i am the phone-in dj

This article originally appeared in MEHSTG Vol. 2. Issue 31 (February 2003)

What a bunch of seemingly opinionated people the masters of the football phone-in are.  The Funky Phantom looks at what makes these people constantly correct in their views.

Ever driven home from a game and been stuck in traffic listening to the god-awful football phone in programmes ?  Yes, havenít we all.  Well, what possess people to phone up the radio station to go on air ?

The host often begs people to phone in, as his show is nothing without the callers, but once on air, the member of the public suddenly becomes the butt of abuse from the presenter.  Whatever view the caller puts forward, the man at the mic will take the opposite stance.  Now I know that this is his job, but it could be the complete opposite of what he had proposed in the previous call and it seems like the wind will blow the opinions of the presenter whichever way will provoke most ire.  Playing the Devilís advocate has to come naturally to the phone-in host, as he must belittle the fans who ring up and also try and stimulate some debate to continue the lights on his switchboard flashing.

But what chance does the caller have ?  Well, next to none really.  I have heard the most sensible and reasonable arguments put by supporters, but the host will ridicule and deride any view that they may care to put forward.  They will rubbish the point of view until the caller gives up or if the fan does get the better of them, they suddenly have to move on to the next caller, thus terminating what for them would be a losing discussion.

Admittedly, there are loads of nutters who ring up.  These people do neither themselves nor their clubs any favours, as they

[]       invariably produce a load of feedback as they still have their radios on when they phone

[]       try to beat the delay on the transmission by swearing

[]       just slag off players/managers/local rivals with no sensible dialogue

[]       say what they want to, then produce some embarrassing silences when questioned on the points they had made

It makes you cringe when one of your fellow fans gets on air and proceeds to make the rest of us (as we are all tarred with the same brush) appear to be ill-tempered and opinionated morons.  There are some class moments, such as the one on TalkSport after our home game with Arsenal, when the Spurs fan asked Lawrie McMenemy why the guests in the Sky studio had been invited.  He queried why George Graham was there and then wondered how Sol Campbell, Graeme Le Saux and Dale Winton had all got in there too !   While the former Sunderland boss eventually caught on, it was too late as the point was made.

Every time a team loses one match, the fans ring in to call for the head of their manager and the host encourages that line of discussion as it promotes more callers to snowball in and keep that ball rolling.  Some of the worse for this are Arsenal fans.  Arsene Wenger must be the worst manager in the world according to some how call in, despite all the success she has brought that club.  A few bad results and they donít have such a rosy view of their team coach.

I have often considered phoning in as a fan of an opposing club to put an outrageous view, as this would greatly please Spurs fans and also enrage the fans of the team I was pretending to support.  You could really mess up the show by claiming that the team needs a radical overhaul and that the manager should be replaced.

Even better than this is show on Monday night that I sometimes catch on the way home from reserve matches on TalkSport.  It is about European football and involves an opinionated radio front man, who has two experts (sic) from European countries, whose views on players and teams he disparages, without any more justification than he has a view which he thinks deserves more weight than anyone elseís.  You can phone in to reveal your transfer rumours that you have heard.  Some are totally fabricated and some have a grain of thought to them.  Again, it could be so easy to wind up fans of other teams by phoning in bogus rumours. Perhaps it is just too easy.

So, you ask, why do you listen to these programmes if you are so disdainful of them ?  To answer that, there is nothing much else worth listening to !  Sometimes, I will put on a tape, but in the vain hope of hearing a match report or an interview with someone from Spurs, I listen in with hope.  Most of the time, the voice of the presenter is the thing that grates the most.  Sometimes, it detracts from thinking about the game I have just seen.  Sometimes, it just takes my mind off the traffic.  Whatever happens, as long as it is not David Mellor, you can at least tune in without wanting to put your foot through the radio !

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