World Cup: Six More Days of Mark Lawrenson
Onto the semi finals. The great thing about England being knocked out, and none of the other Home Nations qualifying, is that the World Cup is now about football. The filter of national involvement is removed and the football matches can be packaged as football matches. For English supporters, admittedly, every game since their elimination has come with the nagging thought – Christ, they’re better than us as well – but even then there seems to be genuine, sporting appreciation of what is to come over the following two evenings.
For me there is but one obstacle to this footballing utopia – the presence within it of Mark Lawrenson. I’m not sure where in the novel/passé/ironic cycle people currently are with regards to Lawrenson and his commentary but I don’t care. He’s not just a bad commentator (he might even be a good one, I’m too biased to judge) but it’s the jokes. The awful, crushing, sickening jokes.
In content and delivery Lawrenson’s line in humour belongs to a tortuous Uncle, who spends Christmas Day reciting extracts from a Jeremy Clarkson hardback while adding complimentary appendages of his own and energetically ignoring the fact his wife left him for a man with a motorcycle. There is a dense, matey sneering to Lawrenson’s material which is clearly pitched at The Boys Back Home. Probably standing in the bar of his golf club.
During the Germany –Argentina game he unleashed his prepared gags on the teams’ management. “There’s the boy band” he chortled at the German bench, unarguably the most impressive and tactically astute management duo of the World Cup so far. He unveiled various jokes at the physical appearance of Maradona (I can’t remember any zingers about the similarly cartoonish features of Capello) and then wearily hoped that “some dignity” would be shown by the Argentinian in defeat. Maradona is, lest we forget, the greatest player to have ever played the sport which Lawrenson once played.
I don’t want this to turn into a witch hunt, but I might as well give it the opportunity to do so by chipping in that Lawrenson, for most of his adult life, had a moustache. When all else has failed, a man grows facial hair. Full beards are just about OK. They can be laziness or a demand of the job (explorer, terrorist, rock stars around the time of the second album) and crucially are left to their own devices. Moustaches are designed and, worst of all, shaped. And Lawrenson shaped his for decades. Yes, it’s not around anymore but then neither is Hitler and it’s not like we’ve forgotten about him.
I’m watching tonight’s game (and I don’t say this to try and impress you) in a cheap bar in London’s famously family-friendly Soho. The benefit of this is that, such should be the revelry at the pricing policy, I won’t be able to hear Lawrenson. And yet it doesn’t matter how much cheap lager I absorb, or how many ruddy-faced strangers I manage to carve a fleeting connection to (the nod, the roll of the eyes, a quick stop and chat at the urinals) I won’t be able to distract myself for long from the knowledge that Lawrenson continues to speak to the nation, his words tumbling out unchecked from under that still-guilty upper lip.Tagged in: Argentina, bbc, germany, mark lawrenson, moustache, neil forsyth, world cup
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