Monday, April 11, 2011

Underthinking Commentary

Firstly I must apologise for my absence for the last week. Currently the tolls of life mean I can't post every day, but I was hoping to change my schedule, so that I will post Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Which I was trying to start last week, however I got called away to Invercargill to commentate ice hockey last Wednesday.

The man I aspire to be Don Cherry.
This man actually gets his suits made out of curtain material see the below video.

And then on Saturday night I listened to my friend Peter Lambert commentate the NZ- Australia Ice Hockey match live from Melbourne where the Div II World Champs were taking place. Australia were victor 2-0.
But these two events got me thinking what is the role of the modern commentator, I mean in the olden days when all you had was a radio, the role was clear tell the listeners at home what you see, so they get an idea of what is happening.
Not this Wireless.

"I say mother the colonial Jonah, has just trampled one of our fine English players"
But with the advent of television, viewers at home can actually see what is happening without the commentator telling them. I mean we have to allow for blind people but the percentage of them in the population probably doesn't warrant the rest of us having radio commentary on TV.

"...and then Carl Hayman raises his hands into the air..."
So what we really want is a commentator that can give us insight into what is happening with the play, why the play is unfolding how it is, the reasons for the the team attempting to do this. This is your play-by-play man and then you have an expert who knows the players, and has deeper knowledge of the rules, and every so often tells stupid jokes to add colour to the commentary, know as the colour commentator.

"I am the WHAT commentator"
1/. The professional Play-by-Play man

 The problem I have is a lot of sports have a professional play-by-play man who can talk really fast and coherently about what he sees, but has never played the sport, therefore has no deeper knowledge then the average fan. They figure this is okay because they team him with the expert in the sport, so no knowledge is lost. The problem is sport happens fast, and commentators need to be able to think on their feet, and if you have no knowledge of the sport, the fill is hard to come up with. We got this in the 2010 Winter Olympics with the BBC ice hockey play-by-play commentator.

1st Timer instead of One-timer

Game winning shots instead of Shootout
He also suggested that the leading scoring D-man for Canada should be moved to forward despite his scoring coming from the point where a D man specialises in scoring from. Or that holding the puck for 45 seconds was poor puck possession, where in fact that is almost perfect puck possession. The list goes on of inaccuracies he was making, and because of the speed of the game the expert commentator was unable to correct him.
All commentators need to have an understanding of the sport, to allow for some good chatter, to add to you viewing experience. The professional play-by-play man needs to specialise in a sport, just because you talk fast and clearly, doesn't a good commentator make.

2/. Not understanding the audience.

Although the commentator should be deeply knowledgeable in the sport, he must be aware of who is listening, for example commentating ice hockey in NZ. It is all well and good to use the correct terms one-timers, and slap shots, and face offs. But when you first introduce those terms you must explain them to the audience otherwise they might as well be listening to Greek commentary.

"...straight off the draw, from the faceoff, Crosby unleashes a one-timer, but the goalie gets a glove on it, and freezes the puck..."

"Say What?"
3/. Finally a word on Cricket

The people that need to be the most knowledgeable in world are cricket commentators. Unlike most sports we watch there are long periods where nothing is happening. So in other sports your inadequate knowledge of the history of the sport can be brushed over. But in cricket if you have less than 300 stories about cricket, which you can relate to the events that are currently unfolding you are sunk.

That's why they are so old. But also so awesome


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