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Carragher, Abdo and the verbal grenade on CBS that made everyone squirm

When Micah Richards isn’t laughing, you know you’re in trouble.

Jamie Carragher’s dig at Kate Abdo, lobbing a verbal grenade appearing to jokingly suggest that she wasn’t faithful to her partner Malik Scott, made for tough watching.

If you watched it on CBS Sports Golazo during its coverage of Arsenal against Porto in the Champions League, you’ll instantly recall the cringe. You may have screwed up your face, you may have covered your eyes, you may have put your t-shirt over your head, Fabrizio Ravanelli style.

Even if you don’t live in the United States or watch CBS’s Champions League coverage, there’s a chance the clip may have popped up on your social media timeline — as tends to be the case with CBS’s banter segments.

If you’re not familiar with CBS, host Abdo and guests Carragher, Richards and Thierry Henry have helped revolutionise football coverage in the States. Their mixture of analysis and verbal jousting is very good and very watchable. Their chemistry is undeniable and infectious.

CBS capitalises on that by clipping up the funniest moments and splashing them on social media. If you live in the UK and still harbour an addictive inclination to peruse Twitter, you’ll probably be familiar with the comedy rather than the analysis, especially the mick-taking intros that follow a formula of bigging up Henry and Carragher’s achievements and then having a dig at the lack of silverware Richards won in his career (Premier League title notwithstanding).

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Henry will raise his eyebrows and purse his lips, Carragher will make an overly loud exclamative noise, Richards will yell something like, “Kate’s gone for BIG MEEKS.”

Anyway, it’s all good fun.

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However, on this particular occasion, Carragher’s full-throttle patter wasn’t tweeted by CBS. It didn’t even make it onto the station’s “best of our coverage” 10-minute YouTube compilation because, well, it was awkward.

Carragher, wearing an Arsenal top lobbed from the crowd, suggests Henry and Abdo wear it next.

“I’m loyal,” she says. “To who?” Carragher asks. “Manchester United, thank you very much,” Abdo replies.

“Not to Malik,” Carragher says. Oh blimey. Richards, rarely short of a comment, stares at his shoes in silence. Henry turns to look at Carragher. Abdo seems shocked: “What… how would you even say that?”

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Carragher nervously laughs and blusters a line that Malik’s name hasn’t been mentioned on the show yet. It’s cringeworthy in the extreme and only missing a Gary Neville groan of disapproval.

The jousting was nothing new, it’s a key part of the show, but is it OK? Is it acceptable? Even if it was an in-joke, is this what we want from our broadcasters?

Or is it just a crossing-the-line moment that was completely inevitable when it seems like presents and pundits are encouraged to produce ‘banter clips’ that will go viral on social media?

“The format of our show is pretty lighthearted,” Carragher has previously told The Athletic. “I’m just really determined to make good TV. Kate can push and some people want to be pushed.

“Some people I couldn’t say certain things to. That’s why we have that relationship where we feel we can each get away with anything. Everyone knows they’re fair game and if you leave yourself open you have to expect what’s coming.”

If they like formatting the show that way — dressing room wisecracks for a mainstream football audience — and people like watching it, then what’s the problem?

Well, obviously in this case the line was crossed and to be fair to Abdo & Co it was expertly addressed at the top of the following night’s show.

Abdo said over the three and a half years the group have worked together she has gained three brothers, calling Carragher the chip-on-the-shoulder, annoying middle child capable of saying anything for attention, who could go too far but would always apologise. Nicely done.

The Athletic also contacted CBS for comment.

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When the game’s lawmakers flirt with making football matches shorter because people don’t have enough attention span to watch for 90 minutes, you can fully understand why broadcasters feel the need to produce snappier shows with shorter segments and light entertainment to grab the viewer, rather than an hour of solid pre-match interviews and forecasting.

It feels like we’re in the second era of football banter. The first was, well, very much of its time and ended in 2011 when Richard Keys’ prehistoric banter came crashing down (‘Keysy’ even had the temerity to pipe up on social media this week to denounce Carragher and the show for being “too pally”).

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Around this time, Neville joined Sky and heralded the smart, analytical age with its Monday Night Football deep dive and expected goals and everything that came with that.

There was still room for bantz but it was generally weak while everyone worked out what the new status quo was in a post-Keys/Gray world.

Charlie Nicholas gave it a go: “Well, maybe you should go also then Jeff because you couldn’t see driving home the other night because you don’t even wear your glasses on TV in case you get slagged off, so you just stick to Specsavers and I’ll do the game.” Exactly.

And now we’re onto Banter 2.0. Football coverage for the social media age; controversial statements or snappy quips that can be quickly clipped into 20 seconds and retweeted by thousands. This age gives us Roy Keane telling people to do their job, Alan Shearer not winning the FA Cup and Big Meeks bursting onto the scene. Even Neville has embraced the soundbite era. He sings Chelsea songs before the Carabao Cup final because he doesn’t like Liverpool.

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A reflection of society in 2024? A good show that had one bad moment? Or should we strive for better from our football coverage?

As Abdo said in the clip addressing Carragher’s comment — which has been watched more than 13.7 million times — “Here we are, another day, another show.” The banter continues.

(Top photo: Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

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