Picture this if you will. It’s Friday night, Tottenham Hotspur versus Manchester United on Sky Sports. The football fanatics have been starved of meaningful competition and are licking their lips in anticipation.
Sky, as they do, have started the build up early. They’ve shown the teams arriving, the stand might be empty but you’d never know it through your TV screen. Now that football is back, all the big guns are present – not literally, but through the marvels of modern technology they may as well be – we’re talking David Jones presenting, Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher, Roy Keane, Graeme Souness and Thierry Henry.
It’s nearly game time, and it’s down to serious football talk. “So Gary,” Jones begins, “what can you tell us about Bruno Fernandes.” It’s the softest of pitches but Neville is caught like a rabbit in the headlights, “well David,” he concedes, “I don’t really know much about him.”
A couple of days back after a three-month layoff and Sky Sports premier football pundit doesn’t know much about one of the most exciting prospects in the game? Actually, forget Neville and his strong United ties for a second, what if it was Carragher, Keane, Souness or Henry? It would still be shocking and show a complete lack of professionalism from somebody who is being paid considerable sums to know their sport and its players.
It’s a moot point really though, because we all know it just wouldn’t happen. No chance. Not in football and certainly not at the highest levels of punditry.
Saturday just past, C.B.S. anchor Jim Nantz tosses a similar pitch to expert analyst Nick Faldo. “So Nick, what can you tell us about Collin Morikawa?” Can you guess the response? That’s right, unfortunately he couldn’t because, in his own words, he doesn’t “really know that much about him.”
That’s Collin Morikawa, world number 27 – ok, he was 44 last week week, but still. That’s Collin Morikawa who has never missed a cut as a professional. That’s Collin Morikawa, defending Barracuda Champion who was a PGA Tour winner in only his sixth start. That’s Collin Morikawa, maybe the best iron player in the world who’s not called Tiger Woods. That’s Collin Morikawa whose name you mispronounced three times earlier this year when he was already established as one of the hottest young talents in the game.
We’re not expecting you to start listing off his Collegiate golf achievements, or to know what his favourite book, movie and song are. We would just like a little analysis from our expert analyst. It doesn’t even have to be expert.
Hell, I’m far from an expert but those little nuggets are off the top of my head. I could have added that he’s a hell of a tee-to-green player, and that his putting is the weakest part of his game. Which of course bore out over the next few hours, but that’s information that anybody who watches an unhealthy amount of golf could provide without being any sort of expert.
For somebody whose work ethic as a player was legendary, whose preparation could never be questioned, somebody for whom paralysis by analysis became a legitimate mid-career concern to have such a flippant attitude to the requirements for the role he now finds himself in is staggering.
And he’s got the number one role in golf. Fortunately, Sky Sports provide their own commentary team for most events, but if you’re an American viewer, then you’ve got Faldo for the Masters and the Open Championship too.
I can understand the initial reasoning for Sir Nick’s appointment. Here you have a well-spoken Englishman – Faldo could read a chapter from Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho on camera and most Americans would think it polite – who is a six-time major champion to boot and a notorious loner who’s unlikely to be tainted by old loyalties.
But sadly, that’s not how it’s played out.
Faldo once thanked the media from the “heart of his bottom,” before going on to sing Sinatra’s My Way on the final green at Muirfield many years ago. Time may have passed, but the absolute bare minimum approach which he seems to bring to every broadcast is every bit as contemptuous.
The record shows, he took the dough, and did it his way.