It turns out that the revolution was televised, just without commentary or analysis.
It was televised as a thrown-together highlights package reminiscent of a 14-year-old’s YouTube compilation of “goals, VAR controversies and Patson Daka”, because a hitherto revered broadcasting institution punished its highest paid star for calling out fascist-sounding language.
Saturday night’s alternative to Match of the Day, catchily titled Premier League Highlights, wasn’t good. It was a peek into what football highlights shows might be like if the BBC went full North Korea on us and banned all discourse and discussion whatsoever. Heck, we even missed out on Barry Stoller’s 53-year-old theme tune.
Sure, the quality of football was there. Kai Havertz’s goal for Chelsea against Leicester deserved to be shown in high-definition slow motion over and over again. From the same game, it would have been great to hear Gary Lineker – who was watching in person, as it happened – tear up the impartiality rulebook over Daka’s rocket for Leicester. His glowing praise of the Zambian’s strike would have made his criticism of Suella Braverman’s xenophobic claptrap – which is what got us into this mess – sound the ultimate in beige banality.
But without commentary or studio punditry, it was simultaneously relentless and a bit ‘meh’. For all our criticisms of pundits (analysing pundits has become an industry in itself), their discussions do provide breathing space between the frenetic chaos of an all-you-can-eat buffet of highlights.
With nothing but a “whoosh” sound between games, the tide of men running around to the soundtrack of roars and chants was like the constant loops of propaganda, always there but difficult to discern; the hallmarks of dystopian stories like 1984 or a Philip K Dick novel.
There were no snail-trails tracking players taking advantage of defensive mishaps. There was no computer graphic cloud highlighting the space around Liverpool’s men as they folded in the face of Bournemouth. And as fans, that is what we enjoy about MotD: the analysis of pieces of play that we miss if we are watching it in the fuzzy haze of a late Saturday night.
We can’t be at every match and MotD provided – sorry, provides – us with knowledge and insight we wouldn’t have had otherwise. You know, like a public service.
In Saturday night’s weird, churning conveyor belt of football, Jack Harrison’s eye-catching equaliser for Leeds against Brighton was shown a little more than a minute before Dwight McNeil’s stunner against Brentford, which lifted Everton out of the bottom three of the league. It was too much to take in. We needed an Ian Wright, a Micah Richards or an Alan Shearer to tell us why they were so good.
And let’s be frank. It would have been great to hear Jurgen Klopp whinge about how life isn’t fair for him or Liverpool after their defeat at Bournemouth.
But we didn’t get to. All we got were 15 goals, a couple of dodgy decisions and some ’80s synth music at the end. It was a reminder of how things might turn out if the government wielded control over what we watch and listen to. Oh wait, that has already happened.