Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Forget Keys? You're Locked Out Andy!

Unless you have been locked in a nuclear bunker or Newcastle United's trophy room, then you will have heard all the hullabaloo surrounding Andy Gray and Richard Keys' 'off-air' comments.

Richard Keys may have resigned over the affair, but his buddy Andy Gray was not given that option having been unceremoniously booted out of the Sky Sports organisation 24 hours earlier. Opinion appears to be divided over whether the pair's comments regarding Sian Massey, and her ability to be officiating at the Wolves vs Liverpool match on Saturday, warranted the fuss they have caused.

It is certainly true that the comments were no different than many that could have been heard throughout sports bars up and down the land as punters waited to watch the game. It is also true that, in its insatiable quest to take over world sport, Sky seem to have a track record of an overly zealous ruthlessness when it comes to rooting out anything that may alienate or offend potential paying customers. You need look no further than the example of Rodney Marsh and his 'toon army' joke to see that Sky has form when it comes to this sort of situation. So was it fair?

In many ways, the answer to that question has to be no. Conversations along the lines of the one that Gray and Keys engaged in are repeated in work places everyday of the year. You can't even say that because the conversation took place within the confines of a television environment that the rules should be different. Not that I ever watch it, but any episode of Loose Women probably contains far more sexist content, albeit aimed the opposite way around. It is hard to imagine anyone matching that collection of menopausal women for gender bashing antics.

The conspiracy theorists have been out in force claiming that the fact that a second example of Gray's inappropriate behavior came to light less than 24 hours after he had been warned over his comments showed signs of a vendetta. There may well be something behind that. It does appear somewhat coincidental that as Andy Gray gets embroiled in a legal dispute with News International that all of a sudden BSkyB fell out of love with him. There is no doubt that the comments he made to Charlotte Jackson about helping him place a microphone inside his pants were inappropriate (see below). However, before any of us get holier than thou over all of this, perhaps we should take a moment to consider any flirtatious comments we may have made at work. Most of us have said worse.

There is no doubt that both Andy Gray and Richard Keys can claim to be unlucky. There is no doubt that they can claim that it isn't fair. There is no doubt that they can claim that they did not deserve to lose their jobs. There is also no doubt that they are wrong - just not for the reasons everyone else seems to be listing.

Andy Gray brought all of this attention on himself because he is an attention seeker. He seemed to find it impossible to see his role as a sport pundit as anything other than an excuse to be the centre of attention. He forgot that the show was called 'Monday Night Football' and not 'Monday Night Andy Gray.' Its about the football Andy - not you!

He also brought the added severity of his own words back upon himself. In the pubs up and down the land where other men were expressing similar sexist comments in everyday banter, it was a case of people expressing opinions. In the course of his 20 years on Sky Sports, Andy Gray had forgotten that the words passing from his mouth were only opinions. His tone, his demeanour, and the way he attacked anyone who dared to disagree with him, all showed that he saw himself as an oracle of fact. He positioned himself as an authority on football. What he said mattered. Well so be it Andy, you got your way.

Most of all, he deserved to lose his job - and by association his sniggering companion - because he wasn't very good at it. His inability to hide his dislike of certain teams, or his embarrassing love-in with Alex Ferguson and Manchester United, was compounded by the fact that this 'voice of football' was so often just plain wrong. None more so than on Saturday. As most of us slowly sunk our heads into our pints on seeing the replays of Liverpool's 'offside' goal, I wonder what thoughts were going through the head of football's oracle of fact? Perhaps he was wondering where he will find work again?

Goodbye and good riddance Mr Gray!

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