Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In the battle of football pods there is only one clear winner...

This year I followed the Times of London's The Game Podcast (Never mind the fact that the podcast is impossible to find on their website) and Football Weekly from The Guardian. The Game is put out every Monday. Football Weekly has two editions, on Monday and Thursday.

Hands down, Football Weekly is the better of the two. Host James Richardson keeps things lively with humor, wordplay, the occasional note of movie criticism, and good questions. The podcast regulars are a motley, revolving sort, with usual suspects Sid Lowe (commenting on all things in Spanish football) and Barry Glendenning (who, humorously, does not care and cannot stop himself from caring about the game). Although at times the pod sometimes recycles common wisdom (i.e.: the myth that Liverpool have a small squad, and thus are disadvantaged vis a vis Manchester United), this happens rarely. The pod is actually quite good at popping balloons of hype and at getting to the nitty gritty of the day. Most of all, this pod is usually good fun to listen to because of the rapport between the pod-casters--at times I feel like I'm in a salon, and the topic just happens to be football.

The Game is nowhere near as good as Football Weekly. The game is hosted by Phill Jupitus, who does little to insert his personality into the proceedings, and who must feel, judging from the job that he does, that his role is to keep people talking. To be honest, he really needs to find the cajones to tell Gabriele Marcotti to shut up (better yet, to stfu) from time to time. Gabriele Marcotti is The Times' European Football Correspondent, and he is often offers an incredibly insightful perspective on the state of the game. I enjoy reading his columns. I appreciate that he has strong opinions. However, the man has a tendency to turn into a complete prick, especially when he disagrees with Alyson Rudd's take on the game. Mr. Marcotti is someone who needs a leash. He also needs to realize that as perceptive as he is, he is sometimes wrong -- I am incredibly annoyed that he cannot let referee Howard Webb's questionable call against Newcastle go: Marcotti sees it as a great injustice, I think it was a referee seeing a player impeding another player's access to the ball (there was another similar, talked about call, involving Liverpool earlier in the season). I also think that no matter how 'unjust' it may seem when referees' decisions can impact the outcomes of matches, that is why they are there -- not to act as advocates for the spectators or the teams, but as advocates for fair and fluid play. Ultimately the referee is a part of the pitch -- it is up to the players to play the game and perform on the field. If Drogba had scored in the second half of the second game against Barcelona (and he had ample opportunity to do so), then none of the so-called questionable calls the referee made would have mattered. If Newcastle had played better in their 37 other games, then one call by a referee would not have mattered.

One of the issues with The Game is that it would be very easy to mistake it for a Gabriele Marcotti podcast instead of a London Times podcast. Oliver Kay, who is incredibly knowledgeable and interesting to listen to, shows up rarely. Tony Evans has been spot-on all season about Manchester United's weaknesses is also an irregular. Some of the other infrequent contributors are complete and utter rubbish. One pod attendee actually suggested that all physical contact should be outlawed from the game -- I could not believe that someone who had lived with football all their lives would say something so stupid.