Wednesday 18 September 2019

Television review: Making a total Ballons of it

  • Ballon d'Or (RTE1)

Martin Solveig asks Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg if she knows 'how to twerk'
Martin Solveig asks Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg if she knows 'how to twerk'
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

It was to some extent a surprise that Ada Hegerberg, the winner of the first Ballon d'Or for women's football, was asked by presenter Martin Solveig if she knew "how to twerk". Yet there was also a terrible inevitability to it.

I've seen a few of these things in my time, these gala occasions staged by and for the executive classes of football, and I can tell you that on the whole, they are not good. They are bad.

Be it the draw for the FIFA World Cup, or the UEFA Champions League, or this presentation in Paris of the Ballon d'Or, there is this overwhelming sense of corporate self-love, of an essentially simple procedure being inflated beyond all understanding.

It is no consolation to Ada Hegerberg that the most triumphant moment of her life may have been ruined by this disc jockey talking about twerking, but it must be said that in these ceremonies as a rule, all of humanity is diminished.

Yes, even the most ardent of human rights activists, finding himself on the stage looking at the assembled sports administrators and their ilk, could possibly lose his bearings and find himself telling Paddy the Irishman jokes.

So the "joke" that Solveig made about twerking was offensive to the Ballon d'Or winner and by extension to womankind in general. It was also offensive to anyone who likes jokes. It was offensive to anyone who likes anything that is any good.

I, personally was offended by it. Because they're always telling jokes at these things, they absolutely insist on it, and they insist with equal vehemence that the jokes must never, ever be funny.

It's just a corporate entertainment thing, and for a long time now these gatherings of the top football people have been setting the ultimate standards in that form of entertainment which resolutely steers away from anything that the well-rounded individual might find acceptable.

I believe too, that it couldn't be any other way - that if there is music at these ceremonies, it must be terrible music, as terrible as the jokes, as terrible as the multi-lingual banter, and that this can't just be an accident.

Instead, it is the natural consequence of an executive culture which feels that it doesn't need to be good at anything except the money and the manoeuvring - so this culture doesn't need to concern itself with the quality of the humour or the dialogue or any other form of artistic expression, it is asserting a kind of superiority to all that.

Therefore if Solveig had told a good joke - one that was witty or clever or mischievous in an intelligent way, he would have "died" up there. He would have been misreading his audience in a fundamental way, and they would not forgive him for it. Certainly he would never work such a room again, he would be regarded as "edgy", or, if you like, good.

We had our own gala event in this vein last weekend, when Dublin hosted the draw for the European Championships. There were journalists there from many countries, though if I were "heading up" a media organisation, one of the first things I would do is to stop reporters travelling halfway round the continent to attend these shows.

I have seen the top men of British football journalism going to Switzerland to "report" on the draw for a few matches in the latter stages of the Champions League, information which they could obviously acquire just as well by looking at the television - so I would stop that, which would also have the advantage of eliminating the interviews with the team managers, the ones where they never tell the truth about what they feel about the draw.

But then it is claimed that by holding such an event in Dublin, it is good for the city in some general sense - as if, when I was watching the Champions League draw taking place in some conference centre in Switzerland, I was thinking: I must go there on my holidays next year.

Really, it's all wrong.

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