There’s a certain dictat to TV football commentators that appears to be the current flavour of the month.
The one that tells them, whenever pitchside microphones pick up swearing from the crowd, that they have to instantly apologise to any offended souls watching back home, even though those mikes are there to make those souls feel like they’re part of the crowd.
Many of whom swear.
The scripted “apologies if you heard some inappropriate language there” was uttered twice on Sky on Sunday, once when an irate Evertonian yelled “Come on, ya k***head” at a Crystal Palace player, and at Stamford Bridge a day earlier when Chelsea fans serenaded Jose Mourinho with that version of La Donna e Mobile that includes the request to eff-off.
But all that was inappropriate was the apology.
These TV companies are broadcasting live from a football ground, places where four-letter words are a major part of the vocabulary.
It’s like covering the Tour de France and saying sorry for picking up French-speakers in the crowd.
If they want to apologise for inappropriate language at football grounds, do so when they hear racist chants or songs about disasters and poverty, or whenever Glenn Hoddle is co-commentating.
Matchdays are not about civility.
As the BT producer discovered on Saturday when he thought it a good idea to have Jurgen Klopp and his pal David Wagner do a joint-chat after Liverpool’s win at Huddersfield, and viewers were served up an interview so beige and wooden it could have been sponsored by DFS.
Instead of Wagner saying the referee had bottled it and Klopp saying three points are three points, so up yours, the Liverpool boss apologised for winning and talked of how things will pick up for the plucky Terriers. Wagner just wanted the patronising hell to end.
Football can be at its most riveting when tempers fray and grown men lose their rag.
What will be most remembered from last weekend?
Mesut Ozil’s sublime performance for Arsenal? Manchester City’s 5-0 demolition of Burnley? Or a deranged Mourinho chasing that goading Chelsea coach down the touchline trying to throttle him?
Yes, that one.
That was the incident that had you yelling to everyone else in the house, “Get in here, it’s all kicking off!” Especially when he followed it up with a provocative three-fingered salute to barracking Chelsea fans.
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Scenes far different from the final moments of Chelsea’s previous home league game, when Maurizio Sarri and Klopp fell into each others’ arms in a post-coital haze after watching their sides fail to win.
Mourinho is the only top six manager losing his rag these days, which makes you pine for his spats with Arsene Wenger, and Alex Ferguson’s with Rafa Benitez.
But the aggro may soon be back if this title race stays as close as it is, right to the death.
Because Klopp has a track record of exploding and Sarri doesn’t shy away from expletive-riddled scraps with fellow managers and journalists — and famously gave the finger to hostile Juventus fans as the Napoli coach pulled in to the Turin stadium in April.
Afterwards, when footage of him flipping the bird went viral and he was asked if he would apologise to the Juve fans, he was unrepentant, saying: “I replied to a group of people who were spitting at the bus and insulting us for being Neapolitan.”
In other words: Football is tribal, emotions run high, and inappropriate gestures and language happen.
Get over it.
Which should be the go-to matchday TV apology.
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