TV View: Game on as clichés and mixed metaphors fill the dead air
Viewers suffer the bland and inane before unearthing a nugget or two of wisdom
Ugo Monye: brings a touch of expertise combined with humour to his analyst’s role.
‘Metaphors be with you,’ could become a catch-cry for sports’ commentators and analysts, particularly those that inadvertently mangle the English language.
The crutch of clichés is commonplace, a prescribed vocabulary upon which to lean in describing a match, a morass through which the viewer must sift to find a nugget or two of wisdom.
For the most part, many analysts chose not to stray too far from the maxim of the old television show, Catchphrase, ‘say what you see’.
But occasionally there appears to be an irresistible temptation to throw in a spicy simile or metaphor to shake up the soundtrack, thoughts that can easily become lost or muddled in translation.
Watching rugby across a number of channels over the weekend there were some absolute beauties like the assertion that “you have to fight fire with fire and hopefully we can put some fires out tonight”.
Eh, answers on a postcard please.
Or “there is a fair amount of tension out there but everyone seems calm and composed”. You get the drift but the meaning takes longer to untangle.
Working on live television is a difficult skill to master because there are no second chances, no eraser, no chance to edit, delete and tweak. In covering sport, television companies prefer co-commentators and analysts to be former international players who can draw down on their experiences and knowledge of the game, thus lending a certain cachet or gravitas.
It’s not about necessarily agreeing with what they have to say but rather that they offer more than the mundane; they challenge views, inform, express opinions for the most part without fear or favour and in the case of former Harlequins, England and Lions wing, Moyne, employ a sense of humour. The occasional ‘we’ can be overlooked.
Monye had a microphone, alongside Lawrence Dallaglio and Nick Mullins, for the Aviva Premiership match between Northampton and Wasps at Franklin’s Gardens. During a discussion about Saints’ captain Dylan Hartley being cited last weekend for an incident in a Champions Cup match and having to travel to London for a hearing – he was cleared of any wrongdoing – Mullins spoke about how the citing incensed the normally mild-mannered Northampton coach Jim Mallender.
Dallaglio bristled that in his view Hartley should never have been cited in the first place and that it was an unwelcome distraction ahead of an important match. With the spleen rising, Monye ended the debate with his observation that perhaps the most costly legacy from the whole affair was the London traffic congestion charge of £25. The timing and delivery were excellent.
In tuning into the Mitre 10 Cup final between the Canterbury and the Tasman Makos there is a folksy feel to the way the New Zealand commentary team called the match. In fact it initially turned into a lament for James Lowe. The 25-year-old will arrive in Dublin in the next fortnight to take up a contract with Leinster.
A brilliant early run and a 60-metre, left-footed tracer kick into touch, moved one of the commentators to observe: “James Lowe, he’s going to be a huge loss to New Zealand rugby, a delight to watch,” before adding that despite Lowe’s decision he had no problem wishing him well in his new rugby venture.
It should come as no surprise that Lowe was the player chosen to be interviewed as the teams trotted off at half-time. Asked a question about the wind he replied: “It’s not too heavy out there. They’ve no left-footers, so they can’t use it. We started well but now we have to kick on again.”
They like their half-time player soundbites in the Southern Hemisphere, while up north it’s a quick chat during a game with a coach or assistant coach; yet to see the value of either to be honest other than celebrating the privilege of access. It is not a criticism of player or coach.
Speaking of not saying much, this column stumbled across the European Championship in darts and live coverage of the first round had ended a little early due to some one-sided matches. In an effort to fill the dead air, the anchor turned to the analyst and asked him what he thought of the four second-round ties.
He nominated what he thought was the best of the four in rather brief fashion and then when asked which player would win that tie, responded: “it’s too close to call”.
With an increasing sense of despair she then turned to her microphone buddy and asked him who he thought would win the other matches.
“It’s very difficult to say,” he replied. So he didn’t.