28 September 2009

The Football Ramble: Simple Lads, Fantastic Podcast

Back Row: Luke Moore, Front Row (L to R): James Campbell, Pete Donaldson and Marcus Speller

When “boxers or briefs?” was one of the interview questions, I should have assumed that my first attempt at serious journalism wasn’t going to go as well as I’d hoped. For the most part, the Football Ramble exhibited a genuine interest in my questioning, while at the same time, successfully not answering any of my questions with any prfound thought. Much like the candidness of their podcast, my interview began to take on a simplistic tone. In their case, it resulted with a #1 spot on iTunes list of popular sports podcasts and multiple appearances on Sky News, while in my case it has ended with a blog entry that, for once, doesn’t involve shirtless footballers or a WAG. I’m sensing that I got the short end of this electronic media stick.

In more ways than one, blogs are facing the ill-fated threat of the podcast. There are different freedoms available to the audible fixture.

“A podcast is more interesting, and more spontaneous, it also gives people a chance to listen wherever they are. You can also be a lot more creative with an audio show,” says Luke Moore, who, before the Football Ramble, broadcast a sports show on college radio with fellow Rambler, Marcus Speller (the really good-looking one). Years later, in 2007, they got back together with James Campbell, a stand up comedian, and Pete Donaldson, a DJ on Xfm, to record a podcast of the same nature. So began The Football Ramble.

It started based on their general disappointment in the state of football broadcasting, which all makes sense when you listen to the simplicity of their reporting. They don’t just regurgitate the news of the moment and end it there; it goes so much farther. This week they started by mentioning the Manchester darby, then took that to remembering some of Michael Owen’s best goals. (One was scored on a 13-year-old “potato” during a skills show on BBC, and MO was little too pleased with himself.) Classic.

Real fans know what real fans want to hear. And these blokes are providing just that. But along with becoming one of the most listened to sports podcasts, come the creepily humorous e-mails.

“I think the oddest one was an e-mail which had an attachment featuring a picture of all of us made into a weird shrine with crude graphics all over it, and a penis dangling over all of our faces.” Lukey thought they were trying to be complimentary, but I’m thinking phallic symbols on the head aren’t necessarily a sign of respect. Whoever this person may be, is most likely calling them all a bunch of d**kheads.

“Somebody once sent in loads of photo-shopped pictures where he’d swapped our heads around, for absolutely no reason. It was pretty chilling.” Fans can take themselves a little too far, and Jim thought this one had gone far beyond the call of reason, mental reason.

Their humor also makes them exceedingly entertaining, and also made my interview so seamlessly unsuccessful. When asked to predict the winner of the league this year, I got answers like Oxford United, Chester City, and Bangor City. Apparently, I needed to me more specific to which league I was actually referring.

This British wit can best be demonstrated in answering some of my serious, editorial questions. And by serious, I mean jocular:

If you had to kiss a footballer, who would it be?

Luke: Fernando Torres, without a doubt
Pete: Probably someone with a difficult face – Peter Beardsley probably. His chin would make it really hard to do, which would test my kissing skills to the very limit.
Marcus: Kaka as he is graceful, good-looking and a superb player. Not only would I kiss him, I’ll also marry him.
Jim: Ashley Cole, then I’d bite his tongue off. [He’s an Arsenal fan.]

If you were walking alone in a dark alley, which footballer would you not want to run into, and which one would you want on your side if you were to get into a scuffle?

Luke: What’s worse than meeting Didier Drogba down a dark alley? Meeting him in a well-lit one. I’d like Jimmy Bullard on my side, so we could go for a beer afterwards.
Pete: Julian Dicks scares me. I've heard he'll only talk to people about pub ownership, and gets a bit worked up if you mention his playing career. Plus he's an avid golfer, so he'd probably have a few clubs on him. I'd like a player like Shaun Wright Phillips on my side, 'cos he could run through Dick's legs, and while he's distracted, I could run past him too.
Marcus: I wouldn’t want to bump into Hull City’s Stephen Hunt in a dark alley as I’d imagine he runs up and down dark alleys quite regularly, picking up a lot of speed on the way and being the reckless man he is the whole affair could be quite hazardous. I would like Peter Crouch to be there with me so I could climb up him and sit on his shoulders to look for help in a 5-mile radius.
Jim: Joey Barton, he’s clearly the sort of person who thinks that an appropriate response to someone looking in your direction is to punch them in the face. I’d probably want Jimmy Bullard on my side, we’d never win the fight but A & E would be a laugh.

Some of you might find this British sense of humor somewhat attractive in a man. But you must be forewarned, ladies: they’re sense of fashion is quite disturbing.

“Pete is the best dressed; he does a great line in jumpers with animals on the front.” Lukey, that’s very unsettling.

“I like that Marcus dresses like a footballer on a warm-up. Tracky tops, every day.” Blimey, Pete. Really?

Also, none of the Ramblers has a car and two of them can’t even drive legally. So in the end, only one of them is single. Thankfully he’s the fittest one, Marcus. But seeing that I couldn’t get a serious answer from him, I can’t be positive. (Well besides that he prefers boxers because he liked Mike Tyson in his early years. See what I had to deal with?)

Lukey, like Marcus, is partial to boxers because, “they’re quick and muscley.” Pete prefers boxers, but “the tight GAP ones, not those stupid crinkly ones, mind you.” And Jim, chose boxers as well, because he doesn’t understand briefs. “They should be called groin socks, because that’s what they feel like.”

Groin socks aside, interviewing these guys was a wonderful experience for me. I entered into this feature with the mindset that I’d make it a serious attempt at writing something journalistic, but the laughable information I obtained, forced me to face the facts. This was never going to be a serious interview. And in the end, I think I realized I am a perfect counterpart to the Ramblers. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and nor do I.

(Check out their website and download their weekly podcast!)

picture via Luke Moore

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