The post-playing career of Paul Gascoigne has never ceased to be tabloid fodder, with the England international’s episodes of domestic violence and chronic self-abuse fashioning as much of his legacy as his achievements on the pitch. As such, Gazza appearances on last Sunday morning’s Soccer AM (Sky) and Sunday evening’s Match of the Day 2 (BBC) seemed like disasters waiting to happen. EPL Talk‘s Ross Gallacher called Gascoigne “more cogent than ever” and claims the Geordie legend was on “absolute top form”. Sure enough, When Saturday Comes‘ Brian Gibbs respectfully disagrees, accusing the shows’ programmers of “presenting a freakshow”.
The kindest thing that could be said about Gascoigne’s MOTD2 debut, and his appearance on Soccer AMthe previous day, is that it was an improvement on his previous television punditry. But it was still painful to witness and it’s inconceivable that the BBC would not have expected that to be the case when they booked him. Presumably these latest media appearances are designed to aid in his rehabilitation, giving him a chance to appear in public to simply talk about football rather than once again recite the long list of problems that he is beset by.
But, however keen he is to remain in the limelight, feeding his need for public attention is unlikely to help him. He didn’t have coherent things to say about the football matches he watched, at least not enough to justify his presence on the pundit’s couch. But that’s not what he was there for. Like one of the zoo animals that behave unpredictably on a live children’s TV show, he was designed to be a talking point. It’s just a question of who was the more degraded by the experience, Paul Gascoigne or the BBC.
In February of ’08, I wrote “With the possible exception of Mike Tyson, it™s hard to come up with a global sporting icon whose fall from grace has been nearly as dramatic. Gibbs makes a slight different analogy, opining of James Toback’s new documentary on Iron Mike, “however mentally damaged Tyson may be, he is also complex and articulate, someone whose interviews can make compelling viewing. That is not a claim that can be made for Britain’s best known screwed-up sports star.”