Outside the Box – Football on TV: Lawro plays the Twit as BBC confidence turns to England despair
It’s easy afterwards, in the hazy mist of reflection that hangs mournfully across the country each time the England team are wrenched from a major tournament, to neatly nestle back into the default self-loathing English mind-set and pretend we were always doomed to fail, fated to forever chase the elusive shadows of ’66.
But admit it.
Despite the prevalent pessimism that shrouded the England team leading into the tournament. Despite the fact that England’s performances so far were on par with Stoke’s reserves. Despite Jordan Henderson; you believed that England could do it on Sunday, didn’t you?
I unadvisedly watched the whole of Sunday’s MOTD Live: England v Italy again yesterday. And in the sobering post-penalties melancholy, it was staggering to see how unfathomably confident the team at the BBC were before the game. Lineker and his mob were, in hindsight, far too giddy and excitable in the build up to the massive quarterfinal. Perhaps that’s just how anybody feels when they get to leave Salford. Because, for the first time in the tournament, Lineker, Hansen and the rest were flown out to Kiev, and the trip seemed to have left them displaying the kind of misplaced self-assurance that Jimmy Carr exudes when visiting his accountant. It wasn’t just them either. All week, the BBC were boasting that they were “the only place to see all of England’s remaining Euro 2012 games” – turns out after last night that all they actually had was exclusivity to show ‘all of England’s remaining Euro 2012 game’. The BBC were sure then, and the pundits even more so: “I think the Italian’s are eminently beatable,” said Hansen. “England will do it on penalties” Dixon promised. And Shearer? Well as ever, his ramshackle analysis failed to deliver any substantive points and even now I don’t quite know whether he tipped England or not.
Notwithstanding the BBC teams’ conviction, I still entered the game with a healthy dose of trepidation. It was England after all. I was soon calmed though when the jewel of BBC’s coverage, Mark Lawrenson, began his honeyed commentary. And by ‘jewel’, I mean ‘turd’. Yep, Lawro’s morose whimsy is a strangely reassuring soundtrack to England games. He removes almost all tension with his flippant one-liners and irksome drivel; you forget you’re watching a European Championship quarterfinal and it instead felt like one of those ’50 Greatest Football Gaffs’ tapes you find in Tesco at Christmas for £2.99. I kept expecting to see Gary Neville give Ronnie Rosenthal a rollicking for missing that open goal. Lawro even found time to have a pop at Twitter users when he called them “sad” during the second half. A curious choice of words when you consider his face is so full of sorrow and dread that it is used by scientists to sedate over-sexed chimps.
Still, maybe Lawro’s way is best. Maybe supporting England would be infinitely more bearable if we all conveyed a healthy detachment. Maybe it really doesn’t matter all that much. The BBC are probably wishing they had felt that way now. What are they going to do with all of those pre-match Shakespearean poems and montages of Bobby Moore holding hands with Paul Gascoigne whilst humming ‘The Great Escape’ they had ready for the Semis and Final they were so sure England would reach? I suppose they could edit Stuart Pearce into them and give them an airing for the Olympics. Yeah, four little words: come on Great Britain!!
It’s actually a good job Hodgson’s boys did lose to Italy on Sunday according to ITV and “comedian” Jason Manford. Last week you may have caught Eurogeddon: Why England Shouldn’t Win Euro 2012 on ITV4 in which Manford and “some of the funniest people in the country” promised to provide us with a list of reasons why a victory for the Three Lions would bring the country to its knees. Well for starters, ‘the funniest people in the country’ were nothing of the sort and were in fact the kind of people you would expect to turn up on ITV4 at 10pm. Rufus Hound, that weird fella from Shooting Stars and Stacey Soloman were the witty raconteurs who explained that a Euro 2012 win for England would result in a country awash with boozy, feckless, flag-waving lunatics reading 98-page editions of The Sun filled with gushing eulogies about Wayne Rooney and John Terry while the Queen appears on Soccer AM with the Cross of St. George painted on her cheek and a tattoo of Roy Hodgson’s face on her thigh.
Probably a good job Pirlo was so good on Sunday after all then wasn’t it? England can continue in their comfortable role as perennial underachievers, Jason Manford can go back to philandering his way around the Internet without the worry of a beer-soaked apocalypse, and I can go back to my preparations for the Olympics and finding new ways to laugh at Alan Shearer’s hair. Come on Great Britain!!!