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Sport’s Commentators.

With the advent of Television, the role of a sport’s commentator has become increasingly blurred. TV is not by any sense of the imagination a new phenomenon, but commentators from virtually every sport seem to have forgotten the fundamentals of their role. Originally there was radio and the function of commentators was simple. They had to tell us listeners about something we couldn’t see; but they could. They had to try and paint as accurately and excitingly as possible, a word picture of what was happening in the game being commentated on. They had to keep updating the score and make sure we knew which individual player was been spoken about.

But commentating on TV is completely different. Now the job is to tell us about something we are seeing at the same time the commentator is seeing it. Now we need to be told something we don’t know, or something additional to what we are seeing, to enrich the experience. We need to be informed and have interpreted what is happening in front of us, or even something off screen we aren’t seeing. Well if that’s their job; you could have fooled me.

How many times have you watched a soccer game and had to endure some half-wit telling you exactly what you are seeing? “…Ah, he has just passed to Rooney, oh and Rooney has given it back to him, and now he crosses it ……” Well I never and there I was thinking he had just passed the ball to Rooney and Rooney had passed it back to him, and he crossed it.

It’s not something that is exclusive to soccer. Cricket commentators are in a class of their own. “And it’s going all the way – yup, it’s 4 runs to Smith.”  Well thanks for that! I stupidly thought Smith had hit a four. Or, “If only he would bowl a proper line and length, he would put more pressure on the batsman”, said in tones of someone delivering the oracle to the masses. Oh I get it. If he bowls better he will give the batsman more trouble? Fascinating! I wish I had thought of that.

But it is not only the banal statements of the obvious that are so frustrating. What about when they draw those classically inane conclusions along the lines of, “Arsenal are going to have to score another goal if they want to win this match,”? This when the score is 1-1. Really?

Thugby also has its moments. “It’s over, and the flags go up…” yes it is, and yes they do; and your point is? I don’t doubt for a moment it is difficult to keep coming up with original, interesting facts and interpretations of what is happening on the field, but commentators don’t have to talk the whole time. Although commentating on a game like rugby, because the rules, (especially around the scrum), are very complex and also constantly evolving; a knowledgeable commentator should always have lots to talk about.

What I do support in commentators is when they are going to state the obvious, they do it in original fashion. Like the ex-All Black rugby legend turned commentator, who when describing an obviously very quick player says, “look at him go – he’s really got the wheels!”  Isn’t that so much more descriptive than, “Boy, he is fast!!”? Or when describing a cleverly scored try, “he went over, as smooth as a Brazilian”. And he was not talking about someone from South America.

To be a sport’s commentator it helps if you are able to talk in clichés. “This game could go either way, but it’s not going to be over until the fat lady sings, and I wouldn’t  count my chickens before they hatch because that would be keeping all your eggs in one basket….” Living with them must be interesting. “Hello darling, say hello to the first day of the rest of your life, and of course never forget that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and don’t what ever you do today, look a gift horse in the mouth….”

Maybe the proper way to commentate for television, is the method adopted by the South American soccer commentators? They get so excited, shout and scream so much, it is completely impossible to hear what they are saying. But from the electric, emotional mayhem and excitement they generate, you immediately know something wonderful is happening and you must be seeing a great game!