Originally posted September 2011
It’s World Cup season – athletics, rugby, swimming, netball, cricket – and therefore time for one of my favourite past times: rubbishing ridiculous sports commentary. Now, before you click away from this page, I’m keeping that rant for my long-suffering partner and the comfort of our couch. To paraphrase many a commentator this is a post of two halves.
Sports commentary is an art form, as my attempts to keep a running commentary of the soccer have proved time and time again. In most telecasts the pros not only have to deal with the play-by-play, interspersed with player, team and game stats since the sport’s inception, but entertain throughout the pre-game, half time and post-game rituals.
These are broadcast specialists, often former journalists, with a wealth of knowledge across numerous sports – let’s face it even the extended AFL season doesn’t take you through 52 weeks of the year. They’re the kind of people you want answering the Sport and Leisure questions in Trivial Pursuit.
Then there are the “colour” commentators; the former players (occasionally ex-coaches) who bring their celebrity status and match insight to the commentary box. These guys and girls are experts – on the field – bringing the credibility of actual game time, bone-jarring injuries, humiliating defeats and magic wins, that no amount of statistics and arm chair tactics can equal.
They are not employed for their public speaking skills, but their passion, insider stories and memories – both their own career highlights and lowlights, and how we the audience remember them. If the occasional ridiculous comment spills from their lips should we really be surprised?
Communicators can learn a thing or two from sports commentators, or at least the blend of experts from both the technical and practical side of the topic.
We are often too afraid of the possibility of a verbal slip-up that we select and then train spokespeople who are excellent at delivering facts and figures and simply ignore the emotional perspective.
Imagine how powerful it would be if our speeches were delivered not only by the CEO but a passionate employee or satisfied client; if number crunchers shared the stage with the engineers behind new products; if market researchers let the focus group explain why green is the best colour; if strategic messages came not just from managers but the colleagues whose work suffers if things go wrong.
By injecting a “real person” into the equation – bringing someone that the audience sees as credible, whose enthusiasm and passion for the topic is obvious, who they can relate to and even admire – communicators have a much greater chance of getting their message heard and understood.
I can’t believe I have written more than 400 words supporting sports commentary. So to restore the equilibrium of the known universe, I will leave you with this list of links, all taking you to ridiculous on-air blunders. Enjoy.