Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Commentator commentry

When I was a kid I quite fancied being a football commentator. Like most idle fantasies of my childhood, I have no idea what the hell I was thinking, but my guess is that it was a way of being involved in the game long after it had become obvious I was never going to play the game. A those who can, do, those who can't, commentate, sort of thing. I at least never wanted to be a referee, which would be inexcusable, like wanting to be a policeman, a role for emotionally undernourished types. Having said that I once acted as the ref in a primary school game between my year and the year below and had a great time disallowing their goals for no legitimate reason whatsoever. Which, such was our collectively shaky understanding of the actual rules, they accepted without much fuss, .

At age about 9 my class made a book with all the rules of football in it. The offside rule was written up as "You are offside when you are in the other team's half", which even at that age most of us could see wasn't the whole picture. So it's not that boys are genetically programmed to understand the offside rule, it's just that we've generally been trying to get our heads around it for longer than girls, who in those days and at that age seemed to spend their whole time arranging coloured pens. Richard Keys and Andy Gray should probably remember that there was a time they didn't fully understand the rules of football - like for instance the rule about not chatting shit into an open mic - although alas they seem for the moment to have kept their places as the two smuggest men on the box.

Some people have been suggesting that as Ron Atkinson was sacked for being racist off-air, so these two leprechauns-of-culture should also take a long walk off a short plank. But Ron used the word 'nigger' and he's not a rapper, so he had to go. What will happen to Gray or Keys when they have to work with a female commentator? I'm hoping for spontaneous combustion.

How do you become a football commentator? Do you just become a commentator and then move up the ranks to football? Or do you somehow get into football and shuffle along the aisle until you get to commentating? Where are the jobs advertised? It's not as if you can study it at Loughborough. Where do they get new commentators from? Perhaps when you get dropped calls, or missed calls from strange numbers, it's the BBC, phoning round listening to people's answerphone messages and "hellos" in search of the perfect commentating voice.

Not that commentating is all it's cracked up to be. Can you really make a living as a commentator when there's not that many matches on anyway? Can a second tier commentator make enough money out of being on five minutes of MOTD highlights to be able to get by the rest of the week? What do they do the rest of the time? Bone up on football encyclopedias? Practice pronunciation skills and comment sprinting? And it must be quite tiring, the concentration of having to commentate, to be able to tell which player the ball's gone to in a blink of an eye, and with Colemanballs always on your shoulder. Myself, I think I'd prefer the commentator's mate's job, where you don't have to do much of the grunt work and only have to step in with football knowledge occasionally, most of which you can probably just make up.

Obviously recruitment is slow in the commentating business, what with there being not much staff turnover. Once you're in the commentary chair, you're set, it's the world's last ever job for life. But down the pecking order, you need to start thinking seriously about wacking some of your senior colleagues if you ever want to get the big games. Perhaps that's what the Graykeysgate leaker was thinking. Or, and this is my guess, they've both made such cunts of themselves over the years that everyone who works with them is gasping at the chance to turn them in.

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