Have you ever had one of those anxiety dreams where you get into a fight with an inexplicable nemesis and your dream self decides to throw a massive punch, only for it not to land? You hit him with a left hook, a right hook, and still he stands there, grinning vindictively. Your fists strike against him, again and again and again, only to bounce off his face with impotent frailty. The harder you exert yourself, the more feeble you become. Suddenly, you wake, covered in sweat, burdened by a feeling of inadequacy and profound unease.
That nightmare, that specific nightmare, is analogous to the banter on Match of the Day at the moment. There's something uneasy about it, something inadequate, and there has been for several weeks. We don't know what's gone on behind the scenes but, whatever it is, the badinage between pundits has deteriorated to the point of being mildly disquieting. The banter just isn't landing, for whatever reason. Gary Lineker finds himself at the helm of a rudderless ship, floating on a becalmed sea devoid of witty repartee.
Take last week's limpest exchange between Alan Shearer and Danny Murphy, for instance. With the pair debating the award of a penalty, Murphy went at Shearer with something like: "They say your eyesight gets worse as you get older," to which Shearer had a comeback that amounted to: "Oh, so yours must be getting worse, then."
Now, come on, we are better than this. This is the sort of exchange that the BBC should be legally required to dub over with a deafening fart noise, before cutting in with a live broadcast to the nation to apologise for subjecting us to such utter dross. We, the mighty British, once built an empire upon which the sun never set, the foundation of which was fantastic banter. Throughout history, we have defeated our bitterest enemies with banter: we took the piss out of Napoleon for being a short arse; we sang songs about Hitler's bollocks; we bantered off the Soviet Union with Animal Farm; we plunged ourselves into social turmoil just to make the equivalent of a political wanker sign at the EU.
Shearer and his co-pundits have a duty to the nation to maintain high standards of banter on Match of the Day. They have a duty to stand tall and go toe-to-toe, landing thunderous blows upon each other regarding their relative baldness, discipline and talent as former professional footballers, leaving their television audience nodding approvingly and occasionally interjecting with things like "Magnificent!", "Hear hear!" and "Jolly good show!" Instead, they are feebly swinging away, occasionally scuffing one another with the most decrepit of quips. It's a bloody disgrace, and something must be done about it immediately. We call upon the BBC to make Britain great again: unfurl the Union Jack, replace all other programming with a constant loop of the national anthem, and revitalise the enfeebled banter on the nation's favourite highlights show.