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Less than a week to go, and the second most important debate of the World Cup has already started. Which side are you watching it on? In the early stages of the tournament, there’s no debate over this. We switch channels back and forth between the BBC and ITV depending on where the match is, but as the tournament goes on you’ll find them going in competition – particularly on the day of the final. And if England were to make it that far, we’d have all-out civil war on their hands. It’s an important decision. For most of us, it’ll decide what our experience of the 2006 World Cup is. Don’t believe me? Okay – try listening to “Nessun Dorma” and tell me that you’re not transported back to those balmy summer evenings when England almost chanced their way into the final. So, let’s have a quick look at what they’re offering up this summer:
Commentators: The BBC, obviously have Motty. Good old Motty. The elder statesman of British sports broadcasting. For a while, John Motson sounded as if he was losing it. During the 2002 World Cup, he befuddled the entire nation with increasingly tenuous “breakfast” jokes, culminating with a moment that will mar all future TV World Cup Goals compilations – shouting “YOU CAN SMASH THEM NOW! HE’S SCORED!” as David Beckham cracked home the winning goal against Argentina (it was an obscure reference to breakfast plates). I think somebody must have had a word after the tournament – although he remains more histrionic than he ever used to be, the flight-of-fantasy analogies seem to be a thing of the past. His back-ups are a mixed bag. Jonathan Pearce isn’t quite as teeth-clechingly bad as a football commentator as those of us that used to listen to him on Capital Gold in the 1990s might have expected, but still gets more excited than I would prefer, whilst Steve Wilson is developing into Motson’s natural successor. A clear football man who balances creating atmosphere and giving information very effectively.
ITV are led by the squawking, shouting, xenophobia machine that it is Clive Tydlesley. In the old days, he was a decent commentator, having worked by Granada TV before going to the BBC upon the creation of the Premiership. Snice his return to ITV, though, he has become the epitome of “tabloid broadcasting”. Openly biased towards British clubs in the Champions League (overlooking the fact that there are a good number of people that wasnt British clubs to do badly in Europe), laboured puns and “jocular” banter. Somewhat inexplicably, he has been voted the Royal Television Society’s Commentator of The Year three times. Tyledsley’s shortcomings are thrown into a sharper light when he’s lined up against his supposed juniors, Jon Champion and Peter Drury. Champion has a voice that grates, but still manages to be authorative, whilst Drury is my favourite of the lot. I can’t put my finger on exactly why – he just sounds like a real commentator. When John Motson retires, the BBC should bring him in as their top man.
Anchors: I have no problem with Gary Lineker at all. He has settled into the “Housewives’ Choice” niche particularly effectively, and always seems assured and confident in front of the camera. He’s got himself a job for life there. ITV, on the other hand, thought they’d hit the jackpot when they signed Des, but it all went wrong. He couldn’t adjust to the different tempo of commercial television, and shuffled off without a contract renewal when his five years were up. Gaby Logan (and her infamous eye-liner) had been filling the breach since then, but ITV have brought back a ghost from the form of former Grandstand host Steve Ryder. Having not seen him on anything apart from Formula One and Golf in the last ten years, it’s difficult to assess how he’ll get on, but it’s certainly an interesting choice.
Pundits: The BBC nearly have it right. Alan Hansen is the only pundit out of all of them that can actually tell me anything that I haven’t already seen, and this more than compensates for the terrible presence of Mark Lawrenson and Peter Reid. As for Ian Wright, well… it’s not a racial slur to say that he’s an imbecile. As for ITV, well, Andy Townsend looks to much like the manager in “The Office” for me to take himseriously (not David Brent, the other one), I can’t think of Ally MacCoist without getting a sudden, hideous mental image of him with his cock up some young woman, and Terry Venables now reminds me of the Ray Winstone character in that recent Channel 4 drama about a dodgy football manager.
I am rather of the opinion that we’re coming out of the golden age of sports broadcasting. The great names – Kenneth Wolstenholme, Barry Davies, David Coleman, Brian Moore and Hugh Johns – are all retired or dead. Listening to their commentaries, I pine for the days when commentators were understated, articulate and eloquent to the point of being poetic. Can you really imagine Clive Tyldesley saying, without a script, “There’s some people on the pitch… they think it’s all over… it is now! It’s four!”? No. Thought not.
(As a byline, if we can’t have a return to the golden age of TV football commentators, can we have something like this? Those Norwegians could certainly teach us a thing or two)
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
You cant hear any of it in the pub after half a dozen pints, what with the general roaring in the ears anyway.
This is true, but my general financial status will probably preculde me from watchingal bar the most important matches in the pub. There might be gin-induced roaring from my living room, but whether it’s loud enough to drown out the television will rather depend on the number of geeks and amount of gin concerned.
I know that on some fancy digital channels over here you can get Formula 1 with out commentator’s. Just pure motor sound. Why the hell isn’t that possible in football. Commentators are a relict from the radio they somehow forgot to get rid off when telly arrived. “Sorry mate, but the people can see that now them-selfs, you know?”. This is leaving them with a speaking part without text. The only thing that’s left when they are fed up with stating the obvious and mumbling expletives is reciting racial cliches and the latest yellow press nonsense.
I’m not sure yet what the BBC’s interactive commentary options will be, but they do (I think) offer an alternatve commentary or you can have it with BBC radio commentary, which is usually a bit more cerebral. I shall find out on Friday afternoon.
You may think the national BBC and ITV broadcasts have some bad commentators, but you should come up and try the guys who do the BBC Scotland and STV games.
The quality of their commentary is a perfect metaphor for the Scottish football they are taking about.
The only Scottish commentator I ever really enjoyed was Jock Brown (brother of ex Scotland manager Craig). He did all the BBC games in the years when I was growing up and therefore was the voice of football to me. He kind of spoiled it all by becoming a very poor general manager of Celtic a few years back and I have lost all respect for his football authority now.
However, If there is one consolation to Scotland not being involved in this tournamet, it’s that I won’t have to listen to Archie McPherson. The man is clearly a raving lunatic, known best for use of the term “WOOOOOOOOFFFFF!!!” while commenatating.
I can’t stick Jock Brown. But, yes, all anyone outside Scotland needs to know about our football coverage is that they sometimes let the drummer out of Deacon Blue present it.