Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Sheepish Sky sweep Shearer's past aside

There will be an eerie silence when Gary Lineker next invites ‘expert’ analysis from the Match of the Day couch. Viewers would usually ready themselves for a cliché splurge from the BBC’s preacher of the bleeding obvious, Alan Shearer, but these insights will now be confined to the walls of St James’ Park, now that the former England striker has been appointed Newcastle manager.

This appointment seems familiar. In January 2008, Kevin Keegan was heralded as Newcastle’s ‘favourite son’, ready to restore the club to its rightful place... twelfth place in the Premier League. King Kev’s tenure, however, lasted only eight months and sparked a period of disorder and drama turbulent enough to make Jacqui Smith wince.

Having gambled and failed with a fans’ choice, club owner Mike Ashley called on Joe Kinnear and Chris Hughton before buckling once again to supporter pressure. Inevitably, Shearer has already been lauded by the Toon Army faithful as the ‘messiah’ required to save them from relegation.

With the news coming too late on Tuesday evening for the majority of newspapers, it was left to Sky Sports News to expand on the hilarity at St James’ Park.

As well as its usual bombast, how the rolling news channel really entertained was by maintaining its tradition of pretending that anything happening away from their cameras does not exist.

Formula 1, the Six Nations and autumn international rugby union are a rarity – they are sports events not covered by Sky. Therefore, it seems rational to Murdoch’s minions to view these as pure fiction and, consequently, afford them no recognition.

When looking at a chronology of Shearer’s career, the presenters became noticeably quiet as they discussed his activity after retiring. Having read one disgruntled fan’s email demanding Shearer to “go back to the screens”, the anchors mumbled inaudibly before moving swiftly on to their next Sky Sports News ‘exclusive’.

An unsuspecting first-time viewer of sports broadcasting may have wandered why such sheepish behaviour surrounded the mention of a player’s relation to television. What could these people be hiding? I’d imagine a discussion between the channel’s researchers and producers sounding a little like this:

Researcher: “At least we won’t see Shearer on Match of the Day anymore.”
Producer: “What’s that?”
R: “You know, the Premier League highlights package.”
P: “You mean Football First?”
R: “No, Match of the Day – it’s on a Saturday night on the BBC.”
P: “On the what?”

In such moods, tuning into Sky Sports News is like watching a broadcasting corporation collectively stuffing its ears with its fingers and repeating like an unrepentant schoolchild, “lalalalalalala!”

Somebody, somewhere at the BBC must be delighted. Match of the Day may now even produce a soundbite containing a semblance, however small, of interest. That is, of course, if the programme even exists.

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