I’ve just listened to the RR podcast for the Hull match and have a few totally unsolicited comments. Firstly thanks for putting it together; it makes all those mundane daily auto-pilot type tasks more enjoyable.
Oh my! I’ve made another scroller haven’t I?
I recently discovered the full 90 replays are free, which I’m hugely excited about; unfortunately they’re covered in spoilers, so even if you live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific, it’s hard to watch the replay without seeing the score. But it’s nothing a bit of scripting shouldn’t fix. All that to say, I watched the match knowing the score, but before hearing anyone’s opinion of it; so a unique experience I suppose.
Goodness I’ve just realized I’m about to criticize my favorite podcast. Oh well, here we go…
Basically it feels a bit sensationalist and hyperbolic for me. For instance—and you’re not going to want to hear this—MacFadzean wasn’t as bad you’ve made him out to be, I’m not even sure that was his worst game, and it certainly wasn’t the worst of any Sunderland defender in history. In fact, I don’t think he was even majority at fault for the goals. Yes, he was too passive and gave his man too much room to put in those balls, but the scooped balls weren’t exactly Barcelona pin point tap-ins.
Now if Callum had let the guy in that far and he’s got a clear shot on goal, yes, it’s totally his fault. But he hasn’t; he’s slowed down a skilled player and restricted him to a high, easily predictable, slow lob in the box that should be dealt with by the centerbacks or the keeper, and he’s done so without risking much. Now maybe I missed him getting blown by in one of those stream dropouts, or perhaps the lack of oxygen to my brain as I’m watching on the cross trainer has resulted in a failure to store some memory of him being miles out of position, but I’m fairly certain a 0 is overly harsh. For the goals at least, and those are what matter in the end, his teammates should have been able to deal with the situation he created for them. And surely they should have been able to stop it the second time after all the mystery and surprise had gone out of it. I’d go so far as to say keeping a one dimensional ox of a #9 from heading into your net is a baseline required skill for a professional centerhalf.
I also think we’ve gone a bit too far down the path of praise as well. Scowen was good, but he wasn’t a 9 good. Also I think we throw out the term “best game in a Sunderland shirt” a bit too easily. You know, like how Alan Shearer’s only adjective on Match of the Day is “absolutely;” it’s really not likely that every team is “absolutely brilliant” or “absolutely terrible” is it? I expect a knuckle-dragging Mag to lack comprehension of the world beyond black and white I suppose, but I think we should probably hedge a bit to account for our understanding of player performance as points on a dynamic continuum. Statistically speaking, it’s at least unlikely that every game is going to have a “worst/best match in a Sunderland shirt” performance, and even more so multiple, simultaneous, terminally extreme performances on the same team.
Gooch is another example where we’ve probably praised a bit too much. Giving A’s for B’s and C’s works in Kindergarten, but is probably irresponsible elsewhere. Yes, his brand of cut, hustle, and hope was coming off some in the first half. I particularly loved his vertically challenged forward’s slide tackle, gater roll, with a finish of deliciously delivered “please smash the crap out of this at your leisure” cross. The replay was even better as it started with a slow motion 80’s movie montage shot of him rising from the writhing fullback like a lion from a kill, and then slowly turning to finish his business of looting their goal while their defender rolls about on the floor like a nameless defeated thug.
As good as that was, and even coupled with whatever spastic, stream-of-consciouness impluse he was trying to pull off in creating that rather fortunate penalty, it doesn’t really outweigh the same old lone wolf poor decision making that characterizes the majority of his game for me. At least when he’s done at Sunderland he’ll have a future back home as the poster child for the Home Depot: he’s the ultimate do-it-yourselfer. I love his initiative and willingness to take chances; I question his ability to accurately evaluate success probabilities. It’s one thing to try a move here or there, or chase down lost causes. It’s entirely another to believe that this is the time that Maradona run is finally going to come off, and to do so every time you get the ball. Even Maradona didn’t do that.
Point being, I don’t think there was a 0 or 9 in that game.
Finally, even though it wasn’t really mentioned in the pod, I want to throw out there that I like our commentators. Sure, they’re not the posh and polished decades-familiar voices from the big games; these two are a bit more comfortable and familiar. I don’t know them, but I feel like we’re friends watching a match (full disclosure: I may be overly sensitive to this since I haven’t a single friend who would watch Sunderland within a 4000 mile radius).
We do have the typical voice and brain pairing anyway right? Our voice guy just gets carried away, and as he should as far as I’m concerned. My suggestion would be that they not talk at the same time, because I’m actually interested in hearing what they’ve got to say.
Anyway if you need a reference point for bad football commentary, tune into some of the American ones sometime and I think it will calibrate your scale closer to true. It’s like when the Olympics are on and they make “general good sounding voice guy” commentate sports he’s never seen before.
As for the artificial voice raising to incite interest and create drama, well even Martin Tyler does that, and he’s the only voice FIFA players the world over know. It’s all in the delivery mate.
Ed’s Note [Rich]: Thanks for the letter, De Jay... and Gav is too chicken to respond to you directly so I’ll make his excuses for him.
I agree with you that giving Callum McFadzean a zero was harsh, I took it as a hyperbolic flourish Gav used to emphasise just how terrible the left-back’s performance was - and it was truly terrible. Personally, I’d have given him a 2 or 3 as not absolutely everything he did was awful, but his all-round weaknesses cost us the game. I thought Scowen was outstanding, and I know Gav watched his performance carefully; we give out 9s pretty rarely, and for me Scowen was about an 8 - only because I’m saving the 9 for when he hits in a screamer from 35 yards in the last minute of the Northampton game to win us automatic promotion.
The club’s commentary team have definitely grown on me this season, it took a bit of getting used to after listening to Barnsey on BBC Newcastle for so many years, but you’re right, my week now wouldn't be complete without over three hours in the company of Frankie and Danny.
What I can’t agree with is your use of the term “spastic” to describe Gooch’s run into the box to win the pen, maybe it’s got a slightly different usage in the US, but over here its a pretty derogatory term for people living with physical and cognitive impairments, one that I last heard in the school playground 30 years ago. As you’ve proven with the eloquence of your letter, the English language has many ways for you to express an idea - it doesn't require using terms that many of our readers will find deeply offensive.
Anyway, a big “mahalo iā ‘oe” for listening, De Jay, we always appreciate feedback.