An enduring constant running through all sport is the role of the pundit – or “expert” as he is sometimes known. These are the chaps who will not only tell you what is going on in your team's camp, but also provide you with in-depth analysis of the reasons why it is happening. Witness today's commentary on the betting habits of one Wayne (the Munchkin masquerading as a Bash Street Kid) Rooney. Apparently our World Cup hope is in hot water with Sven the Swede because he loses money to the bookies faster than Swen can chat up an FA Assistant. Fortunately we have the pundits of the press and television to keep us informed about these crucial developments. Football commentators are, by and large, foxes.
Unlike football, Cricket is uniquely and fortunately endowed with experts. Cricket coverage on either TV or radio features a plethora of ex-players who are ready to analyse and comment on every aspect of the game. And, they will do it in such a pleasant way as to make the commentators seem part of the game itself. Listening to their comments and explanations becomes as important as the game itself. Who could ever forget the great John Arlott? I'm sure his commentary on the grass growing would have kept the audience on the edge of their seats. Peter Aliss performs the same function for golf. For football? John Motson? Never in the same stadia – never mind the same league. Andy Gray – or, as he is better known, Scottish refugee from the boot room. Remember The Boot Room with Andy? Sky started this with its football coverage. Two hours of Andy Gray talking about football and drawing diagrams on a whiteboard could send you comatose. Lucky for the viewers they included a segment where Andy moved little Subuteo footballers around a green sheet to simulate tactics. Riveting stuff – if you are functionally brain dead. Good thing The Boot Room only lasted a season or so and no-one, I mean no-one, ever mentions it. At all. Ever.
Cricket commentators are, by contrast, almost universally admired and respected. Partly this is to with their position in the hierarchy of the game. Almost all are past players who had very successful careers. So, when they give expert opinion – the viewers are disposed to believe that they know what they are talking about. And, they are so cosmopolitan, like the game itself. Watching an England game involves the opinions of English commentators, the other teams commentators and some neutral commentators. Very cosmo and very commendable. Imagine doing this with football. About the only foreign commentary heard about a football match is that inane footage of some South American nutters screaming, very loudly, a long (and I mean long) drawn out scream that eventually ends in “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOALLLLLLLLL!” Gormless or what?
By now, the more observant reader will be asking, “What has this to do with foxes and hedgehogs?”
Well, for some unknown reason, I ran across this saying from an obscure, ancient, Greek philosopher and decided to blog about it.
The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.
Archilochus (7th-century b.c.e.)
Can you spot the connection between Archilochus and the modern pundit? Hope so, or I have been wasting my time.