Sports TV pun­dits there to en­ter­tain us fans

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Sport - KEVIN McCAL­LUM

Some years ago, I was asked by man­age­ment at Su­perS­port if I would do an anal­y­sis on its cricket commentary team.

The ba­sic premise was to lis­ten to the com­men­ta­tors at work, and give an opinion on the good, the bad and the ugly.

What was work­ing, what wasn’t and what could be changed.

Sounded good to me. Ex­cept that some­one told the com­men­ta­tors about it.

I dis­cov­ered this when Ke­pler Wes­sels told me if I said bad things about him he would sort me out.

He was jok­ing. And it be­came an on­go­ing joke.

I’d see Wes­sels and he’d clench his fist just to re­mind me he had been a boxer.

I know Wes­sels was jok­ing. I think.

He once wrote a col­umn for me when I was sports edi­tor on the Satur­day Star, un­til my edi­tor told me to cut it.

We re­placed him with John Rob­bie.

We don’t talk about the col­umn any more.

I never did write bad things about Wes­sels or, in­deed, any of the rest of the Su­perS­port com­men­ta­tors as the man­age­ment never fol­lowed up and my role in re­shap­ing the coun­try’s commentary was over be­fore it had be­gun.

Good thing. Wes­sels still packs a fair punch.

Ev­ery for­mer player who has be­come a com­men­ta­tor will tell you it is the clos­est they can get to still be­ing part of the game with­out ac­tu­ally get­ting in­volved in the devil’s work that is coach­ing.

It’s just like the old days – travel, watch sport and get paid for it. And then have a drink at the end of the day.

And they still get in­ter­viewed for those sto­ries that be­gin “For­mer Bok crit­i­cal of

” Some me­dia out­lets have a per­ma­nent fix­ture on their di­aries for sto­ries quot­ing for­mer play­ers.

They must have gone into a flat panic when they saw that Nick Mal­lett was not in the Su­perS­port stu­dio last week.

Mind you, then they did quote Naas Botha and oth­ers.

Some com­men­ta­tors are bet­ter than oth­ers.

Some are liked more than oth­ers.

I know people who hate one rugby com­men­ta­tor be­cause of his ac­cent. They just can’t get past it.

It drives me dilly that all com­men­ta­tors speak like Yoda from Star Wars: “Twenty for five, the score is.”

English should not be man­gled. And don’t shout.

And don’t guess. Just tell me what I should know and what I may have missed.

Tell me why it went wrong and why it was right.

Make me laugh and cheer, and an­gry and sad. En­ter­tain me.

In The Times of Lon­don this week, Gary Neville, once of Manch­ester United and now on the telly as a pun­dit, spoke of what he has learnt: “Pun­ditry is in­for­ma­tion, it’s us­ing your ex­pe­ri­ence to see things maybe people can’t see at home, and it’s cer­tainly in­ject­ing a pas­sion.

“In­tel­li­gent anal­y­sis de­liv­ered with en­thu­si­asm, of­fer­ing a dif­fer­ent view and the odd ar­gu­ment, that sounds to me like a de­cent TV show.

“Pun­ditry these last five or six years, the bar is raised so much higher than it’s ever been,” Neville said.

“People ex­pect more. You have to keep rein­vent­ing.

“You have to stay rel­e­vant be­cause after a while you won’t be known by younger fans.

“I al­ways ask: ‘How can I im­prove?‘ It’s dif­fer­ent roles, ask­ing more ques­tions, in­flu­enc­ing editorial, even re­port­ing.

“Be­cause, if I don’t change, I’ll get stale and they’ll move me on,” he said.

Com­men­ta­tors are the voices and faces of our sport­ing lives.

They fill in the gaps when needed and some­times talk when they should shut up.

They can de­light and in­fu­ri­ate.

They can state the bleed­ing ob­vi­ous and then slip in a gem of wis­dom.

They have the eas­i­est, hard­est and most won­der­ful of jobs.

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