The (English) Commentator’s Curse
Posted by eddiev18 on September 6, 2009
“We’re the best in the world! We’ve beaten England 2-1 at football! This is truuuuly incredible! We’ve beaten England, England the fighters’ birthplace: Lord Nelson, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, Clement Attlee, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana – we’ve beaten you all. Maggie Thatcher, can you hear me? Maggie Thatcher, I have a message for you in the middle of your campaign… Maggie Thatcher, as you say in your language in the boxing bars around Madison Square Garden: Your boys took a hell of a beating!” – Bjørge Lillelien (Norwegian commentator), Norway vs England, World Cup Qualifier 1981.
Ok, so there’s that, and then there’s:
“What a hit. Take a bow son” – Andy Gray, Sky Sports co-commentator, after every goal scored from outside the penalty box.
And there in lies the problem, English football commentary has decayed. Gone are the days of Stuart Hall eulogising about ‘a match of titanic proportions about to take place at the colusseum’ with ‘the gladatorial figure of Owen’ looking to slay the Italian beast, when simply tasked with introducing an England vs Italy game. Nowadays you are most likely to hear some washed up ex-pro using a co-commentator’s job to try to showpiece his knowledge of the game, in a desperate attempt to convince viewers that he knows what he’s talking about. Trouble is Warren Barton, we don’t care, and we don’t want to hear you. As for an article I recently read, claiming that Mark Lawrenson was John Motson’s ‘funny side-kick’. No. Stop it. Never write that.
It also annoys me that when Sky Sports commentators are talked about, the first name that comes to everyone’s mind is Gray, who is always the co-commentator. In my mind, the reason for this is that the guys actually doing the commentating aren’t the personalities they should be. The lack of eccentric, enthusiastic shouty-blokes is evident. The closest we get to eccentric is John Motson, but he is slowly losing his marbles, and has essentially become a parody of himself. Stuart Hall is another eccentric, and also wonderfully descriptive, but has been criminally under-used by the BBC.
As for shouty-blokes, it’s a crime that Jonathan Pearce decided to ditch the radio for television. Pearce had to dumb himself down for TV, and it’s only the viewer/listener’s loss. I used to love muting the TV and tuning into Capital Gold on the radio, to hear the over-exciteable Pearce screaming with excitment when England got a throw-in in a promising position. His goal celebrations weren’t bad either… “and there was Teddy, ever so steady, and he’ll celebrate tonight with a glass of sherry!” I like that. You don’t get much rhyming anymore, and it’s certainly better than “get in there you beauty”, which could be mustered by any old drunk in the pub.
I understand that the English way is to be more reserved, with the occasional hint of sarcasm for humour. I have time for that too. For example, Motson proclaiming that England’s 5-1 win in Munich was their ‘best result against the Germans since the war’ was fantastic. However, when it’s 0-0, England v Uzbekistan, on a damp Saturday afternoon in November, the commentator has to take some form of resposability for whipping up the atmosphere. You can be damn certain that the 30,000 ‘corporate spectators’ at Wembley won’t be creating it. Turning to Joe Royale to ask ‘So Joe, after 30 minutes, have you seen any evidence of threat from this Uzbeki team?’ is not interesting, and his response is undoubtedly going to be about as exciting as watching Gordon Brown tweeze the grey hairs out of his nostril.
The reason for this rant? Jealousy. The source of this jealousy? I have just watched the following clip of yesterday’s Mexico vs Costa Rica game. I want what Mexico have.
Get rid of Martin Tyler, and get me a shouty Spanish bloke. Problem solved.