Once again, this is material excerpted from a column I used to write for The Age newspaper from 2008-2010, entitled Lost in Transmission, which featured reviews of sport coverage on television and, occasionally, radio.
While previous compilations of newspaper material on this site have mostly tended to one-liners and paragraphs, this one also incorporates longer excerpts and one or two full columns – as the second Lost in Transmission comp did – as it seems to suit the material better. It probably gives a more clear idea of what the columns were like as well.
The consistent factor is that I still selected the material based purely on whether I felt the gags still worked. Hopefully the reader will agree with this assessment at least part of the time.
Date of publication is given after each extract, and there has been some minor editing to allow for the change of format, or just to make a gag scan better.
* During the TV interview after his club’s win over Richmond, Adelaide’s Kurt Tippett commented:
“We’ll look forward to versing Fremantle at home next week.”
Some perplexed viewers may have interpreted this to mean that Adelaide plans to anaesthetise the Dockers by reading poetry to them prior to the match.
* Following the airing of an interview with Adelaide’s coach, Dunstall summarised,
“Always speaks well, Neil Craig, doesn’t he?”
I don’t know who died, but apparently this left Jason Dunstall as the national adviser on elocution and public oratory. One wonders what else he expected Neil Craig to do, exactly. Perhaps he harboured a mysterious and unfounded trepidation that Mr Craig would bounce up and down on the spot like a chimpanzee, and communicate exclusively by pointing at pictures of fruit.
* “Could it be more even?” inquired Dennis Cometti on Seven’s Friday Night Footy, with the Bulldogs-Collingwood match poised at one point the difference, and three minutes left on the clock.
Well, yes, it could have been. To paraphrase Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel, from his famous thesis on why his amplifier, which went up to 11, was superior to conventional models, it could have been “one closer”. That would have made it no points the difference, a situation which is sometimes, by way of indication, simply called “even”. You can’t get more even than that.
* “To all the kids out there, you just cop the decision on the chops,” Greg Matthews pronounced on the SBS test cricket coverage, as part of an expansive, if seemingly unprovoked, lecture on appropriate attitudes towards cricket umpires, and umpiring.
It was around 2:30 on Saturday morning when he said it, which makes one wonder just how sizeable a cricket-viewing demographic Mr Matthews imagined “all the kids out there” might comprise at the time. Both the headlines and the popular culture of the day tend to suggest that if any kids were up at 2:30am on a Saturday, they’d probably have found something slightly more adventuresome to occupy their time than watching a cricket match.
* On Triple-M, Brian Taylor seems to have tired of talkback callers’ inexplicable and apparently boundless curiosity on the subject of panellists’ health, not that he would be exactly Robinson Crusoe on that score. Following Saturday’s Carlton-Swans match, one solicitous question too many brought a hilariously brusque interruption along the lines: “We’re all well – fire away!” Brian may well be on to something here.
In the unlikely event one of the broadcast team had come down with something terminal in between the final siren and the talkback lines being declared open, this would almost certainly have been mentioned, particularly on a station which avails itself of the considerable diagnostic services of Dr Peter Larkins.
It’s probably best for the sanity of all concerned if the caller simply assumes rude good health on the part of all concerned, and just gets on with the unalloyed gibberish which experience tells us is depressingly likely to follow.
* A highlight of this instalment of the Triple-M quiz involved Brian Taylor asking the listeners in which year Carlton last won ten or more games. A variety of intrepid souls immediately fired off volleys of wayward guesses ranging from the 1980s into the early ‘90s.
As the guesses became more random, and the quiz threatened to spread over into Sunday’s fixtures, Quizmaster Taylor took matters in hand, and simply gave the correct answer – 2008 – over the airwaves. The very next contestant’s guess was 2001. Well, just because they’re called “listeners”, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re listening.
* “I thought the Marx Brothers were dead, until I heard you blokes calling the game today,” chortled one listener on 3AW’s football talkback late Saturday afternoon. Well, he was right – the Marx Brothers are dead.
He then garbled two separate attempts at a joke about Nathan Buckley becoming a coach at Collingwood, along the lines “Buckley’s and none” resulting in no readily apparent degree of coherence on either occasion, much less hilarity. The Marx Brothers were dead again, apparently.
* During Channel Ten’s coverage of Hawthorn v St Kilda, Robert Walls commented on a Campbell Brown kick-out following a behind.
“I like the theory of Campbell Brown, [kicking it] straight down the guts,” noted Wallsy, with relish.
Following an almost instantaneous turnover in possession in the wake of Brown’s kick, the ball sailed straight back over his head for a St Kilda goal.
“That one came back quicker than what he sent it away with,” reflected Robert, with impeccable comic flair, and grammar.
Most couldn’t top that, but most aren’t Robert Walls.
“It’ll be interesting to see if he does it again,” mused Wallsy, pensively.
Given the results of the previous attempt, the possibility of a repetition wouldn’t even have occurred to more conventional thinkers, but there you are. To some people the glass is half-empty, to others half-full, and Robert Walls would probably issue a flood warning.
* “No side yet to score a goal in the second quarter,” remarked Kelli Underwood during Ten’s coverage of Hawthorn-St Kilda. That’s pretty emphatic, if confusing. It could mean everyone’s gone nuts scoring goals, possibly. Frankly, if you think about that sentence too long, your brain may catch fire.
* During a break in Friday night’s Hawthorn-Adelaide game on Seven, it somehow fell to Tim Watson to define the somewhat hazy ecological message of the AFL’s Green Round for all of us at home. Good luck to anyone who split a lottery ticket with Tim this week.
To say that Watson, speaking from the brilliantly lit MCG greensward, displayed no overwhelming degree of conviction, might be slightly unkind. At no point did he actually break down and say:
“I am being treated well by my captors. They demand the US releases all political prisoners.”
“It’s all about thinking about the environment,” Tim Watson began, valiantly. Yes, no doubt that’s what everyone was thinking while watching their windmill-powered televisions in their candle-lit homes.
He continued, “It’s a great opportunity to use public transport.”
There are two words regular public transport users might find strange in that sentence – “opportunity” and “great”.
Unfortunately for the Green Round message, but extremely fortunately for Australian TV’s comedy archives, Tim then continued: “Not if your team’s playing interstate, of course.”
Yes, the understated reference to the copious amounts of jet-fuelled interstate travel involved with the enterprise rather put the finger on the nub of confusion about the AFL even having a Green Round. Well, that, and all the matches held at night under thousands of blazing electric lights.
Having struck this great blow for the green cause, Tim Watson concluded:
“We can all do our bit for the environment – that’s the message this weekend.”
As kindly as one could put it, it was a message that seemed to lack a little for specifics. It also left open the interpretation that, following this weekend, we could revert to crapping all over the planet as usual.
In what, in professional wrestling terms, is known as the “finishing manoeuvre”, the ever-chipper Bruce McAvaney then inquired of Leigh Matthews whether, inspired by Watson’s rhetoric, he might walk back to his hotel that night.
“No,” responded Lethal with crushing emphasis, before adding, rather oddly, “But you COULD.”
Heading off in any number of directions, Matthews then explained that this was the great thing about the MCG, in that it was close to everything.
So, in summary, apparently the message of the AFL’s Green Round was that the MCG is closer to Leigh Matthews’ hotel of choice than the Docklands, but still not so close that you’d walk there. The planet is now officially a greener place in which to live.
* If there is a single occasion football fans might rightfully wish to curse in unison, it was the black day quite some years ago, when it became no longer sufficient for commercial football coverage just to intone the sponsor’s name 115 times per match. Instead it became mandatory to also append the relevant slogan.
No more would we just suffer the comparatively mild irritation of being brain-tattooed with, for hypothetical example, the names “Nicknarf’s Chicken” and “Mitsubota Four-Door Sedan”. We would have to get the full three-act operatic version, i.e.: “This quarter brought to you by Nicknarf’s Chicken – Oil-Boiled Poultry in a Cardboard Bucket; and the Mitsubota Four-Door Sedan – Sure Beats the Heck out of Walking.”
Several thousand times per game we are informed in an accusing manner, on behalf of sponsor TAC: “If you drive on drugs, you’re out of your mind.” I can assure those responsible, from personal experience, that it’s absolutely possible to neither drive nor take drugs, and yet still end up “out of your mind”. I’m fairly sure I can put my finger on the slogan that caused it as well.
* Why do commentators insist a football player is standing “on the paint” rather than just saying he’s on the boundary or 50-metre line? They’re plummeting towards disappointment if they think saying “on the paint” instead will magically garner them enough “cool points” to get them on the cover of a cutting-edge music magazine, or garner them a guest-hosting spot on the next MTV Movie Awards.
Not dissimilarly, in recent times one hears a great deal of the umpire’s so-called “secondary bounce”, which no doubt sounds highly official, slick and appealingly “technical” to all the hip microphone kids down at the malt shop. However, since it is neither the inevitable result of a first bounce, nor an event of lesser importance than its predecessor, “secondary” probably isn’t the word. It’s “another” bounce, or a second one. Plain old English is really great, and everyone ought to take it out for a test drive sometime.
* A Fox Sports newsreader who referred, during a story on the Adelaide Crows, to a “mid-pitch meeting” between Neil Craig and one of his players.
Whoa there! We have “pitches” now? “Fields” we’ve been known to have in Australian Rules football, and “ovals”. “Grounds” are not unheard of. Soccer and various mutations of rugby have “pitches”. And baseball, after a fashion. The only “pitch” in the AFL is when the voice-over guy gently water-tortures us with the sponsors’ slogans throughout the match.
The Fox Sports News folks don’t really need to go out of their way to convince us they’re coming out of Sydney. Once they’ve run through every possible story containing the words “league”, “union” and “rugby” in any enchanting combination for the majority of the day’s programming, we’ve already got the general idea. They don’t need to put up a graphic, or have the newsreaders wear “I (heart) Sydney” windcheaters. Or say “pitch”.
In Aussie Rules circles, the language may not be so exotic, but it is nonetheless conceptually evocative. As Bruce McAvaney remarked of Adelaide’s Johncock on Friday night, “The pressure was always coming, and he had to stand firm.” Presumably, somewhere in Showbiz Heaven, Kenneth Williams and John Inman were applauding wildly.
* Seven’s Dennis Cometti has an intriguingly original way of dealing with exceedingly familiar territory concerning the peculiar attractions of Australian Rules football. Where others would bang on, yet again, about footy being a broad church in terms of admitting diverse sizes and body shapes, Cometti noted of a contest between Jason Akermanis and Daniel Merrett on Friday night,
“Akermanis is in there somewhere – buried in an armpit.” In a very few words, this conveyed a strong mental image, the desired message and possibly even a distinct aroma.
Others, notably proliferating over at Casa Ten, prefer to keep things more, err, “elementary”. Only last week, Stephen Quartermain was sharing with us a whimsically-toned observation concerning the attractions of the game’s oval-shaped ball. Presumably football patrons are about as desperate to hear that one again as they are for yet another public rendition of “Holy Grail” by Mark Seymour.
(A parenthetical question – does Mark Seymour ever even leave the house without performing “Holy Grail”? Presumably it would be a special kind of hell to share a bus-ride with Mr Seymour and his blessed guitar, let alone a public lavatory facility.)
* “We’re gonna wake up on Sunday morning with just two teams,” posited Hamish McLachlan dynamically, if rather dubiously, during a promo for Seven’s AFL Game Day which ran repeatedly during preliminary final coverage on Friday night.
While only the very bold would doubt the AFL capable of any given innovation no matter how bizarre, we woke up on Sunday morning with the same 16 teams as usual.
Admittedly there were only two of them in the grand final, but history tells us that it usually works out that way. The four-team grand final is another innovation the AFL hasn’t got around to just yet.
* Late in the first quarter, Tim Lane remarked of a spectacular, flying Nick Riewoldt effort, “What an encapsulation of his brilliance, his flair and his courage!”
Few would deny any of these Riewoldt attributes. However, one might question whether the first two qualities were aptly demonstrated by this particular event, given that he missed the mark, crashed heavily on his back, and then flipped over backwards like a fish on a ship-deck.
Of course, it’s all a matter of perspective. Possibly Nick Riewoldt wouldn’t choose to include this sequence on any personal highlights reel. On the other hand, Curly Howard from the Three Stooges would have snapped it up in a second.
* Robbie Slater got off to a flying start in the following night’s Australia v Netherlands international, referring to the “big challenge” awaiting the Socceroos against Oman during the week, and adding, “What better way to prepare than against the Number Three in the world, the Netherlands.”
In the entire storied history of Dutch soccer, one feels strangely sure that its national team has never previously been categorised as the ideal warm-up opponent for an Asian Cup game against Oman. Another feather in its cap there, to be sure.
* Quote of the night undoubtedly belonged to Paul Trimboli, with his perceptive observation, re Socceroo Lucas Neill: “He’s looked a little bit like he’s lacking match conditioning, and that’s obviously because he hasn’t played.” Flawless reasoning, really.
* One is strangely reminded of the Australian tennis tournament of yore, in which the winner, John McEnroe, waited at considerable length for the conclusion of a glacier-paced speech by the representative of the event sponsor – a manufacturer of soft drink. McEnroe then approached the microphone and remarked, not unreasonably, “That is the longest commercial for cordial I’ve ever heard in my life.” Predictably, the audience exploded with delight.
* When the Nine Network’s Cox Plate day host, Cameron Williams, posed a carefully articulated question to co-broadcaster Simon O’Donnell, and then referred to him as “Tony”, this was perfectly excusable.
By that stage, reporter Tony Jones had been all over the course to such an extent, that about the only contexts in which we hadn’t seen him were in a shimmering purple frock in one of the sponsor’s tents, and attached by his trousers to the top of a flagpole. Had Simon O’Donnell indeed pulled a mask off and revealed himself as Tony Jones, it would hardly have qualified as a surprise.
* Following one of those inexplicable Australian sporting event “entertainments” – featuring one David Hobson warbling stoically through that great Broadway hit of the 13th Century, The Impossible Dream – Cameron Williams also revealed another string to his bow, commenting: “Great finish there by David Hobson.”
Brave though this stab at music criticism was, it admittedly did leave open the potential inference that the part of the song he liked best was when it finished.
* Perhaps the most avant-garde statement on Seven’s Derby day coverage was Sonia Kruger’s choice of titfer – a black top hat, garnished with what appeared to be an irregular snarl of black, chain-link security fencing.
To the fashion-challenged among the viewing audience, the only conceivable explanation was that Sonia expected, at any moment, to be issued with a cane and black bow tie, prior to being engulfed by a grinning male chorus-line clad in formalwear, and swept away into a dance routine from a 1930s musical. Perhaps the chain-mesh was in place to deflect any potential challenge by Rhonda Burchmore.
Amid an unchecked avalanche of plugs for Myer, Sonia Kruger later “caught up” with Jennifer Hawkins, who explained she had “statement shoulders”, without ever quite clarifying what the statement was. One presumes it had something to do with connecting the arms to the torso, although much of the complex science of spring carnival fashion remains something of an enigma to the layman. Look out next year for “statement kneecaps”.
Ms Hawkins opined that the horses were extremely fit – well, you don’t see a lot of tubby ones on major race days – and boldly suggested that one of the prime attractions of the spring carnival was seeing the horses race. Mm, they really ought to put that in the official programme next year. People have a right to know.
* At 80 minutes in to Wolves v Arsenal, with the home side trailing by the solitary four goals to zero, the match commentators saw much to enthuse about in the vocal encouragement being delivered by the local fans at Molyneux – so much so, that they continued to romance about it for several minutes, rather more than they mentioned the less than encouraging 0-4 scoreline.
From the home armchair, it was difficult to establish exactly who in the crowd was chanting what about whom. However certain words were clearly distinguishable in the repeated mass chanting – namely that someone or other was “shit”, and that someone or something else was also “shit”. Exactly what encouragement anyone but an English sport commentator might derive from this remained less clear.
* Saturday’s third round of the JB Were Masters saw Eddie McGuire announce that a sponsor had developed a new “species” of television – maybe they mated an old one with a toaster-oven – adding that when it came to golf in high-definition, “You’ve never seen anything like it”. This seemed an exceptionally acute observation, particularly regarding those viewers who seldom watch golf and don’t own high-definition televisions.
Even more intriguingly, Eddie continued, “Nor are we ever going to see anything like this afternoon, I think, in recent times.” That sentence may be as close as humanity has ever come to inventing a working-model time machine. In fact, it reminds me of a day that was just like last Tuesday, which I read about in a book tomorrow.
* Some bloke named Tiger Woods showed up as well. Jack Newton pointed out that the fans were within one metre of the world number one, and this was the “big buzz” that golf provides which no other game can offer.
Well, when Tiger walked through to the tee area, he had four security guys on either side of him, and when he got there, the fans were safely corralled metres away behind metal guard-rails. Buzz-wise, this seemed more of a dim tingle.
* More recent developments in cricket, such as video umpires and challenges are certainly not overlooked in the ABC coverage. An LBW appeal was described:
“To the naked eye it looked high, but Chanderpaul’s naked eye looked high yesterday.”
It’s one thing to describe a player in mythic terms, but surely another to make him sound like the Cyclops.
And only on the ABC could you hear the West Indies’ morning batting efforts characterised as:
“They haven’t wilted like…[long-ish silence as an appropriate simile was considered]…flowers that have been…[more contemplative silence]…plucked for too long.”
In summation, when the plucked flowers are as high as Chanderpaul’s naked eye, either “That’s Amore”, or that’s the ABC.
* The tireless Drew Morphett, dutifully chronicling the developments at the Victoria v Queensland Sheffield Shield match, announced, of Clint McKay, “He is a kid of the future.”
This made him sound curiously like a Japanese animated superhero character, like Astro Boy, or Space Ace.
Apparently he also has “big things in store”. The same could be said of Bunnings.
* On the preview show to the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s UFC 107 card, both of which ran over the weekend on Main Event channel, heavyweight mixed martial arts fighter Frank Mir remarked conversationally, of UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar:
“I will detrimentally affect his physical life forever.”
This was unusual for a number of reasons, even beyond the memorably outlandish nature of the sentiment itself. For one thing, it’s not overwhelmingly common to hear a fighter of any discipline use the term “detrimentally” correctly in a sentence.
Secondly, Mir wasn’t scheduled to fight Brock Lesnar at the time. His opponent on yesterday’s show was a French kickboxer named Cheick Kongo.
Finally, Lesnar himself is currently inactive, suffering from a severe intestinal disorder which has been described in some circles as career-threatening. Basically anyone with any threats to Brock Lesnar’s physical well-being right now has to wait in line and take a number behind Mother Nature.
However, to intimate that Frank Mir has a degree of “form” in the bizarre quote stakes might not be drawing too long a bow. Well, you be the judge. Prior to Mir’s second fight with Brock Lesnar some months ago, he made the following considered observation:
“It could be my mom in that ring, and I’d go ahead and break her arm.”
At very least it seems the type of statement that could make conversation a little strained at the Mother’s Day luncheon table in future.