James Corrigan: When did Jonathan Pearce undergo charisma bypass?
The View From The Sofa: World Cup Draw, BBC2
Monday 07 December 2009
Remember Jonathan Pearce? The towncryer of the airwaves who could make a Southend equaliser in the 22nd minute of the second round of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy sound like the 1990 penalty shoot-out. Whatever happened to him?
On Friday, someone of the same name managed to make the World Cup draw – "live and exclusive from Cape Town!" – sound as boring as six people taking 24 minutes to pick 32 balls from a collection of perspex pots. Not one screech. Even when England drew Algeria. Even when England drew Slovenia. There were Trappist monks undergoing tracheostomies who screeched at this point.
But not the BBC's man in Cape Town. This has been one hell of a refitting job by the corporation. They have lifted the most excitable commentator from commercial radio, opened him up, affixed a silencer and at the same time sucked out all trace of exuberance from his warblings. In short, the BBC has turned Jonathan Davies into Jonathan Edwards. Remarkable.
Actually, Lord Davies of Barryshire (as a previous incumbent of this space used to refer to him) would have been the ideal choice. Either him or Terry Wogan. After Nelson Mandela had left the stage and taken any hint of gravitas with him, there was a discernible Eurovision feel to the proceedings. A few Wogan asides would not have gone amiss, particularly as Charlize Theron continued to flirt with our Becks. David was in town to whisper sweet nothings to Jack Warner, not you, Charlize.
Ms Theron had promised much during rehearsals when pulling out a ball and saying "Ireland" instead of "France". But when it came to the big night, the Oscar winner's stage presence abandoned her and her discomfort took over. "Sometimes no comment says so much more than words," was the best she managed when the hosts drew "Ireland", sorry "France".
Still, at least Ms Theron was more interesting than Jérôme Valcke, the Fifa secretary general who insisted on co-hosting the draw. Is there no boundary to the Fifa ego? I mean, we never saw the Camelot chief executive squeezing in next to Dale Winton on the National Lottery Show. But no, Jérôme wanted his moment and the theory here is that the sec gen made the process so damn complicated to ensure his moment went on and on and on. Fifa thinks so much of itself and its cherished omnipotence that it sought to take all the variables out of the draw. Well, you can't let the fates decide who is lucky and unlucky, can you? After all, have you seen the sort of person who is winning the lottery nowadays?
Except the fates did roar the last laugh, as they always do. Fifa can seed whoever it likes, in whichever pots it likes, but it cannot ensure the groups are the same strength, with the two biggest countries guaranteed to go through. Just go and ask the poor North Koreans. It begs the question, why did Fifa bother in the first place? It should have wheeled in Guinevere and allowed the balls to roll out in groups of four. Imagine how exciting that would have been...
That would certainly have left more time for analysis in the BBC studio. Although what Gary, Al, Lawro and Motty would have done with it is unclear. In the space of the reactive 10 minutes we learnt England have never played Algeria before (yep, Motty) and Fabio Capello would have been delighted despite there being no easy games in the World Cup anymore (yep, Shearer). It was all so predictably dull and predictably Lineker. If the draw failed to run to its script, at least the Beeb's coverage did. A veritable ball-breaker.
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