Cloak and daggers amid knuckle-dragging

Posted: January 28, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

So Andy Gray got his marching orders from Sky, not for offensive deployment of banal clichés but for ‘sexism’.

Richard Keys later fell on his sword of hyperbole, in a double move that has stunned the world of Sky Sports: a world bloated on excess, distended with theatrical and militaristic analogies and whored with hype.

When news of this story first broke, it seemed an open-and-shut case: the two were recorded contemptuously slandering the ability of Sian Massey as a linesperson on the basis of an age-old gender slur Andy Capp or Sid the Sexist would be proud of. Two knuckle-dragging old fools immersed in the misogynistic hotbed of Premier League football were bound to blurt out something ignorant sooner or later. The fact that Gray and Keys’ egos have their own moons only increased those odds. Keys’ dismissal of Karren Brady’s critique of sexism in English football with the immortal aphorism: ‘Do us a favour love’; could have come straight out of an Alan Partridge script, while Gray’s outrage at a woman daring to pass the same level of training and examination as any other person, and having the nerve to do her job adeptly at Premier League level, was just moronic.

Keys made a remark about Kenny Dalglish ‘going potty’ over an ‘inevitable’ bad decision from Massey, which was a telling remark. For one, it showed that Keys has become the equivalent of the rock star groupie who has been lurking so long that they believes themselves to be ‘part of the band’. He thinks he knows how Kenny Dalglish will react in any given situation, despite the blindingly obvious contradiction of his daughter Kelly working in the same field as Keys himself. The fact that Massey actually got her tight offside call completely right is never here nor there. If she had got it wrong, it would not have been because she had breasts. The fact is linesman generally get many decisions wrong. It’s nothing to do with their gender, or if it is perhaps it displays that, whisper it quietly, women may actually prove superior in this particular field. If Massey goes on to make incorrect calls at a regular rate in games then this is the basis to judge that she is not ready, not some boring and pitiful stereotype from old men terrified that sisters are doing it for themselves. Andy Gray, meanwhile, has been a parody of himself for so long even he yawns. Catchphrases like: ‘Take a bow, son’ and ‘What a hit’ are deployed lazily and overzealously. His insights have become lessons in banality, as he refuses to say anything remotely controversial or derogatory. For brutal fouls, the worst you can expect from Gray is: ‘He won’t enjoy seeing that again’. For negative tactics, the most scathing remark will be: ‘I’d like to see them show a little more ambition’, and of course his resolute defence of the one-dimensional pub football long-ball tactics deployed by the likes of Stoke and Blackburn is galling. So given these notes from the prosecution, it seems nobody will really miss the two titanic egos no longer spouting overblown hype and trite gushings at us. But is there more to this episode than meets the Sky?

Let’s start by examining the evidence against. An off-air recording of the two talking about Massey was added to by another off-air recording of Gray conversing with touchline reporter Andy Burton, who began discussing a colleague’s appraisal of Massey’s appearance. The ‘new evidence’; ironically old evidence, used as the final nail in Gray’s coffin was a video of him suggesting co-presenter Charlotte Jackson tuck his microphone down the front of his trousers for him. With all due respect, this ‘evidence’ is flimsy at best. For one, if this is grounds for dismissal, at least 50% of the country’s offices workforce would be sacked overnight. Making a crude suggestion off the cuff is done every day at thousands of workplaces nationwide and can never constitute a sackable offence. We are human beings, and lewd comments are part of us dealing with the chemistry between genders. If these comments are grotesquely offensive, or form part of a series of incidents, then of course that is a serious disciplinary matter. But still, a defence needs to be heard before a dismissal can be affected.

Thus we ask ourselves: where did this evidence emerge from? Well as it was not ever broadcast, we can only assume that Sky owned all the footage, therefore Sky are responsible for the leakage. But why? Well, the great conspiracy theory is about to rear its ugly head, because of course this whole sordid affair has everything to do with Andy Gray daring to take legal action against the News of the World; owned of course by Rupert Murdoch’s News International; for allegedly tapping into his voicemail. Without sounding too dramatic, there are three key ways to oust enemies from within: through slander/accusations; forcing them out through systematic bullying; or giving them enough rope to hang themselves. As egotistical braggards who had clearly lost touch with the real world, the last option was clearly the right one for Sky, as it offered guaranteed results with a little patience, with little blowback against the station. After all, if Gray and Keys had been professional at all times, there could have been no evidence with which to sack them. But take the bait they did, and most would say they got what they deserved.

But let’s just imagine the worst case scenario here. What if Murdoch actually did say to his top executives after hearing of Gray’s legal action: ‘Get some people on this. I want some incriminating footage, enough to dismiss him’? It wouldn’t be beyond the realms of comprehension to imagine a person deployed specifically to rake through off-air footage specifically to compile evidence against Gray. The fact that Keys was also caught in it was convenient, as he would have no doubt vehemently defended his friend. Finally, what about Andy Burton, the touchline reporter suspended for provoking the conversation with Gray about Sian Massey’s attractiveness? If he loses his job this point is invalid, but why would he lose his job? After all, blood has been shed; justice has already seen to be done, and nobody really cares about Burton. So if he is reinstated; as we all imagine he will be; is it again stretching the limits of credibility to suggest he may have been complicit in goading Gray to talk trash about Massey? Offered a nice sweetener and told to accept suspension in order to ensure Gray was fired? Not that I would suggest Burton is a turncoat against Gray, because what can you do if your powerful paymasters ask you to do something a little fishy? Andy Burton has no power, if he attempted legal action against Sky, he would have suffered the same fate as Gray and Keys, albeit less reported. Although deluded and out of touch, Richard Keys had a very pertinent point about ‘dark forces’, even if it was lost in his ocean of self-pity and talk of envy at his position. Murdoch wins again.

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