CNN's Piers Morgan does a weird thing with his mouth after he speaks. His lips pinch tight. As if the torpedo tube is being sealed until the next salvo. It can be quite intimidating. It fits the style of a man who was previously employed as a tabloid editor in the warfare of English newspapers. Morgan has seen the skeletons. He can smell blood in the water. And thankfully, for soccer fans in America, he has taken up punditry as a moonlighting gig on the Fox Soccer Channel. He comes to it like a shark.
Former sportsmen occupy much of punditry on TV sports -- hardly a qualification for being an analyst. Deciphering their elliptical sentences can be more frustrating than understanding a coach's chalkboard full of arrows, circles and plays. Wooden is being kind to some of them. Some deploy shouting to cover the pointlessness. Others dribble or throw it back to the host. Tautology and statements of the obvious -- the lingua franca. But you can't say that about Piers Morgan. He lets rip with editorial finesse.
Granted, he is limited to soccer, the foreign sport that is not so foreign to Americans anymore. On Sunday, Morgan was a pundit on the Fox network's showing of England's big soccer clash between Chelsea and Manchester United, hours before the Super Bowl. Not that his vatic utterances proved correct. He called the Manchester goalie "flappy hands, the worst goalkeeper in the league," yet the keeper made two world-class saves. He predicted a "long day" for Chelsea but they were leading 3-0 at one point. None of this mattered. When Morgan opened the torpedo tube and fired on his targets, the pleasure was in the direct hit. It was erudite entertainment. When he condemned Chelsea fans for their loud abuse of a Manchester United player connected to a racism scandal currently being played out in English soccer, it showed Morgan was willing to bring ugliness into a discussion of the so-called beautiful game. And rightly so.
Having Morgan on is a good move by Fox, to be encouraged and developed. Add to the pundit payroll conversationalists, narrators, writers, women, artists and self-congratulating contrarians. Bring us a narrative arc, not verbal replays of what we have just seen; bring us fiction that we can shoot down and jeer at from the pit of the sofa. Bench the wooden empty heads. Let players do the talking on the field. There, we love them.
Hack Alan Black at the new online soccer magazine, The Header