Same Crap, Different Bucket
An Englishman's adventure in the land that Chocolate Digestives forgot.

You’re just a bunch of anchors

Here in Australia, TV station SBS has had the exclusive rights to broadcast the World Cup. They’ve done a pretty good job. Their presenters are well-informed, engaging and enthusiastic. Coming from the UK, I’m not really used to this sort of thing. It’s been a treat to watch a tournament without having to endure updates from the England camp during the half time interval of every match and suffer endless speculation about Wayne’s ankle, JT’s groin or the looseness of Stevie G’s stools. Unlike ITV, SBS have even managed to screen all the games without cutting away to adverts at crucial moments. There are, however, a few things I’d like to share. 

For reasons only known to them, SBS decided to hire former-Sky Sports boxing presenter, Paul Dempsey, to anchor the majority of the matches. It’s been reported recently that SBS is undertaking a range of cost-cutting exercises, but you’d think their budget may have extended to employing, say, Craig McLachlan or a plate of lime jelly. 

The main thing to know about Paul Dempsey is that he has mesmerising hair; it’s like the fibre optic lamp my parents had in their living room in the early-eighties. It gently bobs under the heat of the studio lights, entrancing sleep-deprived eyes. If it wasn’t sat on the top of Paul Dempsey’s head, I’d almost be tempted to describe it as wondrous. His presenting style though, is pure Alan Partridge. In the aftermath of Australia’s defeat to Germany, he asked a bewildered panel of former Socceroos ‘How do you cope when you’re shipping punishment like that?’  Shipping punishment? Even panellist Ned Zelic, once described by Ray Wilkins as being ‘as versatile as an egg’, was left floundering. 

The commentators themselves are mostly B-list announcers familiar to British viewers: Gary Bloom, John Helm, Dave Woods. I’ve often wondered where British commentators not contracted to the BBC or ITV go in World Cup summers. Finding out that they freelance for foreign TV stations has destroyed my theory that they moonlight in ice cream vans or hibernate in hollow trees.

John Helm’s commentary largely relies on statistics, puns and one-liners. It evokes in the viewer the feeling of being trapped at a bus stop with a talkative pensioner who occasionally offers opinions that make you feel a bit uncomfortable (e.g. “Boulahrouz… you can tell from just looking at him that he’s of Moroccan descent”). His way of finishing each sentence with an audible wheeze is more distracting than a million vuvuzelas and it comes as a genuine surprise that he doesn’t close each match by saying: ‘that was cracking; more cheese, Grommit?’.

The highlight of the opening week of the World Cup was undoubtedly Craig Foster’s sweaty-lipped rant after Australia’s 4-0 defeat to Germany, during which he called for a squadron of former Socceroo captains to march into the dressing room and overthrow coach, Pim Verbeek. With his perfectly-set hair and smooth features, Foster looked a bit like an angry Thunderbird. Thankfully, the spittle-flecked Craig Johnson was sat adjacent to him and was able to placate Foster with a soothing hand to his forearm. 

The contrast between the laid-back Johnson and the uptight Foster worked well. Johnson’s suit and limp ponytail gives him the air of a corporate hippy, perhaps one who manufactures smoothies with packaging that tries too hard. Foster, meanwhile, provides a slick, self-righteous fury. Whoever decided to put him in a hot glass studio alongside the tactile Johnson deserves industry recognition. Once the distraction of the world cup is over, the two Craigs should probably think about making a buddy movie together. 

SBS didn’t bother with the pretence of impartiality for Australia’s matches; instead they decided to kit their presenters out with green and gold scarves. My main criticism with this was that it provoked in me traumatic flashbacks to Jimmy Hill’s St. George cross bowtie at Euro ’96. Australia’s failure to advance beyond the group stage was met with quasi-fascistic platitudes about a never-say-die attitude supposedly unique to Australians – none of which had been in evidence against Germany, when the team collectively gave up in the second half. Host Les Murray opened the following night’s highlight programme with a quote from a Churchill speech, no doubt designed to lift the spirits of a demoralised nation. Luckily, most of the nation had already cheered itself up by fucking off back to watching rugby league. See you in four years, chaps. 

It could be worse though. People in North Korea only got to see one live match and although British football fans have been able to see all the games, they have to suffer the opinions Alan Shearer and Mark Lawrenson. Disappointingly, I understand that the BBC is basing their World Cup coverage on idle and dismissive xenophobia, presumably in an attempt to curry favour with the Daily Mail now that they’re back in power. This is daft – the Daily Mail probably hates curry.


One Response to “You’re just a bunch of anchors”

  1. You need to be paid to write these Squires. SO GOOD!!!!!!

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