty by Liverpool, and to see how they deal with this case will be fascinating. The response of the Uruguay team and manager since Tuesday has been a risible attempt to defend the indefensible, blaming Chiellini, Italy, and the English press for their star player biting an opponent after virtually no provocation. I have, unfortunately, read some (by no means the majority) of Liverpool fans claiming that the bite did not happen, and that it is a witch hunt. It brings to mind David Brent in ‘The Office’ Christmas special, after heaps of evidence that he is a pillock:


Stitch up. It was a stitch up. They filmed hours of material, and most of it is a good bloke doing a good job at work, and the one time I accidentally head-butt an interviewee makes it to the programme. You’re gonna look a prat. You head-butt a girl on telly, and you’re labelled a prat, and that’s the game. And the BBC must have taken what, about eight hours footage a day, and got it back and most of it was like, you know, “Oh, look. Here’s a good guy, he’s getting on. He’s their friend as well as their boss. He’s a motivator, an entertainer. There’s lots of good stuff. Oh, he’s made one mistake, like any human would, should we just cut that out?” “No, what? Put that bit in, cut the other stuff out. We want a scapegoat, we want to dumb down, we want to give them the biggest plonker of the year”. You know…I’m not a plonker.


The crux of it may be that Suarez is the ‘star player’, the golden boy of Uruguay and Liverpool. Can anyone really imagine the t-shirts, the excuses , the protesting if Suarez was a reserve goalkeeper? This is a question that permeates other aspects of life and ‘celebrity’. On a personal level, I continue to enjoy the work of Roman Polanski and Woody Allen after their personal transgressions and misdemeanours. I celebrate Phil Spector as one of the greatest music producers of all time, despite a crime far more heinous than anything Suarez could ever, presumably, be even able to comprehend. Following the monstrous actions of Ian Watkins, anyone found listening to Lostprophets would be condemned, and many stores stopped selling their records. Both Jimmy Page and Bill Wyman dated 14 year old girls, with accusations that Page even kidnapped a teenager and sexually abused her, but has anyone had any qualms about listening to the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin? I know that I haven’t, and in fact did not know about Wyman’s and Page’s wrongdoings until recently. Ezra Pound and Richard Wagner were fascists, but their work was so crucial to their fields that they cannot be eliminated from the artistic consciousness.


The difficulty is where to separate the talent and the person. Can we take art as a separate entity when it is so tied up with the individual; their thoughts relayed through their chosen medium? Do people employ double-standards in such scenarios based on the artistic merits of the offender? It would be harder to condemn Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin to the annals of history than Lostprophets, and for neutrals/rivals, it is far easier to demand a lengthy ban for Suarez than it is for Uruguayans or Liverpool fans. Does the madness contravene the genius? Would Jimmy Page’s obituary focus on Led Zeppelin or statutory rape? Would Gary Glitter’s focus on his great music (file not found) or his paedophilia? One cannot imagine that there would be consistency. Should the quality of the work impinge on the personal reputation? Do people of such ignominy deserve effusive praise for their work? On Polanski, the American writer Calvin Trillin articulated:

A youthful error? Yes, perhaps.

But he’s been punished for this lapse–

For decades exiled from LA

He knows, as he wakes up each day,

He’ll miss the movers and the shakers.

He’ll never get to see the Lakers.

For just one old and small mischance,

He has to live in Paris, France.

He’s suffered slurs and other stuff.

Has he not suffered quite enough?

How can these people get so riled?

He only raped a single child.


Why make him into some Darth Vader

For sodomizing one eighth grader?

This man is brilliant, that’s for sure–

Authentically, a film auteur.

He gets awards that are his due.

He knows important people, too–

Important people just like us.

And we know how to make a fuss.

Celebrities would just be fools

To play by little people’s rules.

So Roman’s banner we unfurl.

He only raped one little girl.


Polanski’s Chinatown is one of my favourite films, I am likely to listen to Led Zeppelin over the next week or two, I believe Woody Allen to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and I have even listened to, and somewhat enjoyed, Charles Manson’s music. Maybe I am able to separate the personal from the talent. Maybe I am wrong to do so.

England expects…decent punditry

BBC, Football, ITV, sport, Uncategorized, World Cup

The World Cup. Arguably the biggest sporting event in the world, occurring once every 4 years, the final watched by over 1 billion people worldwide. Around 20 million of these are in the UK alone, the World Cup an occasion that fans anticipate and cherish, forming the backbone of many of our memories (for my generation, watching Ronaldo, not burdened by his bizarre 2002 haircut, banish the heartache of 4 years prior, trying to emulate Dennis Bergkamp’s majestic 1998 goal in the playground, the disbelief at the red cards of Beckham/Rooney, the inevitable anguish when England crashed out on penalties).


It would follow, then, that for an event of such magnitude, the titans of British World Cup coverage, BBC and ITV, would undertake a recruitment process as thorough as the international managers, a painstaking, precise ordeal to ensure the best talent possible. Surely they would spend 4 years searching for people with piercing insight into the sport, people with vast tactical knowledge and understanding of the mechanics and details of football, who can provide the public with acumen unavailable through any other medium, illuminating aspects that they could not possibly know themselves, untrained as they are.


However, watching the coverage, one could be forgiven for thinking that the hiring process consisted of opening the 2003 Premier League sticker book, pointing at a player at random, and offering them lucrative wages to partake in the trip to Brazil. Andy Townsend is arguably the most execrable of all, refusing to even pretend to hide his bias, and offering the intuition you may expect from a stranger propping up the bar at his local, not of a man who has captained his nation at the World Cup. His gamut of information seems to solely comprise inane clichés, a stream of “that’s better”, “get in and about them”, “get it in the mixer”, and partisan cries of “go on” and ostensible despair/joy when ‘his team’ concedes/scores. We have heard him cheer when Bale scored in the Champions League final, and endlessly react to English teams as if a man in the terraces, not an ‘impartial’ expert on a national station.


His cohort, Clive Tyldesley, is the other half of a double act more intolerable than Jedward. Tyldesley is the Alan Partridge of ITV, spouting tripe with an abominable level of smugness, unable to stop speaking, a phobia of dead air leading to a torrent of banal stats seemingly stolen from Wikipedia 5 minutes before kick-off. He is determined to embed his name in commentating greatness; striving for his “they think it’s all over” moment, saying “why not?” before every shot from distance, hoping it will fly in and he can scream “WHY NOT?!”, and “he can hit them from there”, ideally followed by “BOY CAN HE HIT THEM FROM THERE!!!” He also appears contractually obliged to mention “that famous night in Barcelona” at least once in every Manchester United game.


The ITV duo is rivalled by the BBC pundits. Mark Lawrenson seems to detest football, treating a high earning, all expenses paid trip to Brazil to watch the World Cup like an unexpected visit to A&E for an unpleasant kidney infection. His analysis is restricted to sardonic comments and venom, an obvious anger seeping out of his pores at the state of modern football, but accompanied by no comments on tactics, personnel, or what it is like to play at this level. He also takes a perverse interest in an absence of knowledge and, like his counterparts, is seemingly oblivious to the fact that he is a pundit, and knowledge is a relatively important part of his job. In the Argentina vs Bosnia & Herzegovina match, Lawrenson spoke of Maxi Rodriguez’s 30 pass goal in 2006, despite that goal being scored by Esteban Cambiasso, and asked his co-commentator “who do Argentina play next?” As my cousin text me, our enjoyment of the football increasingly clouded by commentators’ ineptitude, it’s “just guess work”. Come on Mark, it isn’t that hard to get hold of a fixture list.


BBC have employed a new co-commentator for this tournament. A man with no commentary experience, thrown in at the deep end in the world’s biggest tournament – he must be special. He must have been the chosen one from an unimaginably extensive search, as the BBC’s best men scoured the land for someone to take their coverage to the next level; someone who combines enthusiasm, comprehension and intellect into a perfectly formed punditry superstar. “We need some new blood here. Gary Neville is showing us up on Sky, he seems to have actually watched football, and even tries to impart some knowledge that will be new to the average football fan”. “What? But how will the English public understand anything technical? That’s for foreigners all that stuff. Come on, three lions, roar, hit the big man, they don’t like it up ‘em”. “Well maybe we should try to compete. Shall we search the country, top to bottom, carry out a thorough interview process including ex-players, journalists, pundits on smaller stations – ensure that no football expert is missed? Maybe we can get someone as good as, or even better than, Gary Neville”. “Pfft, sounds like a lot of effort that mate. Can we just get his brother in?” Who can blame them after Phil Neville had such a successful season implementing his tactics on the Manchester United side?


Don’t even get me started on Alan Shearer. Before the tournament, he wrote that for Wayne Rooney “to be put in the same bracket as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, he needs to have a great tournament in Brazil”. Need I say more?