All superheroes eventually face a pivotal moment where it could all unravel. In Superman III, tar-laced kryptonite turned Clark Kent on himself. In the Dark Knight, the Joker forced Batman to confront everything he once believed in and source some fancy new weapons.
The pillars of guff are no different and on Friday night the unthinkable happened; Eamon Dunphy caught himself in mid-contradiction – swung off the road in mid-u-turn.
As is the way with the lads, a post-match discussion of Uruguay-Ghana had evolved into general ramblings about the lack of a “youth structure” in English football.
Eamo was busily berating English clubs for “solving their problems with a large cheque,” when he perhaps caught a glimpse of Liam Brady smirking beside him and suddenly had total recall of several winters spent mocking Professor Fawlty for his frugality and faith in youth.
“This is the irony of what I’m arguing. I’ve criticised Arsene Wenger for not spending money…” What excellent value that summer house in Damascus is proving.
Already this tournament Thomas Meuller, the kid “who looks like he won a competition in Tesco to play in the Champions League” has produced his Clubcard again to emerge during this tournament as a “truly outstanding player.”
Brazilians Juan and Robinho earned temporary promotions to the ranks of “real players” having previously been regarded with deepest suspicion. Stevie G has lurched from zero to hero and back more often than Michael Portillo, while David Silva, the donkey getting in Cesc Fabregas’s way in Euro 2008, is the solution to all Spain’s problems now that he’s out of the side.
And the Netherlands’ passage this far means Arjen Robben hasn’t yet been confirmed as “a birdbrain”.
Eamo’s great super-power, of course, is the delivery, on demand, of entertaining, if wildly exaggerated, snap judgments. The weatherman who dismisses global warming every time a wind blows up from the North. So there was a real worry that this moment of introspection might decommission the conveyor belt of invective that makes RTE’s coverage so watchable.
We need not have concerned ourselves. Before long, Eamo had conceived of the silver bullet that renews for good his licence to shrill.
“History is there to be disproved and changed, that’s why we have it.” A line that ought to be forever tattooed in rubber on his costume.
And so it was business as usual on Saturday night. Spain defended more shambolically that “any team in the Leinster Senior League and that’s no disrespect to the Leinster Senior League.” Gerard Pique was simply “an awful chancer.”
“You’re exaggerating again, Eamon,” rebuked Brady, but Eamo, his life’s work freshly enshrined in a motto, knows now that Spain could go ten years without conceding a goal and not diminish his theory. “I’m prone to that,” he beamed proudly. Would we have it any other way?
Gilesy, meanwhile, spent most of Saturday working on his own evil master plan to take over the World Cup with a team of organically fused super-defenders. “Bertstuber” and “Bertesacker” went straight from the lab into the German side. They could be just the men to take care of that dangerous amalgam of Spanish attackers from the ages that Eamo has dreamed up; “Llorientes.”
Much of RTE’s quarter-final grousing was aimed at the refereeing, with Billo particularly furious that officials should be appointed from such dubious “jurisdictions” as the Seychelles and, er, Japan.
Defending the rogue Japanese, Darragh Moloney pointed out that with South American and European sides involved, FIFA may have wanted a neutral. A red rag to Euro-sceptic Ronnie Whelan; “Well, what about an English one?”
If we’re looking to improve the standard of punditry, we could do a lot worse than heed the example set by Gernot Bauer, host of Eurosport’s marvellously eccentric World Cup magazine show Soccer City Live. A study in sobriety on the outside, within Gernot bubbles some of that “Ja, for sure, a little bit crazy” spirit that has made Germany great. “Let’s see what some of you guys back in the Internet are discussing.”
With Gernot however, a pundit must earn his corn. So while Aaron Winter received a warm welcome when he arrived on the show to discuss the Netherlands’ progress, Gernot ensured there was no danger he would get ideas above his station. “Of course we also have Patrick Kluivert here who is still our main expert on the matter.”
The English have learned a fair bit from the Germans already during this tournament and maybe it’s time Gary Lineker adopted the Bauer approach with some of his under-performing panel, where exaggeration is rarely the problem and history requires no revisiting.
Reflecting on Ghana’s sad exit, Shearer set this weekend’s standard: “Pele did say an African team would win the World Cup before 2000 – I think it’s going to be longer.”
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner