How much does TV commentary really matter anyway?

As published by The Footy Almanac, 14 February 2015

Yesterday’s withering critique by Guardian sports journalist Geoff Lemon dispatched the oft-maligned Channel 9 cricket commentary team right over the pickets. No, make that over the Victor Richardson Gates – with eloquent, entertaining and exacting precision. It was one helluva read.

There is no doubt that whilst Nine’s production values and camera work standards remain first class, the quality of cricket commentary over the past five years has degenerated into a boys club that embraces a collection of the ‘matiest mates who ever mated’ (one of Geoff’s many zingers).

James Brayshaw, with the ‘emotional depth of a sock puppet during a button shortage’ was served a large slice of Lemon’s acerbic wit. The North Melbourne president also cops his fair share as an AFL commentator, of sorts. But in AFL world it is BT (Brian Taylor) that consumes the most terabytes of cyberspace angst. And I must say his style, mildly appealing on radio, has not translated to the box.

But as a long time, passionate consumer of both sports I do find the level of commentary on the commentary somewhat perplexing and tiresome. Rightly or wrongly, soccer fans get just as pernickety over their coverage too.  However in the grander scheme of poverty, social injustice, incurable disease, impending environmental doom, unspeakable crimes and war etc, some perspective per chance?

Maybe it’s a product of having grown up on the live product that puts a cap on my fury. Whether or not there’s a voice, informed, exasperating or otherwise, telling me what I can see and extrapolate with my own eyes and brain, infuriates me about as much as my bus running five minutes late. Nor do I have the slightest issue with seeking the sanctuary of the mute/volume button. Which I often do.

Sure I miss Richie’s dry wit and analysis of the game at hand. But to be brutally honest, whilst Tony Greig and Bill Lawry were half a class above the current crop, they harboured a capacity to be acutely annoying on a regular basis.

Likewise AFL commentators of yesteryear seem to enjoy the benefit of nostalgic reflection. When commentating Carlton matches, former player Ian ‘Robbo’ Robertson made Collingwood President Eddie McGuire sound like a neutral observer during his controversial stint on Channel 9. Peter Landy often appeared to be watching a different game, meanwhile Sandy Roberts provided great sound bites for ‘That Was The Season That Was’ but a comparable level of actual insight.  Drew Morphett?  Pls.

Put simply, my expectations have never been that high.

Anyone who has attempted the task of talking the talk on the teev says how difficult a gig it actually is. As with coaching, it’s not necessarily the best players who make the best experts who can translate their knowledge and ability in terms that mere mortals are willing and capable to comprehend. But finding those who’ve experienced the physical and mental pressure at the elite level that can string together lively and informative dialogue which enhances the broadcast – sans clichés, sans stating the bleeding obvious, sans nasally tone, sans bias, sans locker room in-jokes – they are few and far between.

A key point made by Lemon is that producers know their ratings include a captive market of enthusiasts that will endure a product that appeals more to what might be termed as the swinging voters.  It is simply the business model that administrators and marketers apply to running sport in the 21st century. It makes some people a lot of money but the rusted on purveyors the poorer for the experience.

The sad fact of the matter is that if the commentary does particularly drive you to distraction, it’s more than likely you have an innate appreciation of the sport that is not within the target spectrum the network is pitching to.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ross Slater says:

    Spot on Jeff.

    Whilst I agree with Geoff Lemon, the commentators are being told what to do by the TV producers who want to appeal to target demographics.

    It is time to stop commentating on the commentators.


  2. JD says:

    Thanks Ross – Correct and Geoff Lemon did take a big swipe at Brad McNamara for I guess being the enabler of the Triple M / Footy Show style of buffoonery.


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