I don’t often get much chance to watch a sporting event on the television. Sometimes I listen to commentaries in the car, but they are only aural wallpaper, and the games could be anything. They could be being played between Tonga and Turkmenistan, using paddles to whack a balloon sideways or diagonally on a gigantic chessboard between two teams of tag wrestlers, and I wouldn’t care. I would just register the numbers as a means of keeping my focus on the road. I can listen to all kinds of complete rubbish on the radio.
But when I get to watch (say, during Wimbledon) a televised game, the banter of commentators starts to get on my nerves, to the point at which I begin to get weary of watching. Why do I need well-paid prats and out-to-grass ex-players to offer me their opinions and explanations about what is taking place? You can change the size of the screen, and get sub-titles, and by pressing various colours of buttons, you can be taken to lots of (doubtless) exciting places. You can flick between channels, but you can’t silence a sports commentator. It’s no good saying I could turn the TV sound down, because the thwack or crack or whine or zip of whatever is going on has a sonic dimension (sorry, that was a bit pretentious).
If the programme was news, you wouldn’t have some hobbledehoy butting in to comment on the quality (or lack of it) of the way Peter Sissons was delivering the latest bulletins. You don’t have people pop up in a soap opera to explain who used to be married to whom, and how many days they had been incarcerated, nor how old the actor was and what else the actor had been featured in, or how many awards had been won by the actor. So why sport?
It’s because they think we are thick, and they think we can’t understand what’s going on, and cannot enjoy something without the sound of a pontificator wheezing away in the – I was going to write ‘background’ but of course they’re in the foreground. Dear me, what a rant. And I don’t even know who ‘they’ are in the sentence before last. What a treat it would be if images and sounds just came on to the TV, and they left it at that.
The same is incidentally true of musical concerts now. Old ones are accompanied by surtitles, detailing trivia. Watch Glastonbury and they give you the name of the flaming song (not always correctly, too), before they cut to an announcer who says how good it is, even if it isn’t or wasn’t (they never say ‘that was rubbish’, do they?)
If the BBC is looking for cuts, then, after they have demoted Ross, Wogan, Norton, and all other overpaid idiots, could they experiment in clearing away all those who make their crusts by talking over what we are watching? Would we miss any of them?