- An action is judged to be foul or non-foul. Comment: “Clear foul play here”, spontaneous. Then the repetition. The confirmation follows: “Here we see it quite clearly: there he holds him.” And what about the opinion of the spectators?
- It’s more important to be clever than to create suspense.
Basically, you can ask or think about what the function of the commentator of a football match is supposed to be. As soon as you have found an answer to this question, you can then ask whether it reflects the actual state of affairs or the desired state of affairs. Are there, one might well ask, guidelines from the broadcaster, from the client? Something like: “Hey, you’re a sports journalist, specialising in football and live commentary. Will you do the game for us today?” “Yeah, sure. Are there any guidelines?” “Nope, why guidelines? You just blurt out whatever comes into your head?”
Or are there? Here are a few theoretically possible guidelines. For each of them, you can safely ask whether you are already hitting the main interest of the audience or whether you want to direct it towards it? Have you ever considered this question? What does the audience actually want to hear? So, possible guidelines: “It should be as entertaining as possible.” Or: “It has to be made particularly exciting.” Not 1:1 with the one before. “Entertaining” can also be humorous, funny or sarcastic, ironic, biting. Or this one: “As long as it’s objective.” Another one: “As long as what you say is true.” Or, “Keep it sober and analytical.” Alternatively: “It should be rather emotional. It’s less important that everything is right, but that it captivates the viewer.”
Well, what the guidelines are is largely unknown. The assumption is once again this: There really aren’t any. There is a “state of the art” and thus a certain jargon, which is adhered to and cultivated.
But since we are in the chapter “Being clever is everything”, there is still one last possibility missing: “Make sure that they shine in the brightest possible light. This is your stage, this is your chance to shine.”
If you look at it closely, all the previous specifications would be indifferent, interchangeable or even banal. You could put it this way: “If the play is exciting, please bring it across in an exciting way. If it’s dramatic, make it emotional. If it’s good, point it out. It’s a no-brainer. If it’s boring or weak: make something out of it. You have a chance to entertain the viewer even then.” But under no circumstances should there be a default, or the opposite, that is the last one: “This is NOT your stage. You are secondary. It is NOT about self-promotion. It is the audience we want to satisfy. Make sure you do.”
Regrettable statement of the actual state of affairs: It is being used more and more like this. The talking demigod has seen his chance and has risen to become the three-quarter god. That is the (no, nonsense, only one of the…) problem(s). There is no template for him to follow. Especially not by what the audience would like to hear. Of course, there are only two ways to find out: Asking viewers, or just doing it well — and afterwards watching the rising ratings with legs crossed with relish. Then you don’t need any (other) feedback.
1) Confirming a judgement
Concretely, it looks like this: There is any scene in which a decision is to be made about foul or non-foul, offside or not, penalty or none, handball or none, red or yellow, bad foul or swallow. The situations are so varied and differentiated and sometimes it is even fun to delve deeper or more deeply into the motives of the protagonists. But one thing is clear: there is very rarely black or white. It’s all shades of grey and shades, but that doesn’t make it boring at all. They are facets that one may confidently elaborate.
So the scene plays out. You might like to call it a “critical decision” or otherwise “critical situation”. The speaker’s judgement is usually spontaneous. That alone is unpleasant, especially since a “judgement” usually – look at the afternoon TV programmes on this subject, Judge Alexander Holt or Barbara Salesch – requires a much deeper investigation. So the verdict is: “That was clear foul play” or “hand!” or “the ball was out of bounds”, whatever it is.
Then comes the replay of the scene and now the confirmation is also sought – and found: “Here you see it: clear foul play.” The announcer should actually know that there are very rarely these completely unambiguous scenes, but beyond that one sees often enough that it is at least hypercritical here whether he was right in doing so. In other words, for the viewer it often appears in such a way that in retrospect one is inclined to take it differently. When one then hears the confirmation, it becomes very annoying. The method of shouting at the TV, along the lines of “Hey, you speech bubble, that wasn’t a foul Look at it properly” has proved ineffective.
Even if this point may not sound quite as convincing: we are talking about a tendency here. It is certainly the case in numerous situations that the speaker is unable to confirm anything. This is often the case with offside situations. He thinks it was offside and has to correct himself when he sees the slow-motion picture. But the tendency remains, which is: “If at all possible, I will confirm.”
This is also essentially taking aim at the state of being the sole commentator. The problem with this is that objectivity almost inevitably falls by the wayside. On the other hand, with another commentator, the co-commentator, the mere presence of a second expert would make it practically impossible to say particularly big nonsense. One would have to fear immediate contradiction and that would automatically make one reconsider such a judgement. “Clear foul. Did you see it that way too?” “No, I thought it wasn’t one at all, let’s have a look.” Not only do four eyes see more than two, but they force discipline.
2) Being smart is about making excitement
If one were to look at one’s own task as a reporter, one might come to the conclusion, among other things, that one is a more modern form of a market shouter. One would have to try to let whatever one could offer shine in the brightest light. Nothing is negative or bad, there is no such thing.
If you think a little further, you might get the idea that you have to tell what people want to hear. In contrast to the market crier, you don’t have a tangible product to offer, which is to be snatched out of your hand by the “marketing” – thereby paying the corresponding, usually inflated equivalent value — but a longer-lasting product, which has already been paid for. If you have an audience, you have to try to keep them with you and, if necessary, try to win them over with your loud and loose mouth. The market broadcaster – the television station – would have to dictate that. Quota beats everything. The audience is there. Take care of them.
Now, this default does not exist. Nor, as it seems, does any other default exist. You can babble away as you like, you can go wild or you can tear up the game. One can go along or run along, play indifference or feign passion. One can speak truths or platitudes. You can focus on this marginal detail, or miss that central moment of tension. It doesn’t matter. No one ever checks. Above all, one sees no need to think about sense, truth or listener interest. You just blabber whatever comes to mind. And it is precisely here that the play on words “comes to mind” would fit well. Because almost nothing makes sense.
The things that are important to you as a reporter are defined by you. And there is one thing that is identified as very essential, which develops into jargon and establishes itself as such: It is important to be clever. When a goal is scored, you automatically say: “It was foreseeable. Because: apart from the fact that the listener – apart from the frequently chosen tried and tested means of changing the channel or, for the true football enthusiast, switching off the sound – is not given the chance to ask why he would only say that now and not before, while it was supposedly “implied”, he would have an all-destroying answer to her: “Well, I didn’t want to rob you of the suspense, did I?” Yet he was mistaken in this thought experiment. Because: It would be interesting, precisely for suspense purposes, to hear that. Who is in control, who deserves what. That would be interesting and, hearken and be amazed, true.
But of course he wouldn’t go for that. He would have to suggest that a team equalises 1:1: “They are pushing hard for the equaliser, which would have been deserved long ago in view of the chances and the share of the game,” only to have to keep his conclusion open after the successful counterattack to make it 2:0. The conclusion of a true expert – which he has made himself into without any recognisable proof of ability – is: “On balance, the victory is deserved. A true expert, after all, recognises where a team’s true strengths and weaknesses lie and for him every result is the correct one. Otherwise it wouldn’t have happened that way.
In other words, if he were to announce a 1:1 equaliser in this way – a thoroughly veritable expert statement coupled with a carefree attitude about it not happening, which at the same time displays emotionality and thus brings in sympathy (! ) – and this would then not happen, he seems to fear forfeiting his expert status – compared to the colleague who would say: “You’re dreaming of an equaliser, you’re saying that it’s in the air and I’ve known for a long time that they have this weakness in finishing and that the others are a really good counter-attacking team, which on top of that always exploits its few chances ice-cold. Clear the pitch and let a real expert take care of it. Nobody can stand your drivel.”
By the way, it is similar when the score is clear – today a 2:0 is long enough – that people start “predicting” the winner. This also serves the sole purpose of making oneself look like a good expert. After all, you can hardly hope for increased spectator interest after a 2-0 goal in the 66th minute and a subsequent comment of “the thing is through”, can you? Is that ever checked? How many switch off after that? Let alone how many fewer there would be if this “clever line” was dispensed with. Part 1 of this relates to the basic (doubted)excitement of the game of football, part 2 to the influence of the reporter. Doesn’t anyone check? Sure. But someone should….
In thought it is done. And delivers sad results…. There sits a rather helpless person, desperately trying to finally get through the branch he is using as a seat for sawing. But if you lower your gaze a little, you see a bunch of people below, all at the same time trying hard to cut down the whole tree, without any idea where it will fall. And out in front of the forest is the sign: “Here complete clearing of a nature reserve by a bunch of amateurs. Please, please enter … and watch or join in. No guarantee of survival.” At least honest in this respect…