Life’s more fun with the Porkmeister
Mike Parry’s debut on Five Live’s 606 provoked outrage, but he’s the kind of wind-up merchant the show needs.
So you thought that the big FA Cup story of the weekend was Leyton Orient’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal, did you? Think again. The big FA shock was ex-TalkSport presenter Mike ‘Porky’ Parry co-hosting 606 on Radio 5 Live. Complete fireworks. No-one saw that coming.
Well done, the O’s, but I feel it is my journalistic duty to tackle the vexed Parry question. Genius or idiot? For those not familiar with Porky’s oeuvre, he is what is known in the trade as a ‘shock jock’: a Grade A wind-up merchant. ‘Parry’s great gift was to be able to spout total bollocks (pardon me, but there really is no other word) with absolute conviction’, explained Martin Kelner in the Guardian. Parry recently became an improbable feminist icon when he quit TalkSport reportedly in protest at the appointment of Richard Keys and Andy Gray, who have become broadcasting pariahs after their exit from Sky. Parry however, subsequently revealed that he’d actually resigned over a ‘contractual dispute’ two days before Keys and Gray joined the station.
Porky’s debut on 606 was hilarious. He set the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons by calling for seeding in the FA Cup to ensure that the big clubs got to the latter stages. ‘No one wants to see Millwall in the final’, ranted Parry. It was Provocation Central. Callers were outraged. Co-presenter Robbie Savage was outraged, spluttering with disbelief that Parry must be ‘from Mars’. There was uproar too on the 606 Twitter feed. ‘Sav is brilliant but PLEASE get rid of that tool Mike Parry’, tweeted one disgruntled listener. ‘Won’t be listening to 5live 606 again, Savage and Mike Parry – do me a favour! Surely the BBC could find better than them 2 idiots!’ fumed another.
Observer columnist Paul Hayward felt that broadcasting standards had been compromised. ‘Did anyone imagine the BBC would ever pay Robbie Savage and Mike Parry to broadcast together on a Saturday evening? Radio’s big white flag’, tweeted Hayward. ‘My sympathies to all the fine journalists on Radio 5 Live. Your bosses have betrayed you’, he added. 606 tweeters concurred, accusing the BBC of ‘dumbing down’. Now let’s get one thing straight. You might not like Parry’s style but 606 isn’t exactly Newsnight. Alan Green, to state the bleeding obvious, isn’t Socrates. Football chat is pretty dumb to begin with.
For my sins, I listen to 606 quite a lot. I kid myself that it’s field research for my spiked articles, but I’ve come to realise that it’s actually a form of self-abuse. If you enjoy listening to football fans whingeing, then 606 is right up your street. Each week, there is a dismal procession of saddoes moaning about their own club. It tends to be dominated by supporters of the bigger clubs. Occasionally, fans of lower-league teams are allowed on to moan about how 606 ignores their club. The presenters – with the honourable exception of Gabriele Marcotti – tend to pander to, rather than challenge, the conventional wisdoms of the day: Money is bad, players are greedy, too many foreign players…yada, yada, yada.
I’m not a fan of TalkSport. Nor do I refer to Parry as the ‘Porkmeister’, as his acolytes do. But his 606 debut was far more entertaining than the usual moanfest. Was Parry serious about his seeding proposal? Or was it a massive wind-up? It’s largely immaterial. Parry’s devil’s advocate routine is perhaps a little too heavy-handed for the sensibilities of 606 listeners. But the discussion was sparkier and more heated as a consequence. Refreshingly, the debate also rose above parochial club gripes. There are only so many moaning Scousers a man can endure before one loses the will to live. But everyone – regardless of club allegiance – has an opinion on the devaluing of the FA Cup.
Compare Parry’s contrarian approach to Alan Green’s treatment of the same topic on 606 the following night. Green argued that the big clubs would be forced to take the FA Cup more seriously if the winners were to qualify for the Champions League. He has a point, but this would simply relegate the FA Cup to a glorified qualifying round for the Champions League, thereby underlining the tournament’s second class status. Anyway, I digress. The point is that most of Green’s audience tend to agree with him. But, as Socrates would tell you, the key to good debate is disagreement. Alan Green is simply too chummy with his callers. Not enough Socratic interrogation, as they say in the philosophy trade.
Is Mike Parry the new Socrates? Of course not. To pretend otherwise would be Parry-esque. Talking bollocks à la Parry doesn’t help us arrive at the truth. At the end of the day, he’s still just a gobby Scouser spouting crap about issues that that don’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. Edifying he ain’t. But 606 with Parry is a damn sight more fun than the usual turgid moanfest.
Duleep Allirajah is spiked’s sports columnist.
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