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By Ian Nance - posted Friday, 8 July 2016

A lot of people enjoy watching sport live, or reading about it, listening or viewing it in the media.

The broadcast medium is one where live match commentary is essential, but much of it displays extremely poor understanding on the part of commentators about the role of their showmanship in hosting. Undoubtedly they are enthusiastic about their connection with the sport being covered, but a lot of commentary by the so-called knowledgeable is nothing less than the loud-mouthing of their personal attitudes, opinions and possible lack of actual playing experience, evidenced by the almost hysterical shrieking about trivia.

A player scores a try, one aim of the game, yet this becomes a time of hyperbole.


A tennis player plays a shot which beats an opponent – so what?

A batsman hits a six …just doing what he's there for!

One function of description is to point out aspects which may not be easy for viewers or listeners to follow. It is not necessary to tell the audience what they already see or hear; they don't have to be told what they know already.

Television sometimes suffers when the view of larger tactics on the field is often being missed during close-up cutaways of action. Here, a commentator can put the run of play into context, but always the mood and tone of the description must marry with the actual speed and importance of moves.

Instead, what do we get? Maniacal screams of comment about a perfectly normal part of the game or race.

This is especially irritating during replays of sports events during TV news broadcasts, when the rather clichéd style of news report writing and editing finds short yelled commentary used as aural punctuation bursts during cutaways.


Firstly in radio, later in television, I had the great pleasure of working with one of racing's leading commentators, Ken Howard.

Apart from knowing his stuff thoroughly, Ken also knew just how much excitement to allow in his description of a horse race. He was a true showman, a master of the understated yet colourful explanation.

He would use his unique phrases to describe a certainty of a win as being "London to a brick on", or his synonym for a finish as "greeting the judge". His style was certainly the right horse for the course, and he would never shout, unless something truly dramatic or unexpected happened.

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About the Author

Ian Nance's media career began in radio drama production and news. He took up TV direction of news/current affairs, thence freelance television and film producing, directing and writing. He operated a program and commercial production company, later moving into advertising and marketing.

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