War Minus the Shooting: Gray Areas
So Andy Gray, the voice of Sky Sports for two decades and one of the most familiar announcers in soccer, has been sacked. He takes with him his hench-creature Richard Keys, along with any pretense that soccer announcers are any less cretinous than the voices of American sporting events. Gray (who will be familiar even to the most casual American fans of international football thanks to his frequent appearances as the stock voice of FIFA video games) shared with Keys a grasp of the game that translated to extremely dull and predictable commentary; he also, unsurprisingly, shared with Keys a good-old-lads clubhouse sexism and an inflated sense of his invulnerability. This was the quality that led the two of them to make some extremely impolitic remarks, both on and off the air, about a female referee, a lineswoman, and a female West Ham executive. (Of course, he’s been trashing refs and execs his whole career, in his half-assed way; but these folks he attacked for no other reason than that eternal sportsman’s sin, the lack of a penis.)
Now, the details of what they said aren’t really important; it’s the same old sexist horseshit that men in sport have been making for a century, spoken by decaying old farts who can’t get used to the fact that they can no longer vent their 19th-century opinions in public without repercussions anymore. The details of what their defenders have had to say are equally unimportant; it’s the same as every other moronic defense of racism, sexism, and homophobia offered by the low-grade overfed washouts who think of sports as the last bastion of their chuckleheaded vision of society. Reading about it puts one in the exact same position as George Carlin, who found himself paralyzed with indecision over which group was the more reprehensible, sports fans or sports media. (There are those who will, as they always do, lament the loss of ‘a great talent’ to an unfortunate series of tongue-slips, but those who know Andy Gray as an overpaid, overfed and overrated un-personality who could easily be replaced by one of his video game AIs without anyone noticing aren’t likely to mourn this as the disappearance of a modern-day Howard Cosell.)
What’s noteworthy, which is to say comical, about the whole affair, I think, is one of Gray’s remarks: as he and Keys sneered at female official Sian Massey during a match, they agreed one one enormously important point of contention: “What do women know,” Gray dripped, “about the offside rule?” Not only is this ridiculous on its face — in the grand scheme of things, that is, who gives a fuck about the offside rule? — but it’s idiotic within the limits of the conversation. Plenty of pundits, from the genuinely gifted to throwback dimwits like Gray, have told us for generations that one of the things that is so great about ‘the beautiful game’ is its simplicity. Compared to most American team sports, soccer’s rules are extremely easy to understand; this is part of its appeal. Of the major U.S. team games, only basketball comes close, and even it’s far more complex than the rules of football; compare it to cricket and enjoy the subsequent migraine. In the miniature scheme of things, that is, who doesn’t know about the offside rule? Gray doesn’t just think women are dumb; he thinks they’re so dumb that they can’t understand one of the simplest rules in the simplest sport in the world.
Enjoy the dole, Andy; it looks good on you.