Before the Burnley match, which I listened to at work via AVTV on my iPhone I tweeted the following: "Jack Woodward must walk around Villa Park with a massive erection like Ron Burgundy." This was retweeted by a few people, got a few replies, and I picked up a few followers in the West Midlands
Jack Woodward is the face of AVTV, conducting interviews with players, the manager, and other Villa greats for previews and wrapups of every Villa match. He also lends his vioce, along with whatever former player happens to be at the park and is pulled out of Villa Park's equivelent of the Legends Suite, to the radio broadcast of every Villa match which is simulcast over AVTV.
The response to my tweet was not complimentary. I understand why people would find him insufferable. Firstly, he is definately not as easy on the eye as Kay Murray. As the above photo would lead you to believe he is an unabashed Aston Villa homer. During the club's recent goal scoring drought, Jack's commentary would have you believe they have been victimized by 1000 world class saves by the opposition. As for his interviews, Woodward's tone oozes reverence for anyone who has ever stepped on the pitch at Villa Park. The European Cup Winners of 1982 are deities.
After listening to about a half dozen of his broadcasts and watching his interviews on AVTV I don't think he is that bad. I don't remember him completely losing it calling a match. It's not like he has ever compared a Villa match to war. I meant the tweet as more of a good natured tease one might give to a buddy than as an insult.
There are probably a couple of reasons why I actually appreciate Jack Woodward. At the end of the day the man is a club employee. Naturally the club wants a presenter on their payroll to see things through claret colored glasses. When I pay my $3.99 a month to listen to matches at work via the club's official Application I am not expecting objectivity. When I watch a match preview to procrastinate doing actual work at work, I am not expecting Jack Woodward to ask Gerard Houllier why he didn't start a striker against a Championship side at home, or Steven Ireland how you can be signed as a child, receive some of the best instruction and coaching available in England for almost 15 years, and have no clue how to actually defend.
That is not to say he doesn't lay it on thick at times. Honestly I find it humorous and almost endearing. I remember the first time I watched one of his previews: the newly renovated suites at Villa Park were "absolutely beautiful" and Villa Park was "one of the best places in England to watch a game of football". The look on his face exuded nothing but pride. Sometimes I think he would do the job for free.
Being a Villa fan in the states can be a lonely endeavor. I have met an actual Villa fan in person only once. I was at work and happened to notice a customer in passing was wearing a Villa cap. It was a well worn cap with the club's old crest. I stopped the man, complimented his cap, and froze. He asked if I was a Villa fan, I said I was, he left, and the encounter was fairly awkward.
Listening to Jack Woodward makes me feel more connected to the club. In American sports with the exception of the NFL the vast majority of the coverage is local. Broadcasters either work for Regional Sports Networks (RSN) owned by the club, or other RSNs that are paying increasingly exorbitant fees for the rights to broadcast games. Listening to Jack on AVTV more resembles my experience listening to Jack Edwards or Tommy Heinsohn when I follow my local Boston teams. Perhaps as an American more accustomed to slanted coverage of the teams they support, Jack's unabashed Villa slant is all the more palatable.
Jack is our guy. He bleeds claret (I guess we all do, work with me). He makes no secret of his Villa agenda, so in a sense he is in on the joke as well and the honesty is refreshing. When I tell people that Villa are my club they usually ask why with a look of bewilderment, or if they are not a football fan they will ask who the hell Aston Villa are. Being surrounded by so much indifference to a club I have chosen to invest in, makes me appreciate the passion of Jack Woodward that much more. Jack, don't ever change.