Comments Not Detectably Special


While scrounging through the electrostatic archives looking for something else, I stumbled across this newspaper column from almost exactly three years ago.

While it is possibly no more redolent of hilarity and insight than it was then – or than a dropped souvlaki for that matter – what struck me was how tragically, miserably little had changed since then regarding the subject matter – namely the short-sheeting footy followers get in terms of insight presented in the match commentary.

The one thing I’d add that wasn’t incorporated into the original, is that it was chiefly written with television commentary in mind.

I’d have to say, though, that you wouldn’t have to go furlongs out of your way to find similar examples in radio commentary.

The original article was in the Devil’s Advocate series, published 5th May, 2012.




I was recently astounded to read about the purported analytical prowess of one of footy’s legion of special comments men. Had I not been familiar with that gentleman’s distinguished playing career, my assumption, based on his not overwhelmingly special comments to date, would have been that he first encountered the game roughly lunchtime yesterday.

Another esteemed footy analyst, in constant demand for his chin-stroking pontifications on the game, seems, to my ears, hell-bent on dividing his time between spouting observations that even the thickest-headed of onlookers could have worked out for themselves in about five seconds flat, and providing a dim blither of, at best, semi-relevant and entirely unexplained statistics.

Apparently, we find ourselves steaming headed dead ahead towards one of the great unexplored Bermuda Triangles of human thinking, namely, “What on Earth are the commentators there for?”

The question is further complicated by the fact that there are different kinds of commentators.

For example, boundary reporters – with the main exception of Dr Peter Larkins – mostly seem to be there to keep a fairly substantial amount of hair product from otherwise hitting the turf.

Also, when it rains on them, this always seems to amuse the guys back up in the main booth, so at least that’s someone being entertained.

Increasingly, the role of the main match commentators seems ambiguous.

Are they journalists, are they entertainers, are they network/AFL shills?

The answers, respectively, may well be: “intermittently, at best”, “not so you’d notice” and “you’re getting warmer, Pilgrim”.

Like a good deal of the commentary, this leaves us none the wiser.

The role of the special comments folk seems less ambiguous, however. It’s surely to provide the average armchair bozo with insight into the play.

Unfortunately for every Leigh Matthews who weaves pertinent match analysis from a number of readily assimilated simplicities and, bucking a major trend, chooses to do so in the English language, there are at least five jokers who habitually spout the stunningly obvious in the most portentous of tones, cloaked in a lot of impenetrable FootySpeak bunkum about “structures” and “intent”.

As a character sagely noted in the movie “Blazing Saddles”, “That’s authentic FRONTIER gibberish.”

The mission statement for the special comments men is not that complex. From the listener’s perspective, it simply boils down to “Tell me something I DON’T know.” That’s really the whole deal.



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