Now that the Beijing Olympics are running their final course – the Olympic Village a sea of hastily stuffed suitcases and used sneakers; athletes packing to catch their flights home, and the famous Bird’s Nest stadium about to be demoted to just another execution site for Chinese political prisoners – I have a few words to say to the American sports commentators, flown at great expense from the United States to double our delight and pluralize our pleasure, during this momentous, quadrennial event:
“FOR GOD’S SAKE, SHUT UP!”
I’m no great sports fan. I don’t savor the weekend ballgame or rush off to the golf course at every opportunity. I don’t even know what ESPN stands for. Just once in a while, however, my interest in matters physical raises itself above the level of a female body beautiful and attaches me to the cathode ray tube for a week, or a fortnight, of sport spectacular.
The British Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon; the soccer World Cup; the Olympics. Throughout my life these events have held a certain fascination. Then, sadly, I moved to the United States of America.
Yes, I can still view these events, albeit through a constant barrage of Pepsi Cola, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Viagra marketing, but the enjoyment is sucked away as surely as a Texas teen demolishing a Coke in the heat of a Dallas summer, by the inane chattering of certain employees of the US corporate media who misrepresent themselves as, “commentators”.
In truth, their aim is to distract the viewer from the current event by disclosing lurid details of their past life, latest acquisitions from Christian Dior, or in the case of one female broadcaster at the Olympics, a lecture on the architecture of the stadium roof during a particularly engrossing performance of a Russian rhythmic gymnast who needed no commentary, other than the most delicate of vocal punctuation, to transport one to a blissful state of nirvana by her beauty, poise, and ballet-like dexterity.
The woman responsible for this rape of art and physical flawlessness is no exception to the rule. Rather, she is the norm. Wimbledon is ruined annually by the vocal floodgates of ex-US tennis stars-cum-media reporters who have about as much idea how to conduct a commentary on play as the Roman Emperor Nero had of Christian forgiveness.
Last year’s World Cup soccer tournament suffered similar inanity.
There’s a good reason for such lack of professionalism brazenly displayed by those employed by US corporate media outlets like NBC, (who, incidentally, have somehow secured the contract to exclusively cover both the Vancouver winter Olympics of 2010, and the London Olympics of 2012). It’s an automatic assumption that ex-players make good commentators. Nothing is further from the truth. While a sports commentator benefits from a thorough grounding in his particular field, the art of commentary has nothing to do with physical expertise in any particular sport.
Those of us mature enough to remember great BBC radio commentators like John Motson, Kenneth Wolstenholme, and Eddie Waring know that sports stars don’t necessarily make good commentators – something the US media has yet to fathom.
This supplanting of vocal expertise by pointless prattle is a necessary part of televised American sport. With the possible exception of basketball, other activities – baseball and American football – involve short periods of involvement interspersed with long, grotesquely boring, eons of inactivity that necessitate some form of vocal interlocution to prevent the viewer lapsing into somnolence. For this, the American ‘commentator’ is indispensable.
Fortunately, in the rest of the world sport partakes of sufficient activity to render such vacuous verbiage unnecessary to the point of distraction. Not to make too fine a point, it’s bloody annoying.
If US commentators have nothing better to say during a sporting event than to comment on such matters as the stadium roof, we’d all be much better off if they stayed at home and left the grace and skill of the competitors to speak for itself.
Filed under: Undesirable vocal proliferation