Saturday, July 10, 2010

Brits win the World Cup of sports commentary

I like my British sports commentary the way I like my Beyoncé videos: cheeky!

And nowhere do you get more cheeky, direct, and blunt sports commentary than by the British play-by-play team at the 2010 World Cup, as broadcast on CBC: John Helm, David Woods, Steve Banyard, Gary Bloom and Kevin Keatings.

I can't tell one from the other - but for the guy with the runny nose - but their sports commentary is hilarious, pointed, and jarring to a Canadian raised on the tried-and-true unwritten rule of North-American sports journalism: always boost the product!

One of my least-favorite TV news broadcasts of all time remains the very-special episode of CBC News Winnipeg that kicked off with host Janet Stewart cheering, "Go, Canada, Go!"

Kind of hard to deliver the news item about the murder after that one, eh?

Sports Journalism is a class in the very program I teach - and a damn good one, I'm sure! - but I've always been of the mind that what we often call "sports journalism" isn't journalism, it's entertainment.

Easy for a non-sports fan to say!

But anyone who has ever watched a promo for an NFL Super Bowl - any Super Bowl - knows that it's going to be a battle for the ages: a world-changing grudge match of such gigantic proportions, it can only be expressed with Roman numerals and delivered in the voice of the monster truck/K-Tel Southern-Fried Rock announcer.

And what age-old rivals last took part in the Super Bowl battle for world domination? Er...Indianapolis and New Orleans. Ahem. Heh-heh. Cough.

Oh, sure, our commentators are critical of our sports teams from time to time, but British commentators rip into the teams with such panache; when I hear them refer to World Cup games, as they have this year, as "poor, poor play," "dreadful ball," and "a very dull game," I have to give them a standing ovation.

Equally, any commentator who responds to Germany's fourth goal against Argentina by shouting, "Ein, zwei, drei, vier!," refers to a player as "puffing his cheeks out like a petulant child!," or a particularly deft touch as "a bit of bravery" deserves the World Cup of commentary.

Say what you want about the games themselves, but I'll let CBC's cranky Brit (newly Canadian!) Nigel Reed do all the talking for me:


Oh, Nigel. Behave!


  1. I was just thinking today about how much I've enjoyed the commentators. I found the bluntness and honesty to be very refreshing. Plus, everything sounds cooler in a British accent.

  2. Who's the play-by-play caller that sounds like Stewie Griffin? He did the Germany-Uruguay game today. But it seemed very time I turned a game on, he was play calling.

  3. Sure he's great! My personal favourite is Phil Ligget who does colour for the Tour de France and every other cycling event. Unfortunately it's really hard to get coverage of Giro Italia, Tour de Luxembour, Tour Spain or anything else for that matter.

    Big cycling fan here! Phil is one of those guys that, when he goes, the sport will suffer because he's such an integral part of it.


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