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Growing up has been an odd experience for me, with my views and opinions on a lot of things changing the older I got. Take the common tomato for instance; it used to be the bane of my life. I used to pick it off stuff, could sense the lingering of its juices on a plate I was eating from and just couldn’t handle the watery beast. But as time went on I was forced to bite the bullet and eat it on a few occasions and the drama I had built up in my head never seemed to match the reality of the sensations in my mouth. In fact, I have come so far that last week I had a sandwich that was filled with Greek yoghurt, olives and thick slices of tomato. The eleven-year-old version of myself would have viciously abused me for eating a vegetable, never mind an olive, and god knows what he would have said if he found out it was on Ciabatta bread.
I do still remember that 11 year old though and he still floats around inside me. It is due to this fact that Tam Cowan’s Record column today has irked me so much. You see, when I was 11 we were giving a monumental task at school of doing a project on our future career. The stipulations were simple – make a small bound booklet, prepare a presentation and try to interview someone who does the job you would love to do. For me the dream has always been the same, to make people laugh. Be it live on stage or just purely being able to write and make funny things.
As a result, I was mad into joke books and any TV comedy I could watch. At this time Tam Cowan was a big influence in my life. He had produced a joke book via The Record, he was the face of Off The Ball on the BBC and I was even into Taxi For Cowan (I myself have failed 7 driving tests…). So when it came to interviewing someone who did the sort of Job you wanted to do Cowan was one of the only Scottish voices in the public eye doing anything near it and I decided to get in touch with him.
In all honesty, my mum got in touch with him, as I’m too awkward for most communications. She faxed away some questions I had typed out to his address at The Record. It would have been beyond my wildest dreams to receive a reply and when I did I got more than I could have imagined. Tam said that he wasn’t really into writing letters and would much rather come to my school and answer them in person, which then grew into him giving me and a few others some Offside T-shirts and sending me and 20 of my pals away to The Saturday Show (Fans of the podcast will remember the conversation me and an over-excited Teddy had about me meeting Dani Behr – Cowan made that happen). In brief, I was a big fan of Tam’s.
However, over the years Tam and the common tomato have had different trajectories in my heart. A lot of what he does I still like and admire. I like the fact there is a guy in the paper who sounds like people from my scheme where I grew up, who speaks on the same level as many of the men I grew up around, indeed in places like football stadiums (I once remember one of my Motherwell-supporting uncle’s friends trying to convince me he went to school with Tam and it was all his patter on the TV). My problem is that, whilst there’s the everyman charm about him, he has the other everyman trait of saying stuff that makes you cringe and wish they had just thought for a minute longer about whether it was accurate or, at the least, worth airing.
Cowan’s comedy has always been cutting, it’s always needed a victim. Even when I was 11 and he came to my school he laid into me for having fuzzy hair. But the way he has spoken about women’s football in the last few months has been some of the most awkward broadcasting and journalism I have witnessed.
The first incident occurred on Radio Scotland’s premier exporter of football banter, Off The Ball. Tam started out great by saying to Kim Little, the Scottish Woman’s captain, that he was saddened that in this day and age he had to prefix her job description with the word ‘Woman’. It seemed to be a glorious moment, the 11-year-old inside me was half-way through pouring a Schloer in celebration. But it quickly went south from there. The conversation went towards Tam wondering if she could hack it in the men’s game, would she back herself to score one on one with a male keeper etc. Before the nail was applied to the coffin lid when he then asked Kim why she didn’t just give her a career a real go and join the men’s league.
Suggesting that she could go to a 2nd Division team and try her hand at it, whilst at the same time belittling her achievements with Team GB and Arsenal. It was like someone saying to Tracy Emin, “Here I know you do the art and all that but why don’t you give it a real go? I’ve got a pal who has a van and a spare roller and can guarantee you £100 a day cash in hand.” It was the last time I listened to Off The Ball.
This morning I woke to texts and twitter alerts telling me about Tam’s inflammatory column today. Which is a bit odd, no one would have read it if everyone else wasn’t crying murder about it. As a society we are brilliant at spreading other peoples hatred around in an outraged manner. I won’t say too much about it, it’s everywhere online just read it. But it is stupid.
The opening part suggests Fir Park be burnt due to the quality of game that took place on it. If this was the case there would be very few stadiums in Scotland that were more than ash and rubble. I myself watched the game, with my girlfriend who rarely cares about other games, and did comment to her about the bleak look of the stadium. But surely it is in some ways a Chicken and Egg scenario, where people will only get into Women’s football by seeing it more often and can only see it if it is televised often. I didn’t have too much issues with the standard of play and had less issue with the fact that one of the teams was of a much lower level than the other, the only other games I have watched on Alba have featured Rangers in the 2nd and 3rd divisions. When the BBC in England put their female games on BBC1 with some decent analysts I thought it was a move to be applauded and as a result was a bit annoyed that the Scottish women were forced to the Alba back-water.
There has been a lot of chat about whether Cowan’s column was tongue in cheek and whether he was “at it”. I’m not entirely sure if I’m honest. He is a comedian and the basic joke works in the sense of saying things that catch people off-guard and therefore the shock brings the laugh. The trouble with Tam is that he has been saying stuff like this so often that it’s no longer surprising. This is probably why the Record attatched a jokey warning that said something about having views from the dark ages. A slogan I hope they keep next month when I submit my “Aids is a punishment from God” article.
Me and the crying 11-year-old inside me are away to overdose on Haribo and Tizer, wake me up when the Record have stopped printing out Bernard Manning’s séances.
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Owen, originally from the cultural hotbed of South Lanarkshire, moved
to Edinburgh in 2008 where he begin dabbling in student stand up
before begin to perform regularly in 2010. Since then he has been
spreading his brand of pessimism all over Britain, mainly edinburgh
although he once did a gig in Berwick, and is preparing for a joint
venture at this years Fringe.
A fan of both Hamilton Accies and Manchester United, Owen has a love
for holding midfielders and players with average ability scoring
screamers (See Youssef Safri against Newcastle)
“Fresh, inventive and caustic” – Paul Sneddon.
“Owen McGuire’s opening pitch to the audience immediately warmed them
to him and kept up the jovial momentum of his riffs of teaching drama
in Larkhall.” – The Scotsman.