Cameron Carter listens to a landmark TV moment

Those of us who believed we would see a female Doctor Who before we died have been so far disappointed but a big gender breakthrough did occur last month as Jacqui Oatley provided commentary for the Fulham v Blackburn game on Match of the Day. Barring the nagging sensation that we were listening to the earnest trilling of a schoolboy competition winner, her summary of the game was, as you might expect, entirely satisfactory. There were a couple of St Hilary’s moments, as Zat Knight “saved the day” for Fulham with a goal-line clearance and Blackburn apparently had “two exquisite chances”, but nothing that accounted for the mostly negative response of a subsequent Daily Telegraph internet survey.

The general theme of the complaints was that men had to listen to women banging on about whatever women talk about all day, without being exposed to their unyielding falsetto over quality time Match of the Day. One brittle respondent reported that he found Oatley’s voice “tiring”. “The male ear,” ventured a fellow sufferer-in-silence, “is not tuned to comfortable reception of the treble clef.” It seems this country contains thousands of middle-aged men who hide, barely, a nervous physiological reaction to the sound of the female voice. The fact is, Jaqui Oatley has a long way to go to achieve the irritation levels of the experts in her field and simply having a voice of the type used by Shakespearean actresses when unconvincingly disguised as men will not be enough to make a name for herself.

Alan Shearer. Ten years ago those two words meant a ball bursting the net. Nowadays they represent an interval between meaningful events. It’s not just that he sounds like a man sight-reading from the Bible, it’s the poverty of the content. On the same Match of the Day as Jacqui Oatley’s debut, Gary Lineker described Ben Foster’s mistake for Darius Vassell’s goal as summing-up Watford’s disappointing season. Over the replays of Foster’s miskick, Shearer indolently concluded “that goal really does sum up Watford’s season”, like a man in a circle who has been passed an idea and tried it without inhaling.

And I think perhaps it’s time to relegate Kevin Day’s MOTD2 features to digital television, possibly to a BBC3 spin-off called “F**k Off, I’m Between Jobs”. The irony of his slot on April 15 was his posturing as a work experience chappie to Reading’s head groundsman for the day, when nearly all his items come over like BBC work experience filler. Two men being affable while prodding about with big forks might be enough for your Sunday morning Countryfile audience but it surely doesn’t warrant a significant proportion of the weekend’s terrestrial football broadcast. As for the groundsman’s anecdote of mistaking weedkiller for fertiliser on his first job, doesn’t every groundsman tell that story – “The turf that got away”? If there are a few minutes to fill on MOTD2 every week, let’s just have another Lotto Thunderball or something – at least someone, somewhere will enjoy it.

It was nice to see that, after the Italian police at Roma had demonstrated to us their method of crowd control – hitting each individual member of the crowd with big sticks – our own police reacted to trouble in Manchester with traditional British reserve. Unfortunately, at the start of ITV’s Champions League coverage of the return leg, the footage over which Steve Rider murmured “there have been a few incidents of trouble outside Old Trafford, handled pretty well by the police” clearly showed one policeman beating an already subdued Roma fan on the back of the knees with a truncheon.

However, as this so closely resembled the slapping one received from mother on making a scene in the Co-op, we all believed, on an unconscious level, that the Italian would grow up to benefit from this tough love. It didn’t really count, therefore, as police violence. It’s hard to believe that the footage was live but if it was recorded earlier there must have been an opportunity for Rider’s comments to be changed to “that’s the idea, constable, give him one for Rome”. Keep your eyes on the monitor Steve, and, in the words of TV literalist Roy Walker, “say what you see”X

From WSC 244 June 2007. What was happening this month

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