Sports on television and radio is part of modern life. Almost any time a professional team plays, there are cameras and announcers and folks doing colour coverage, background interviews, post-game interviews – the list goes on; it is a virtual flood.
Unfortunately, however, in the middle of all this high-technology inundation with replays and close-ups and file footage generated to a fine technical quality, we are often beset by commentary or statements that are so inane that’s it hard to believe that these folks, working for these big dollars, are saying such nonsense and that next week, or the next game, there they are again coming up with these idiotic statements. Sometimes, of course, the sports figures react to the inanity, either refusing to respond to the silly comment, or, as NFL coach Bill Parcells was known to do, by just walking away from the interview.
A particular piece of foolishness is the modern 30-second sound bite, taking place before the game or at half-time, where managers or coaches are asked what strategy they will use in the action you’re about to see. Are these people nuts? Who in his right mind would believe that a coach or a manager would divulge his carefully worked out game plans? Why do interviewers continue to ask the question? In a telecast of last year’s NBA playoffs, with his team trailing, a lady interviewer at half time asked Coach Popovitch, “What are you going to do with your team behind?” Popovitch, obviously wishing he were somewhere else, said two words, “Keep playing.” Undeterred – after all, this is her job – the lady ventured, “So what changes do you plan to make in the second half?” Popovitch replies, “Well, we’ll have to wait and see.” And with that he’s off – probably to get a good stiff drink.
A part of the phenomenon in recent years is the emergence on North American television of pretty young ladies, like the one with Popovitch, who are there simply because they are pretty, young and female, with practically no knowledge of the sport they’ve been hired to cover. I don’t mean to single them out, however, because the idiotic remarks are not confined to the fairer sex.
Recently, on the England tour, with the West Indies down 0-2 in the ODI 3-game series, West Indies captain Darren Sammy was asked about his view of the third game. Brother Sammy pontificated: “We’re looking to redeem ourselves in the third ODI where England is resting their top three bowlers.” The series is over, Darren. England knows that the third game is meaningless, so they’re naturally resting their top three bowlers. They’ve told us that. How are we going to redeem ourselves in that equation? It would be okay if Sammy had said the match would be good practice, but redeem ourselves? Against an opponent who has declared they are resting? It‘s two matches too late for that.
The statistics mania on broadcast after broadcast goes from the fairly interesting to the completely useless. I recently heard a soccer pundit proclaim, very solemnly, “You have to put in the equation that England hasn’t beaten Italy over the past five years.” It’s a meaningless statistic. The teams are completely different – players, owners, coaches, trainers, systems. On both sides, it’s a completely new exercise; what happened five years ago is totally irrelevant.
One particular English cricket commentator is known for his condemnation of fielders who miss the stumps on a runout attempt and therefore give up an overthrow run in the process. “Oh dear,” is his mocking comment. In fact, in today’s shorter game, where early wickets are crucial, it makes sense to potentially allow a run in an attempt to secure a runout. In addition, the runout is a fundamental weapon in cricket often turning a match completely on its head by dismissing a well-set player in a flash. In T20, especially we need more such attempts, not less. “Oh dear,” my behind.
In cricket, it seems, the vacuous statements are everywhere, not just on the field. The WICB, for instance, recently put out a lengthy press release where an official in the organization was reported as praising a particular WICB cricket programme sponsored by Digicel. To be fair, the programme may well have been beneficial, but didn’t it occur to the Cricket Board that praise for themselves generated by them may be viewed with suspicion? Haven’t they heard the Caribbean saying, “Massa bull, massa cow?”
I watch a lot of cricket, so you will understand if I give you two more examples from that arena. During the final 20/20 tournament in the Stanford era, colour commentator Mike Haysman concluded one of his ground-level analyses by saying, “Well, whatever happens, the team that scores the most runs will have the advantage.” And prior to the recent England tour, Trini batsman Adrian Barath said, “Well, we’ll be playing in English conditions where you have to watch every ball.” Coach Gibson needs to pull the Trini aside and ask, “Adrian, where in the name of God is this cricket match where you don’t have to watch every ball?”
You know I always like to give the bright side, so here it is. In the present CLT20 series, Darren Ganga, a newcomer to the broadcast team, has been nothing short of delightful in his commentary. The man brings meaningful comments, many clearly drawn from his time as a player and captain, and he is never guilty of the fluff and tired clichés that other commentators throw at us. Darren talks cricket sense in almost every remark he makes. In a relaxed but always strong voice, he brings very useful insight to the game. He’s a new boy in that arena, but he is shining.
Finally, knowing how we love to copy, I pray to God that on our Caribbean sports broadcasts we don’t introduce this nonsense of striking young ladies, of ample proportions but scant cricket credentials, regaling us about the game. I don’t know how I would survive that.