June 18, 2008

The Decline of Commentary: in cricket, but probably applicable to all broadcast sports. Osman Samiuddin takes ex-players to task. A well-considered rant.

posted by owlhouse to other at 05:19 PM - 13 comments

I find this analysis pretty much spot on, having watched a lot of cricket in Australia over the last 30 years. Sometimes I wonder who actually buys all the merchandise being flogged. Channel 9 did get rid of Shane Warne, though, but not because he was a poor commentator.

posted by owlhouse at 05:22 PM on June 18, 2008

Commentary is fast making sports unwatchable for me. In F1 you have the asinine James Allen whose endless felation of Lewis Hamilton is utterly nauseating. Baseball you've got... Well far too many to list. Soccer is bearable still. Just. There's a auto racing commentator on Eurosport who absolutely rocks but I can't remember his name. And Speed Channel in the US, their F1 commentary is good. If the commentary sounds like you're having a knowledgeable mate talk to you, it's okay. If it's, as in the case of James Allen, Joe Morgan and many many others, some condescending prick talking down to you... NO! I would kill to have the option of watching all the sports I like with just the natural sounds. No idiots talking. I don't NEED commentary. Commentary adds nothing. In racing, an argument could be made for being told stuff that's going on out of camera shot, but baseball you REALLY don't need commentary at all. It adds nothing but distraction. If you hunt online you can find downloads of Formula One sessions with no commentary and it's wonderful. In fact I was wondering the other day why, exactly, we have commentary at all. I mean the whole ethos of moving pictures has been "don't tell us, SHOW US!" I figured it's probably a holdover from the radio days. When sports moved to TV they figured they should still have someone talk, to ease the transition from spoken word to moving picture, and it just, unfortunately, stuck. Does anyone feel we actually NEED commentators? I've taken to watching sports in foreign languages, simply because, by not understanding the commentary, it doesn't annoy me anywhere near as much. Listening to Japan's answer to Joe Morgan (assuming they have one) is a lot less painful than listening to the man himself.

posted by Drood at 05:39 PM on June 18, 2008

In F1 you have the asinine James Allen whose endless felation of Lewis Hamilton is utterly nauseating. Ahh, the English national passtime. Most ex-players are just terrible. Stu Wilson (rugby, New Zealand) is fucking embarrassing. Literally. I was staying in a hotel with a bunch of Lions fans in 2005 (while working away from home), and I found myself apologising to them for what a rude,obnoxious, smug shit he was. He is almost as bad as Stephen Jones. Most ex players aren't particularly astute commentators (with rare exceptions like Ian Smith and Grant Fox over here); in fact they're a plague on commentary; they're usually relentlessly partisan, and often surprisingly uninformed (most ex-players in rugby in Australia and New Zealand are so busy bagging the referee they obviously have no time to keep up with the rules of the games, because they're so often wrong). I want commentators who know more than me about the game I'm watching, and can explain what's going on and why people are making particular calls. I can see for myself who's passed the ball.

posted by rodgerd at 07:26 PM on June 18, 2008

I like the Premier League commentators we can hear over in the USA on Fox Soccer Channel; they let the game "breathe" and don't seem to feel the need to talk continuously. Unfortunately American soccer commentators tend to babble too much so some American soccer fans watch the Spanish language broadcasts; somehow I doubt the Spanish commentators are really that much better, it's just that not knowing the language we aren't distracted by them. In American gridiron, the networks seem to like hiring ex-players and ex-coaches from the NFL to commentate NFL games; I won't name names but we have our share of buffoons commentating NFL games. Speaking of cricket, owlhouse, what's all this about cricket suddenly discovering the switch hitter concept? Baseball has had this since the 19th century at least, why has it taken cricket so long to think of this?

posted by dave2007 at 09:18 PM on June 18, 2008

I'd like to point out the exception that proves the rule: Al Leiter. A truly insightful baseball commentator. Too bad they only dust him off for the playoffs.

posted by trox at 09:24 PM on June 18, 2008

And I say this as someone who rooted against Mr. Leiter for much of his career for what it's worth.

posted by trox at 09:25 PM on June 18, 2008

what's all this about cricket suddenly discovering the switch hitter concept At the higher levels, cricket has always been about protecting your wicket - i.e. not getting out. Changing sides, especially during a bowler's run up, is risky for the batsman, as well as (up to now) being considered bad sportsmanship, as the field is set for a specific 'off' or 'leg' side. Fielders aren't allowed to change positions during the run up, nor is the bowler allowed to change hands or sides of the wicket for the actual delivery. With the advent of limited over matches, and now Twenty20, there is a greater need to score runs quickly and take risks doing so. Hence, 'switch hitting' to overcome field placements designed for one particular side. The only problem I can see is that the LBW rule requires designated off and leg sides. It will be interesting to see what the umpire decides if that situation occurs.

posted by owlhouse at 09:54 PM on June 18, 2008

I suspect, owlhouse, that (much as with Bodyline bowling), the MCC will suddenly press for it to be banned when it's used against English players, rather than by them.

posted by rodgerd at 03:42 AM on June 19, 2008

Interesting. Of course I was being a bit unfair comparing baseball to cricket since the switch hitting isn't the same in both sports; in baseball the batter has to chose to stand in either the right or left handed batters box before the pitch is made, so there is a little time for the fielding team to adjust fielding positions and a little time for the pitcher to adjust his pitch. The baseball batter can't switch sides in mid-pitch.

posted by dave2007 at 09:05 AM on June 19, 2008

I'm only really half-joking, but why don't we set up SportsFilter TV - Live feeds, no commentary. Filtering out the crap and leaving you with pure sport. As a subscription channel, if it were available, I'd have bought it by now, and I suspect I'm not alone. What do we need to make it happen?

posted by JJ at 09:34 AM on June 19, 2008

Maybe I'm odd man out here, but I really enjoy the BBC's Test Match Special radio commentary. The matey-style banter between the crew works well and I'll often put it on in the background while I'm working. I also often put the cricket on the tv with the sound down and listen to TMS instead of the tv commentators.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 11:36 AM on June 19, 2008

I do the same, Mr B - have the ABC radio on while watching TV. Unfortunately the ABC have started playing the 'personality' game a bit too much lately, although they do have the best and most knowledgeable commentators from the touring countries.

posted by owlhouse at 04:33 PM on June 19, 2008

Oh, man, those Formula 1 guys are hilariously bad. Every time there's even the mildest skid, you hear them go "OOOAHAAHAAA!!!" It's like listening to a broadcast by Jerry Lewis. And why do they need three announcers? They all talk over each other (usually with "OOOAUAAAAUAUAAOAA!!!"). It's the most amateurish announcing I think I've heard in professional sports.

posted by dirigibleman at 08:45 PM on June 19, 2008

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