The recent announcement that Fox Soccer Channel had claimed US TV rights for the Champions League was greeted with the CSTB headline, “Next Autumn, You Won’t Have Tommy Smyth To Kick Around Nearly As Much”. Though careful enough not to compare ESPN’s Smyth to Richard Nixon, the Guardian’s Steven Wells credits Smyth’s goal description, “what a bulge of the old onion bag that was” as ” the most annoying catchphrase in commentary history” (“the huge ESPN security operation that followed Smyth’s Australian death threat was, with grim inevitability, called Operation Onion Bag”).
Unsurprisingly, many American Canadian, Pacific and Australasian fans have called for the catchphrase to be retired “ along with Smyth himself. “He’s even been known to say, ‘I know this annoys some people when I say it, but he really bulged the old bag there,” groans 34-year-old Lazar Treschan who runs the www.nomoreonionbags.com website with a 31-year-old expat Irishman, Cass Crockatt.
Crockatt is particularly appalled by Smyth’s brogue, which is as powerful now as when Smyth emigrated to the US in 1963. “In each of the years that he’s left County Louth, his accent has gotten stronger to such an extent that he’s now 94% angry leprechaun.”
Smyth’s allegedly buffed accent, says Crockett, smacks of cod-Irish affectation on par with ersatz bacchanalia of the US version of St Patrick’s day (Smyth was grand marshal of the New York parade in 2008 and an Irish folk singer wrote a song in celebration) and the culture of the “plastic Paddy” pub.|
But it’s not just the old onion bag bulging that upsets Smyth’s legions of detractors. Crockett claims, for instance, that Smyth has a quixotic grasp of the tactics, laws and facts of the game. But what really irritates the anti-Smyth massive is the man’s relentlessly unfunny upbeat banter.
“He’s Ray Stokes, basically,” says Crockatt, referring to the catchphrase-happy factory manager in When The Whistle Blows (the shitcom-within-a-show in Extras). “Are you having a laugh?”