There are many things that annoy me about Andy Gray.
His punditry is free of insight.
He is a hype merchant. He sells the Premier League. He spouts bullshit to promote it.
He is in love with the most overrated footballer of our time, Steven Gerrard.
Still, it seems slightly sad that he has departed Sky Sports. He has become, for better or worse, synonomous with their Premiership coverage. When I think of football commentary, I always think of Martin Tyler and Andy Gray. They both have great, dramatic voices. I always found it funny that Tyler, though clearly the smarter of the two, always bowed to Andy's "knowledge". There was a great chemistry between the two, a whiff of Brokeback Mountain even.
Gray has made an art-form out of growling ostensibly dull, unimaginative cliches. He has a stock pile of go-to phrases to use during moments of drama. "Take a boo son". "What a hit". "That's what I love about this league". "WOW". His ridiculous Scottish accent somehow makes this work. When I think back to some of the great matches I've seen- like Liverpool's 4-3 win over Newcastle in 1996- Tyler and Gray's commentary at the vital moments is often as fundamental a part of the recollection as the very goals themselves.
Gray's other great on-air love affair was with the appalling, hairy, Richard Keys, who should surely also face the sack. Keys is a horrible man. On-air he fawns and banters in a bland, nauseating way with Gray and the mildly retarded Jamie Redknapp. Off-air he has proven himself just as big a cunt in a different way. Keys is a smug little fuck who ought to be replaced by the infinitely more knowledgeable and likeable Jeff Stelling, or, even better, the brilliant James Richardson (although a part of me would hate to see Richardson corrupted by the corporate smog of smugness at Sky).
Although I often find myself disagreeing with the opinions of Andy Gray, I also disagree with the way he is now being treated. His comments about the female assistant referee were not well-founded but he did not speak them on air and so it is harsh to say he acted so unprofessionally as to warrant this kind of punishment. What he said could be filed under 'banter'. Not particularly original or funny, but then he might not have even meant what he was saying. We've all used some simple, universal types of humour to endear ourselves to people, to fit in. It can be fun to say outrageous things, without danger of censure, to spark a bit of laughter. I've made 'racist' remarks on this here blog- it doesn't matter because nobody reads it- but I'm not a racist. I wouldn't say those things in an arena where there would be consequences, and, (hopefully?) I don't really mean them.
Andy Gray, Richard Keys, that other, sideline-reporting dickhead- they did not know the world would ever listen. It was like a few guys sitting in a pub having their idea of a laugh.
Of course, there is a greater context to it all, the idea that women are still being discriminated against in sport, which is sad. Most male officials are routinely lambasted. I wouldn't question a woman's ability to do the job at least as well as most of the men. Who knows, it might even inspire a few of those classless players to show a little more decorum on the pitch.
The views that Gray and Keys spouted were disappointing, but not intended for public consumption. In their "performances" on TV, they are able to hide their prejudices well enough. That should be all that really matters. Even if their mindsets are so outdated, I don't think anyone should really care too much what these guys think. If they do, maybe it's the public at large who need fixing. There is still this notion that people in the public eye should be morally upstanding in everything they do. They might earn monster salaries, wear better suits; inside, they're as dirty as me or you.
What is equally unsavoury, to me, is the clamour to judge. The mass climb atop the moral high horse. The Guardian's articles of condemnation are the best example of this I've seen. Typically middle class, pompous, liberal-minded, "all people should be perfect like us" rubbish.
Of course I like to judge people too. But wanton sexism is, to me, only a distant second when it comes to the worst sins of Richard Keys. Being a generally unbearable wanker still tops the list.