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MediaWatch - Why I can't read Graham Spiers

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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it the last bastion of objectivity in the Scottish press? Is it a Rangers hating sensationalist who earns a living condemning sectarianism while taking every opportunity to fan its flames? Well, it depends who you talk to, but one thing I can say about Graham Spiers is that he writes horribly. Some Rangers fans get really worked up after reading some of Mr. Spiersââ?¬â?¢ articles, but I wonder where they get the energy ââ?¬â?? by the time Iââ?¬â?¢m finished Iââ?¬â?¢d be more likely to have the energy for strong emotion having necked a few jellies: they have that same somniferous effect.


Iââ?¬â?¢m willing to allow for the possibility that itââ?¬â?¢s just me (itââ?¬â?¢s unarguable heââ?¬â?¢s written for various high-brow newspapers and has no doubt won awards and the like) - but Iââ?¬â?¢ve read some of the best and worst of humanityââ?¬â?¢s legacy in literature and havenââ?¬â?¢t found a writing style quite as irritating and sleep-inducing as Grahamââ?¬â?¢s. For quite a while I couldnââ?¬â?¢t put my finger on exactly what it was I didnââ?¬â?¢t like ââ?¬â?? Iââ?¬â?¢m a student of literature so I can hardly moan at him for his tendency to use big words, and given that I amble on myself I canââ?¬â?¢t really blame him for meandering from the point. But then I realised that I didnââ?¬â?¢t mind Nietzsche using big words because complex situations demand big words but Graham seemed to continuously use them borderline out of context just to remind us that heââ?¬â?¢s intelligent and knows them. And I also realised I didnââ?¬â?¢t mind Wittgenstein spanning a sentence over a whole page because the difficult subjects he was discussing demanded that every statement be fully qualified in its textual and environmental context; but if a sentence takes up a whole paragraph when discussing the comparatively simple matter of a football match then the chances are youââ?¬â?¢ve got your linguistic head up your own arse.


So, hereââ?¬â?¢s my theory ââ?¬â?? I donââ?¬â?¢t know about your primary school, but at mine the teacher gave us words we had to use in a sentence as homework. To encourage you to develop your vocabulary at that age you got nice gold stars and ticks and whatnot for writing longer sentences with more obscure ââ?¬Ë?describing wordsââ?¬â?¢. Of course, when you get to secondary school they start to teach you the value of ââ?¬Ë?showingââ?¬â?¢ rather than ââ?¬Ë?tellingââ?¬â?¢, and how when grownups write itââ?¬â?¢s just silly to use a big word where an ordinary everyday small one will do, and how they shouldnââ?¬â?¢t write a million words where five will do. Reserve those big words and prosaic grand sounding sentences for where they are most effective and required, otherwise youââ?¬â?¢ll just sound like youââ?¬â?¢re trying to convince people you are intelligent, and sound all poncy. Or, if you want to be really clever, they say, you can use big words ââ?¬Ë?ironicallyââ?¬â?¢ by putting them beside slang ââ?¬â?? like I did in the opening paragraph with ââ?¬Ë?somniferousââ?¬â?¢. (This is all a lie, incidentally, but had my teacher been teaching the syllabus instead of stopping people attacking each other with chairs, Iââ?¬â?¢m reliably told that this is what she would have been saying). I think Graham has essentially stuck to the primary school style of writing mixed with archaic grandiose sounding phrases.


So, letââ?¬â?¢s put my theory - that Graham Spiersââ?¬â?¢ writing is like a studious primary school childââ?¬â?¢s homework - to the test. A short while ago I read his article entitled ââ?¬Å?Hughes manages to focus on positives after goal rushââ?¬Â [1]. I didnââ?¬â?¢t realise that this was actually a Spiers article, and the promising snappy opening sentence did nothing to give the game away: ââ?¬Å?Every so often football has a pleasing habit of throwing up a match like thisââ?¬Â. Lovely. By the end of the second sentence (and, incidentally, the entire first paragraph) I was in no doubt of the author. It is a single sentence that includes the phrases ââ?¬Å?poured goalsââ?¬Â, ââ?¬Å?late splurgeââ?¬Â, ââ?¬Å?three in the final five minutesââ?¬Â, ââ?¬Å?sent the Rangers fans home happyââ?¬Â, ââ?¬Å?poor John Hughesââ?¬Â, ââ?¬Å?the Falkirk managerââ?¬Â, ââ?¬Å?groping around for a postmatch perspectiveââ?¬Â, ââ?¬Å?famously verbalââ?¬Â and quite ironically concludes that ââ?¬Å?Big Yogiââ?¬Â was ââ?¬Å?talking gibberishââ?¬Â. Iââ?¬â?¢m not sure if he read this back to himself; but if youââ?¬â?¢re going to summarise the match, make the unlikely comparison of the Rangers fansââ?¬â?¢ reaction and the Falkirk mangerââ?¬â?¢s, and conclude that someone is talking gibberish, all in a single sentence, then you probably want to do it in one that, at very least, Stephen Fry wouldnââ?¬â?¢t struggle to say aloud. At this point he doesnââ?¬â?¢t condescend to let us in on the gibberish Big Yogi was talking, but weââ?¬â?¢ll take his word for the moment.


The next paragraph is entirely concise and to the point. To be fair this might be because it largely constitutes a quote from Walter Smith. Graham Spiers is definitely at his most concise when quoting. Perhaps for dramatic effect this brief flash of brevity is followed by one of the most astoundingly inappropriate sentences Iââ?¬â?¢ve ever seen committed to print when discussing a football match: ââ?¬Å?So let us examine more keenly this peculiarity of a gameââ?¬Â. As a general rule you shouldnââ?¬â?¢t write (unless youââ?¬â?¢re a poet) something you wouldnââ?¬â?¢t say in real life. I find it hard to believe that the top man in Oxford University in Jane Austenââ?¬â?¢s time would say ââ?¬Å?So let us examine more keenly this peculiarity of a theoryââ?¬Â with a straight face, never mind Graham Spiers discussing a football match whose only ââ?¬Ë?peculiarityââ?¬â?¢ to be ââ?¬Ë?keenly examinedââ?¬â?¢ was the fairly common scenario that the scoreline didnââ?¬â?¢t quite reflect the difference between the teams.


After a fairly straightforward analysis of the game we build towards the climax hinted at in the first paragraph: that the score was so bafflingly unrepresentative of the game that it reduced poor Big Yogi to the incoherence of someone who had just survived a trainwreck. The quote chosen to represent John Hughesââ?¬â?¢ ââ?¬Ë?maniaââ?¬â?¢ and ââ?¬Ë?babblingââ?¬â?¢ reads like this:


ââ?¬Å?We played some good football and make no mistake, we are a right good football side,ââ?¬Â he said. ââ?¬Å?At 3-2, I thought to myself, ââ?¬Ë?oh-ho, here we go, weââ?¬â?¢ll get right back into this.ââ?¬â?¢ Weââ?¬â?¢ve done something that few clubs ever do ââ?¬â?? weââ?¬â?¢ve come to Ibrox and taken two goals off Rangers.ââ?¬Â


Iââ?¬â?¢m not sure about you, but that makes perfect sense to me. It certainly makes more sense than Spiersââ?¬â?¢ assessment of our new singing Cousin.... who is... wait for it.... ââ?¬Å?extremely decentââ?¬Â. Iââ?¬â?¢m not quite sure who edits these articles (I know Spiers was the sports editor at the Herald, so I assume if this is anything but a downwards step he must be at the Times) but you would think that this phrase making no sense in the English language would be good enough reason to re-think it. Players can be extremely good, or extremely bad, but not extremely decent ââ?¬â?? just like water can be extremely hot, or extremely cold, but not extremely lukewarm. The word ââ?¬Ë?decentââ?¬â?¢ implies no extremeness one way or the other. I mean, if John Hughes was ââ?¬Ë?babblingââ?¬â?¢ speaking shortly after the game, youââ?¬â?¢ve got to wonder how someone whoââ?¬â?¢s had at least 24 hours and the benefits of an editorial process can come out with something that makes absolutely no sense in our native tongue.


So, to wrap up then, I donââ?¬â?¢t read Graham Spiers not because I have anything personally against him, but because I find his writing sometimes cringeworthy, sometimes sleep inducing. Itââ?¬â?¢s part of the staple diet of sitcoms to parody essentially unintelligent characters by making them speak in Ye Old English and use big words out of context. I get the same sense of akwardness when I read a Graham Spiers article ââ?¬â?? but perhaps this is what The Times readership is after? Maybe thereââ?¬â?¢s a whole stratum of society I have no access to where people go around speaking like this to each other.


The problem is, though, that even if he used all these grand phrases poetically, and properly, he would still be talking about a game of football. He hasnââ?¬â?¢t picked up a secret and super-intellectual slant on the game all us mere mortals have missed, heââ?¬â?¢s basically just said ââ?¬Å?the score didnââ?¬â?¢t reflect the gameââ?¬Â with all the hyperbolic flair of a wean who gets good marks in their primary school homework because theyââ?¬â?¢ve said an ordinary thing in a prolix way. Its all the insight of a tabloid phone-in (that Iââ?¬â?¢m sure Graham would never associate himself with) couched in the language of someone parodying Ye Old English. Man, if I ever meet you Iââ?¬â?¢ll quite happily give you a gold star, but I wouldnââ?¬â?¢t pay Ã?£1 or whatever it is for The Times to hear what I heard in the pub after the game in un-necessarily verbose language. I donââ?¬â?¢t think the ââ?¬Ë?high-browââ?¬â?¢ readership of The Times will be fooled by it either. And as much as Iââ?¬â?¢d love to know what happened between PLG and Barry Ferguson I donââ?¬â?¢t think my sanity could handle English used in this way for a couple of hundred pages, and Iââ?¬â?¢ll be very suprised if people can in general.


[1] http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/scotland/article2288780.ece

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Excellent article mate and next time Mr Spiers sees fit to criticise the English of Rangers fans (he has previous for this) I'll be sure to forward him this critique...




its deliberately argumentative and polemic but he takes every opportunity to condescend us rangers supporting ogres from the security of his intellectual superiority - so i'm quite sure if he were ever to read it he'd appreciate a bit of literary criticism :D

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Brilliant read Barry and it won't be long until the Bold Graham is writing for more 'streetwise' outlets like the Retard and Scum as if rumours are to be believed, the readership of The Times is plumeting and Graham has been cought submitting match reports for games he wasn't even at.....


Another fantastic Graham Spiers atricle on FF - http://forum.followfollow.com/showthread.php?t=293243


Cammy F

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Enjoyed reading the article and a great one to have on Newsnow.


Can we expect further such articles in the future Barry?


Also, you hinted that Spiers may not wish to associate himself with radio phone-ins but I could swear he was on Clyde last week at some point.

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Brilliant read Barry. I looked at the length first and thought,shit I'll never get through that, but it kept me engrossed to the end.

His head is stuck too far up his bottom to accept any self criticism even if he did read it, so it would fall on deaf ears I'm afraid.

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