For those of you who aren’t familiar with the music of Hedgehoppers Anonymous the title of this blog will mean nothing and to most people the content will have a corresponding effect.
Hedgehoppers Anonymous were a British band of the swinging sixties and their big, well only hit was “It’s Good News Week” – a line of that song is referenced in the above heading. It was an apocalyptic tale of nuclear war set to a sixties beat with the catchy line “Someone dropped a bomb some where, contaminating the atmosphere”. The lads were from the local RAF at Wittering but after the one hit in 1965 the band broke up a year later. Singer Mick Tinsley had a great voice – somewhere between Gene Pitney and Eden Kane. Their star burned brightly for a transient moment then they were gone.
Well personality sports commentators are contaminating the air too but unfortunately unlike the Hedgehoppers these self-absorbed knobs are unlikely to fizz out of the frame any time soon. They are highly prized and respected parts of the media wheel and they do know how to self-grease that wheel.
The tragedy here is that some actually have the intelligence and knowledge to make a valuable contribution to the viewers’ understanding of the game. However some have abandoned the basics of the job and have become the flash Harrys – the white shoe brigade of sports journalism. They deserve our condemnation for what they have done to the job. The job in case you have forgotten in the mist of their self-lording sprays is to simply add something to the sports pictures that we have to watch on either Channel Nine or Fox. To add acute observations would be good and insightful analysis would also be greatly appreciated. But what drivel do these blowhards add – well lets just consider just two examples in the last week or so.
In the replay of the Sunday Rugby League match of the day (Saints versus the Tinks) on Channel Nine we are treated to eighty minutes of football with another forty minutes of ads or filler. You know the drill – ads from little Tommy Waterhorse followed by Joel Madden flogging KFC – the fatuous followed by the fattening. On that matter, how that tattooed log (Madden) got the Logie recently for Best New Talent (yes I know he’s got a Foundation but so has a toilet block) must appear in any new book of media miracles. If this purveyor of fatty food is the best new talent in this land we are seriously sausaged old chum and we should all turn off the halogens, get in a boat and leave for the promised land.
Look I do understand the concept of cross-promotion and advertising but I didn’t think that “serious” commentators like Phillip ‘Gus’ Gould would feel the need to contaminate their craft with endorsements of shit-awful dribble like The Noice even if the stupid old tool actually likes it. Phillip is a great insightful sports commentator even though he often repeats his Sunday comments in Fairfax on the Monday which might suggest he is either very busy or has Alzheimers. But there he was mid first half bantering on-air with Ray “Rabbits” Warren about the when and whats of The Noice. And of course on cue a banner ad for the same shit music show dribbled across the bottom of the screen. By the way I love ‘Rabbits’. He could call a cold. But somewhere along the way these sad, self-absorbed old blokes have lost it. They have allowed the marketing moles to undermine the integrity of the job they were put there to do.
So when the arm wrestle between the Tinks and Saints is revving up we have Gould and Warren dribbling like codgers on a park bench. That’s not what you are there for. It’s not the Sydney Theatre Company and it’s not Chekov. This is Rugby League. This is sweat and boils. This is bruise and barge. So if you cannot do us the basic courtesy of calling the game with experienced analysis you should get on the boat and leave it to someone who can.
So let’s look at just one of the new breed of commentators. Let’s start with Matty Johns and his new league show on Fox, ‘Monday Night’. Now this is a new talent worthy of a Logie. In what category? Well you be the judge.
Matty had an unsuccessful run on Channel 7 in 2010 with ‘The Matty Johns Show’ that was allegedly a “smut-free” version of the ‘Footy Show’. He has obviously learnt a lot since then.
I hadn’t been lucky enough to catch this new talents show until last Monday night. It follows Fox’s Monday evening match, so I normally turn the sound off so I don’t have to listen to “Brandy” Alexander whine for eighty minutes and then fall asleep. But for some strange reason I stayed up. The half-time on Fox’s Monday night league has been enhanced by the addition of celebrity sprinter, Matt ‘Sherve’ Shervington. Matt was the champion of something, possibly of the bleeding obvious over 30 seconds. He stands in front of a Don Lane special glass table at half-time and with Mark ‘Gaz’ Gasnier, the “fire-up” king of Origin. But his set-up statement to Brandy at half-time really became the bench mark for commentary.
“Brandy…arhhh the passing game from the Tigers…they’re….arhhh actually catching and passing…”. Gee, where do you go from there? So precise, so…arhhh insightful.
But I digress. The first thing we see of Matty is a pre-show cross towards the end of the footy. We see him wiping plates and allegedly asking Mr Murdoch how he’d like his eggs. See Matty is one of your wags. An irreverent knockabout lad in the mould of Hoges. Taking on the establishment. What Matty would have us believe is that he takes no instructions from bosses, after all he is a lad from the coal fields of Newcastle. But in reality Matty if Mr M asked you to wipe anything of his you probably would.
On a set that looked liked it was made from disused office Furniture Matty’s Monday Night crew consists of Gordon ‘Gordy’ Tallis, Nathan ‘Hiney’ Hindmarsh and guest Laurie ‘Lossa’ Daley.
So is it league we start with? No, Johns makes a reference to Hiney’s eyes suggesting he had been on the ganja. There are lot’s of giggles and Cheech and Chong references. It’s all jolly and matey. One couldn’t imagine that this is in the same week that clubs are under increased scrutiny about illegal supplements and the press is full of reports of calves blood and colons.
But it got better. Johns cuts to footage of a league photographer, called Col who is shown taking photos of teams coming out of the tunnel. Col’s mistake is to move between a couple of cheerleaders and squat on the ground to get his shot.
“Col I think it’s pretty illegal getting ‘pootie’ shots”. Lots of giggles followed by an “only joking Col”.
Of course it finally got on to league and the State of Origin with incumbent Blues coach Daley asked by Johns, “Where’s ya head at mate?”
So that’s our lot in League Land. Our game is full of jolly, chummy, matey blokes who think that what they have to say is more important than the game they are paid vast sums to commentate on and they are contaminating the atmosphere. What we need is a clean out. We need something to go off in the middle of this matey, blokey, self-centred world and when it does let us hope we have something to replace it that is close to intelligent commentary without the dribble.
Postscript: Yesterday the cross promotion reference on Sunday League was ‘The Big Bang Theory’ – Rabs reckons that Gus just loves it. Now doesn’t that make a good news week?