As far as Premier League debuts go, BT Sport's coverage of Liverpool versus Stoke City was more Ali Dia than Fabrizio Ravanelli. Brimming with good intentions but largely hopeless, like the Reds, BT will pose no threat to the reigning (broadcasting) champions.
Sky Sports have the experience and the signing of the summer in Jamie Carragher whereas BT have brought in a plethora of names. Sky also have the modest but studious Ed Chamberlain, while the latest pretenders to their crown squandered a transfer fee on Jake Humphrey.
One of Humphrey's most glaring weaknesses is his ability to sound like a supporter of whatever team he is talking about. He hosted Manchester City's abominable City Live event earlier this month, where he impersonated Jason Manford expertly, and Liverpool are arguably the ripest Premier League club for fawning.
Owen, Humphrey and James all performed poorly
Their knowledgeable supporters, Brendan Rodgers' philosophy and plethora of ex-player pundits who propagate The Liverpool Way allowed Humphrey to seamlessly blend in with the masses. The commentary team even remained silent for a period to soak up "You'll Never Walk Alone".
During his recorded interview with Rodgers, Humphrey did a superior impression of David Brent than his interviewee, plucking out a Shackleton book from the Liverpool manager's collection and talking of reaching new frontiers. Rodgers actually toned down his inner "Brenton" for the tête-à-tête, but Humphrey is such a nauseatingly chummy presenter there is little scope for analysis.
Humphrey is a pleasant person, but that doesn't cut it when it comes to hosting football coverage, and he is simply not a football man. Yes, he supports Norwich but he excelled presenting Formula 1, and his stint on the BBC's Football Focus was so unconvincing he was tasked with presenting the women's equivalent.
The "Jamos" and 'Maccas" have already started, too. Sky Sports excel because back-slapping cliques won't be tolerated post-Keys and Gray (Jamie Redknapp is possibly warned during commercial breaks) and such antics have made Match of the Day an embarrassment. Humphrey though, a disciple of the BBC, preached their word.
And what of Jamo? He is David James, by the way, who was a goalkeeper. It is useful if a goalkeeper has communication skills, but that does not mean they should be allowed to interview Premier League footballers. How depressing and disheartening it must have been for aspiring broadcast journalists to see James question Simon Mignolet and Asmir Begovic so badly he made Garry Richardson seem probing.
James is one of those footballers who likes to think he is "articulate" and BT Sport would like to think that, too, but it is not necessarily true. In the current climate, allowing him to cut his teeth in journalism at the age of 43 was a callous insult and endemic of the corporation's first day ring-rustiness. He also predicted Tottenham will finish eighth.
Ray Stubbs, whose anchoring role at ESPN backfired, was back in the tunnel interviewing managers, so we can't see his goatee. Less frivolously, this is the role he excelled at when he was at the BBC two decades ago and where he should have remained.
Michael Owen lived up to low expectations in the commentary box
The game itself featured Ian Darke's unmistakable vocals and, unfortunately, Michael Owen. The former England striker's sheer lack of insight on Match of the Day last year was appropriate given the BBC's demise, yet BT regard his capture as a coup.
Like Andrew Strauss on the cricket, Owen's voice is an immediate problem. Strauss though, does not talk exclusively in clichés or mistake Kevin Pietersen for a wicketkeeper. Owen referred to Daniel Sturridge, a centre forward, as a "centre-half", spoke far too often and said nothing illuminating. D:Ream were wrong when they said things can only get better.
Michael Owen is the new Alan Smith.
— James Maw (@JamesMawFFT) August 17, 2013
It was a three-pronged attack, with Darke and Owen superfluously flanked by ex-referee Mark Halsey. Every 10 minutes or so Halsey would say what a good decision the referee or linesman had made, and evoked memories of Dodgeball's Pepper Brooks.
Darke: "Goal line technology: I thought it might be used, Mark Halsey, when those shots hit the bar and came down on the line. Who knows, a bit of history?"
Halsey: "It would have been good."
Halsey is not at fault here - his is a thankless task - and BT's naivety in their approach suggests the Infinity students are overseeing their venture into the Premier League.
And the studio, like that in-game mini screen, is ostentatious, hollow and Americanised. Like Rodgers, BT must go back to the drawing board.
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