They shouldn’t call it commentary at all, of course. Lends the act for too much weight, burdens it with altogether more gravitas than it is due. The Yanks have it about right. Over there, they don’t commentate on the games. They call the games. That way, at least they’re not pretending to tilt at some lofty professorial ideal when sport catches them with their britches round their ankles.
Because sport will do that, yes it will. We knew it before those last five minutes of the Munster game on Saturday but a little refresh of the memory never does a bit of harm. Poor old Mark Robson bore the brunt of it on Sky, although he was far from the only one.
Three minutes and eight seconds left on the clock, Munster a point a head. Perpignan scrum, Munster 10-metre line. Scrum goes down, Robson takes the opportunity to pass on the wealth of his experience. “Each reset takes about 30 seconds, and much to the chagrin of many they don’t stop the clock for these.”
See now, that right there was poor Robbo’s mistake. Chagrin. Chagrin is a commentary word. A hack’s word. We word-slaves in the press-box sweatshop occasionally reach for it but only at the end of a long day when we forget how it is people actually talk about sport.
And so the sport gods decided to punish poor Robbo by making him follow up immediately with: "And Munster being a very professional outfit will understand all of that."
Twenty-two seconds. That's all it took. Twenty-two seconds before Robson was wailing. "And it's Benvenuttiiiiiii! At last, joined up thinking from Perpignan which might be enough to shatter the Munster dreams!"
See? Sport doesn't care who you are. It'll make you look like you need an instruction booklet to tie your laces. And it wasn't done with our man yet, either. The clock read 79.50 when Cathal Sheridan fed into one last Munster scrum.
Don’t do it, Robbo. Don’t do it, man.
He did it.
“It’s only going to take one more error by Munster and that will be it . . . ”
Four seconds. Not one error, two. Ian Keatley dropped a pass. Scrambled to pick it up. Horsed it out to JJ Hanrahan. Who promptly dropped it as well. Yet both balls dropped backwards so Munster stayed alive. Let it never be said though that the Sky lads don't back each other up. Ieuan Evans couldn't leave a good man down like that. So he decided that the time was right to get in on the act with a world-weary declaration of his own. "How often have we seen that from Munster?" he opined. "Poor passing, poor skills under pressure."
Well, we know what happened next. Hanrahan. Denis Hurley. Tommy O'Donnell. Slick passing, incredible skills under pressure. Hanrahan again. A shimmy and a shake. Over to you, Robbo… "HANRAHAAAAAAAN!!!"
By the time it had all calmed down and Munster had won, Robson was still in a spin. “The Heineken Cup,” he said, “it blows your mind. Again and again and again.” Well, quite.
Certainly blew the minds of Miles Harrison and Stuart Barnes later on at the Aviva. At one stage, Northampton captain Dylan Hartley decided on a kick at the posts after repeatedly kicking penalties for the corner all match, which sent Barnes off on the sort of soliloquy that left no doubt as to his feelings on whether he was commentating or calling.
Wave of emotion
"He should have been doing this earlier in the game. You have to be intellectual as well as emotional in your leadership. They're riding a wave of emotion but sometimes your emotion takes you to a place where the intellect has to take over."
On far steadier – albeit equally confusing – ground was Miles Harrisson, who earlier in the game had decided that Hartley was “about to adopt the teapot”. Some phrases just hang there in the air. What could it possibly mean?
Google has no answer, although it does provide a list of what seem to be perfectly lovely tea shops in Rugby, Warwickshire if anyone’s interested. At a stretch it might be the pose a captain makes when he decides on a kick at the posts but as Barnes would later explain, Hartley was passing up that option all day.