Part One: Dodds - chief amongst fools
We are used to ex-footballers (and many others) displaying execrable grammar on our radios and televisions. Perhaps you think this of no importance and indeed I am not berating anyone in interview or the occasional appearance for talking in this manner, but I do find it reprehensible that resident presenters make no attempt to correct their mistakes and that broadcasters do not seem to encourage them to learn the correct way to express themselves. I realise that to many this will seem pedantic but I think it a pity in a general sense and counter-productive to a radio show to employ people who cannot speak correctly. However, even if one disregards grammatical accuracy altogether, surely it is important that someone speaking on the radio understands the meanings of the words he utters. Billy Dodds is one who does not, despite being paid to tell us his opinions (of which more, later) on BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound program.
Dodds has a very small vocabulary, so repeats himself a lot; this is irritating when it is approximately the correct word, shoe-horned roughly to fit a myriad of nuances and downright shameful when it is the wrong word altogether that finds itself recurring incorrectly. One tortuous evening, when he was going on about decisions given against Celtic (a favourite theme, see below), he repeatedly misused the word "blatant". "They (referees) have got to get the blatant ones right" he repeated until Richard Gordon asked him kindly what he meant by "blatant". By this point it seemed clear that he meant "important" rather than "completely obvious" but, despite Richard Gordon's prompting, Dodds was not going to either get it correct or make clear what he thought the word meant. The question, "What do you mean by 'blatant', Billy?" was met with the answer "What do I mean by blatant? I mean blatant". The saddest part of that being that Dodds probably thought he had clarified the matter. More recently he confused 'consistently' and 'continually' while talking about, (what else?), decisions against Celtic. As an ex-Ranger player he probably feels this is a good way to be regarded as an independent thinker; a description he contravenes every time he opens his mouth. There were others before that and presumably have been since but I have been driven away from the radio coverage of the sport I have followed for over forty-five years.
I do not mean that it was solely Dodds's verbal infelicities that drove me from the radio; after all even without him we have endured years of tortured syntax and misapplied terms. It is only one aspect of a general malaise that runs through the entire programme night after night, season after season, but has now reached such a low point that I can bear it no longer. There is avoidance of original thought or in Dodds's case apparently none that exists. He covers this up by intoning "Ah'm telling you.....telling ya...ah'm telling you" as though he knows the ultimate truth behind the creation of black holes, when in fact he is expressing a half-baked, second-hand 'idea' about a mundane happening in Scottish football. Furthermore it almost always turns out to be an idea which can be dismissed, by even the most cursory examination of readily available data, as arrant nonsense.
My escape from the radio does not spare me, as the bold Billy pops up in text coverage too. As I was taking refuge in silent reading, I followed the Aberdeen v Celtic game (hardly worth specifying which one, everyone knows the winner in advance and that Zander Diamond will be celebrating at the end) when suddenly the message popped up:
2112: "I just get the feeling the referee is going to give Aberdeen something tonight." BBC Radio Scotland pundit Billy Dodds thinks his former club are far from out of this game.
The remark at the end by the text commentator puts a flattering gloss on an outrageous piece of "I know dark secrets", Dodderism. I cringed as that voice in all its horrific mixture of conceit and ignorance arose unwanted from the words on the screen. I just knew it was said in his "I'm an ex-player who understands the machinations of this world far better than you ever will" tone; a tone that always seems to precede a piece of cliché-ridden received "wisdom" (i.e. nonsense) or is immediately debunked by the events he hopelessly mis-forecasts. I knew there and then that had some of Aberdeen players actually wanted to try for a point or three that it was already too late, Dodds had declared the ref would gift the Dons a passage back into the game so, inevitably, nothing of the sort transpired and Celtic duly and quickly wrapped up the "contest" with two more goals.
Dodds's 'debating technique' is simply to ignore what others say and repeat whatever unsubstantiated "point" he first came out with. If challenged, he acts as though he were mortally offended. Then, in a devastating manoeuvre of logical exposition, he repeats himself again but this time even "louder". If this does not sway his dialogue partner into immediate agreement he bleats indignantly that he is not understood/listened to/treated properly and then attacks the other on any grounds he thinks the audience will be too stupid to see through. Ironically, this dimmest of presenters is fond of thinking that others are stupid. The mind boggles as he lays into his acquaintances, describing them, with his favoured epithet, as "thick".
Why, one must ponder, does the BBC employ him? Perhaps it is to provoke - there are hints that he is being groomed to be "controversial", but mainly it seems they like him as a foil, much in the same way as they employed Ian Wright on TV; the fool that makes the others on the show look insightful and intelligent by comparison. Dodds is so bad he makes John Robertson seem almost bearable, Richard Gordon almost urbane, James Traynor almost a skilled debater and, that walking self-aggrandizing machine, Chic Young almost justified in his pompous self-promotion.
Part Two: Chic - purveyor of fine wine
Dodds's lack of words allows Richard Gordon to make the ludicrous assertion that Chic Young is "a walking thesaurus". The never bashful 'Chico', far from denying this laughable appellation, acts as though he is a kind, sage Uncle who will tutor the word-deprived youngster. Chico has many more delusions than I have time to go into here, one particularly grating one being his belief he has a vast knowledge of pop and rock music, despite struggling to remember well know artists names on a regular basis. To be fair to Richard Gordon, Chic Young is a walking thesaurus in one sense, though in one sense only. He is a fountain of schoolboy terms for his real passion in life - the promotion of booze. Following the tried and trusted 'Sony Award Winning Supping Programme' route of forever chattering about drinking and getting blitzed, Young rotates such terms as "a lemonade or two", "vimto", "a sherbet", "a glass of two of vino", "a small libation or ten" ad infinitum in his cheer-leading part in the programme's seemingly main remit of boosting the trade of Scottish and Newcastle breweries and ensuring that no opportunity goes to waste in encouraing every travelling Scottish football fan to get tore into the "bevvy" wherever they may roam.
First in every report of the national and every club side venturing abroad are not, as one might reasonably expect, comments on the players, the teams, the stadia - instead it is all about the cost of getting drunk. Woe betide the country that sets the price of beer too high or dares not to have vast reservoirs of booze ready on tap for Chico and his fellow travellers. The question indignantly squealed out is always along the lines of "what did they expect with Scots and Russians/Czechs/Irish etc. in town?" The ire of the man who has told is in great detail how much his "glass or two of red wine" has cost him (or should that be the BBC and therefore us?) and what state others in the party woke up in, belches his non-football remarks to what he likes to refer to, in an unbearable self congratulatory tone as "the nation". Chico drinks: the nation is supposed to listen and admire.
He constantly trumpets reasons why he should be admired. Perhaps he even believes it himself. Like others in the programme, but even more aggressively, Vimto Chico thinks that if he constantly repeats something good about himself it will become accepted truth even if the evidence is to the contrary. Sadly some callers to the show fall for such guff. He is forever going on about his experience and professionalism; I kid you not, he uses that word and he does not mean as a liquor salesman. Remember: all this from a man who staked his reputation on Barry Ferguson deciding to return to the Scotland international fold. When proved wrong, he sailed on regardless, repeating those predictions he had got right and ignoring those he had got wrong. Within a few weeks he was saying, without a shred of shame, that "I could be wrong, I was once in 1959"; blithely ignoring all the times he'd been wrong the very year he was speaking, and the reputation he'd staked and lost a few weeks earlier, far less the fifty preceding it.
One weekend my wife, who has alas no interest in football, was walking by when I had Sportsound on the radio. Despite only hearing a few minutes she was horrified. In one of the many languages she expresses herself better in than those paid to present a show in their own tongue, she said how sorry she was for me that they put such people on to talk about something I hold so dear. "Can they not get anyone with even a modicum of intelligence?" she asked.
Surely they could and surely they should. The most irritating thing about the show is that it comes from the BBC; were it Sky and one were so let down, one could simply stop paying for such a poor service. We are forced to pay for the BBC whether we like it or not. When I first went abroad in the 1970s I used to praise the NHS, the BBC and even - though I was already skating on thin ice - our education. Mind you in those days I used to go on the same supporters' bus to Rangers and Scotland games. Things sure have changed:
People are crazy and times are strange
I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range
I used to care, but things have changed
That's from Bob Dylan, as Chico would say, if he only knew it.