Eloquence meets Irreverence
Sport may well be the one arena where eloquence meets irreverence with beauteous and amusing results. The shock comment respectfully delivered. It is where being entertaining and educational shares a border with being smug and impertinent. Given that news in general is of a disheartening nature, earthquakes, murders etc., a standard of delivery representing decorum is undoubtedly appropriate. Etiquette and political correctness have their place. We are hardly likely to enjoy Dennis Miller adding colour comments to acts of child molestation or violence, but welcomed him into our homes to add spice to Monday Night Football.
Sport, thankfully, encompasses a huge proportion of entertainment. This should allow society to accept telecast coverage that can stretch the parameters of acceptable comment in the interests of delivering this entertainment factor. Bear in mind that large segments of viewers are not only interested in the winning team or individual, but are also engrossed in a potential learning experience. The enormous audience of the Super Bowl just happens to include millions who look forward to interruptions in play, simply to delight in the battle of the advertisements.
Golf fans will remember commentator Gary McCord at the Masters where he described the greens as being “bikini-waxed.” A vast majority of ‘ordinary’ fans in a massive television audience doubtless appreciated this comment in the spirit in which it was delivered – attempting to describe Augusta Nationals lightning fast greens in a manner not repeated a million times before. (Make that a million and one.) “This putt will be fast, Jim.” “Two putt or not two putt, Jim, that is the question.” Shakespeare himself wouldst perchance seek refuge in clichés when it comes to commenting repeatedly on those slick earth surfaces. The Masters, of course, is very far removed from ever being noted ‘ordinary’ and McCord had to wax eloquently somewhere else for his benign denigration. To paraphrase the words of Fairway Louie, the Masters Committee must reside in the chamber of this contradiction.
This is the quintessential exception that proves the rule. The incontrovertible evidence collected from a century of the sport of golf dictates respect for traditions, honour among thieves and fair play. Augusta greens have been called everything from bowling alleys to bathtubs, but somehow bikini wax crossed a line. One could say the line was hard to read. And so the world must survey the Masters greens without the impertinence and the articulacy of Gary “plumbob that moustache” McCord.
Now, it’s true that Henry Longhurst would never have uttered those words. He delivered eloquence by merging uncomplicated words with dramatic pauses. A master of the silent assist. Peter Aliss classically allows the pictures to tell the obvious, intermittently adding gems of wisdom far removed from but somehow complementing what’s actually on screen. And yet today’s viewing public demands more from its entertainment than mere facts and descriptive hyperbole. A cutting edge is indispensable, just in case Tiger Woods does not win the next Major. Tigers’ year 2000 was akin to the gourmet chefs’ mouth-watering anticipation underestimating the sublime reality of the critical taste-test. In essence a mistake, dare I say.
Just as Stanley Matthews insinuated immortality on the soccer fields, becoming a living legend before the phrase was popularized and eventually retiring to the great football field in the sky, Tiger has reset the bar for all golfers and raised the possibilities to fit a Ripley’s Believe it or Not text. Perhaps his amazing foray into the record books will never be replicated, but commentators had best start hoarding some witty colloquialisms, just in case.
The modern commentator needs to blend factual knowledge with biting sarcasm and render conclusions in a composed and creative delivery. Entertainment for the fans. It’s not much use trying to find a decent malt in Scotland if you cannae communicate the words to ask for it. As German Football Association president Dr. Braun responded when asked if he would mind answering a few questions in English, “My dear fellow,” he said, “I think of English as I do my wife. I love her but I do not command her.”
It would be nice to see some McCordianisms sweeping into soccer to bring out more fun in the serious game. I’m not sure I can stand hearing “a bulge in the ol’ onion bag” too many more times. Let’s see more Shankleyisms like “The problem with you, son, is that all your brains are in your head.” Remember the Rangers player who never got a game because he was fourth choice behind Jim Baxter, an amputee and a Catholic. It’s only irreverent if you let it get to you. That’s not one of mine but I’ll leave you with one. “The last time we saw Ronaldo play like Ronaldo, we only needed two digits to know what year it was.”