Football is booming, no question about it. Full stadiums, especially in Germany, practically every child will kick the ball at some point, many join clubs. It’s the number one sport, so all is well?
Well, one is allowed to express some concerns about his future? The framework on which he is built seems quite stable. Perhaps there are still a few potential breaking points? Apart from that : many run it because it is so easy to get started: Ball out, a lawn, let’s go. But: do just as many people watch it? Apart from that: perhaps there is still growth to be achieved?
One way to create more fans, more enthusiasm, more passion is through reporting. This is a specifically German “problem”. Because with foreign reports, which are accessible at any time via Internet TV, for example, the problem mentioned here is not to be seen in the same form. At least, even if one should not understand the content, one thing is guaranteed: the speaker not only feels fortunate to observe something exciting for him, but is obliged to convey an excitement to his listeners. The tone of voice sounds like “I have to see this.”
In this country, the very point of “creating tension” takes a back seat to “I already know everything, I can already do everything and I’ve already seen everything”. It is more important here that one, as a chosen commentator, precisely does not reveal that one feels tension. And it is to be withheld, suppressed even if one would feel it. Sobriety takes precedence and seems to be perceived as a characteristic of the true expert. For : tense, enthusiastic, emoitional, passionate – the assertion is apparently unspoken –, would only be a true layman who knows nothing about football. The real expert already sees during an attacking move what is going wrong again, where who should have run and where he should have played and which position is not occupied and who is not moving and who is misunderstanding whom. But if this chain of mistakes affecting the attackers – overlooking teammates, lack of movement, inaccuracy in the build-up, missing critical moments of the pass, delays where things should go quickly, unoccupied forward centres, poor distribution of space, the imprecise crosses – should result in a successful goal, then the tables will simply be turned. And even beyond “diametrically”. This is seldom enough the case, because the intuitive probability calculation, based on experience, is sufficient for the speaker that it will not happen, so the futility and imminent lack of success of the attacking efforts is permanently emphasised. Should there be the exception of a goal, then a lot must have gone wrong – but this time on the opposite side.
All of a sudden, the defenders were in a collective deep sleep, attackers were criminally free, the handover did not work, “nobody was in charge”, they acted far too hesitantly, they “all fumbled”. As a final vivid image, the only comparison that could be made was with the chicken pile and its system of order – whereby the chicken pile clearly has a huge advantage, according to him.
The “true expert” recognises: something is going wrong in every attack move. Quite simple: almost every attack does not result in a goal. And those vanishing remaining percentages in which a goal is scored anyway are blamed on the defence immediately after the action has been completed. A very transparent “description” of what happens, in the primitive attempt at self-aggrandisement. The fact that it is also a) almost always wrong and b) uninteresting, detrimental, to him and his programme, must escape and/or be indifferent to both him and those responsible for the programme.
Every possession could be described as a kind of attack. 99% of the time, this attack will not lead to a successful goal (this is a purely estimated value, difficult to verify, but it can’t be that far off?). So one is “on the relatively safe side” if one comments on this present attempt just in its approaching unsuccessfulness. In other words: the attackers are doing something wrong, that is almost certain. There is a lack of playmakers, the last ball does not arrive, there is no movement in the game, the outside positions are not occupied, the one on one does not work, which no one even dares to do, and in the end, if it does lead to a conclusion, but one without a goal, the lack of chances is responsible, which not only in this game stands in the way of a more successful season.
So far, the standard to which it is oriented reveals the deficiencies in many other facets. At the same time, of course, never giving up the status of the “absolute expert”. He distinguishes himself not only by his tone of voice, in which it becomes clear that he really cannot be surprised and that he already knows everything that could ever happen – only the execution, even when a pass arrives, still does not meet higher standards, so that one would by no means have to get out of one’s armchair – but at the same time by a special farsightedness.
How unfair this way of describing the scene is, however, becomes clear when the one percent does occur. It is not that he is now satisfied. No, the list of shortcomings becomes even more dramatic! The defence was “in a collective deep sleep”, it “didn’t take him into account at all”, it “left him criminally free”, it “didn’t deal with him energetically enough in the duel” or it “left far too much space” and anyway “it was all far too easy” and “the goalkeeper is also partly to blame”.
Well, as I said, transparent, simple, primitive and untrue to boot. So here are a few demands on the reporters.
1) They do not know what is going to happen
If one is faced with the task of getting the viewer to tune in to a TV channel, then the aim must be – by the way, also independent of the thing one is reporting on — to tie the viewer to this report, to the event. So even the person who actually knows what is going to happen would have no benefit whatsoever from telling the viewer before it happens. You may be familiar with this phenomenon: .
In football and in a live report there is no need for that anyway. The reporter cannot know yet. So he should refrain from declaring after a goal that “it was announced”. If it was foreshadowed, the most you want to hear from him beforehand is in this form: “they’re putting a lot of pressure on, they’ve already had a few good chances. A goal would be deserved.” Because the person who, after the equaliser, says “it was foreseen” would also say, if the opposing team had scored the 0:2, “Well, that’s how it goes in football. If you don’t take your chances, then…” That’s ridiculous. Better and actually self-evident would be: feel the tension yourself and convey this to the spectator. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t even pretend to. First reporter’s duty.
2) Stick to the game
In a match with German commentary, the action very often fades into the background. Surely this is due to the fact, as already explained above, that as a commentator a) you are an expert, as such you don’t feel any tension because you have already seen everything there is to see in football and in football and b) an attack is actually always boring and doesn’t lead to a goal. So the complete knowledge learned before the game is presented to the spectator, no matter how exciting the game would be and what action takes place in the build-up. The relative certainty: “A goal? It won’t happen anyway”. So you can talk for all you’re worth – and continue to score points on your own behalf. “Man, what does he know?” Although there would be a chance to catch a move – as you notice from time to time and even the announcer basically doesn’t miss it — but he’s busy with peripheral events (“… hasn’t scored a goal in 673 minutes…”), then he lets slip in: “I can tell you all that because there’s not much happening on the pitch right now.” Somewhere he seems to remember that he is a reporter and that he would have to report on current events? But here, too, there is the conviction: “Nothing will happen in this scene…”.
And when a goal is scored, they quickly turn to “catastrophic positional errors” or, also very popular: “A goal that should never, ever be scored like that.
If only everyone were as perfect as the commentator in his active time in the intergalactic league! And if those henpecked kids down there would stop making those terrible mistakes that you’re “not even allowed to make in the youth league”, then we would finally, finally, have achieved the dream goal: no mistakes, no goals, or so we’re told! No mistakes, no goals. Every game 0:0! Not a single spectator! Can we finally do something sensible with our time!
Let’s get back to the subject: not only to feel the excitement of the game, but above all to convey it, to want to convey it, even to attribute it to the event if it is actually not exciting at the time. Occasionally, when the ball is at rest, cleverly bridging such phases with prior knowledge can’t hurt, or teasing out a few subtleties…. Don’t be afraid of clicking your tongue at an enthusiastic outcry, at a surprising action, don’t be afraid of the other expert who would shout in between: “What, with that farmer’s trick he’s already going crazy? We used to do that in the sandbox. And my grandmother has known it for a long time.” Think of wrestling: A sport that only becomes exciting through the drama presented by the actors and a barker, although everything is a fake. Nevertheless, it succeeds.
3) No generalities
Every generality robs tension. Nor does it express any perceived tension. A sober analysis is made after the match. One often hears such statements : “They keep coming over the left side…” Or: less neutral, but still a commonplace: “The game is characterised by mistakes in the build-up.” Terrible, that sort of thing. “They keep trying with these long balls.” Aha, good to know. Is it true at all? Anyway, rather no, but who cares? Entertainment value? Zero.
These phrases are so boredly repeated one after the other – until they are “hackneyed” – that you inevitably lose your sense of fun. “The crosses from the right are weak, inaccurate.” “No one who has any confidence”. “The corners don’t bring any danger.” Man, look, listen, the spectators in the stadium are excited, there’s a corner, let’s see what happens. What’s the point of hearing that they don’t bring any danger? Should I run to the fridge instead?
It always sounds like that, every single sentence: “Why don’t you turn it off? Nothing happened here before, nothing happens here now, and nothing will happen again.” Yeah. OK, I get it. The cancellation of the Sky subscription is on its way.
Everybody knows it: there’s rarely a goal. That’s football, that’s football. You have to (??) come to terms with that – or change the sport. It’s unfair to assume “it won’t work out” for every action, based purely on probability considerations.
There was once a true incident: a caller to Sky wanted to take out a subscription expressly WITHOUT football. There is no football, you have to buy it as well. The caller wasn’t in it for the money. He didn’t want it under any circumstances, not even to be in danger of switching it on. The wave of cancellations has gathered momentum. But it has nothing to do with reporting? At the 2013 annual general meeting it was said: “Opinion research institutes have shown that the viewer in Germany wants somewhat more detached reporting.” Who did the research? Where are the results of the polls? Problem though: who should have been surveyed? “We are doing a survey regarding the quality of live coverage. Do you watch football?” “Yes, occasionally, yes, it happens.” “How do you like the live commentary? Please say a few words about it.” “Er, I said I WATCH. The sound is always off for me. So I don’t know anything about that.”
“The performance was simply underground.” Exactly, good guess, your own…
What were we talking about here? Generalities, exactly. They’re inappropriate and usually wrong. You don’t need them, they don’t belong in a live game.
4) Recognising the positive part of an action
Everyone knows the parable of the glass that is half full or half empty. You can emphasise the positive part, which in the example is exactly the same size as the negative, or you can concentrate on the perception of the negative. Everyone quotes it, certainly also the sports reporter. But if he wanted to do justice to his choice of profession, he would either have to agree on the 50/50 split (good/bad), or emphasise the good parts even more in the sense of a “sensational reportage”. I see no flaw in the reasoning. 50/50 would be fair and objective. Insofar as you want to do a bit of whitewashing in the sense of exciting reportage, you go a bit more plus with the good. “Man, that was a great game. Too bad you missed it!” “Oh, I missed what? Don’t happen to me again!” See catche…
When a striker plays around a defender, there is the view that it is a successful move or the view that the defender was weak. Both may have their share. A differentiation could be convincing in the way one experiences it with English commentary. One senses that the speaker can differentiate the quality of the actions. Sometimes he speaks of “well done”, sometimes of “good defending” and sometimes of “somewhat soft in the tackling”. There is differentiation, which achieves credibility. With us, there are exactly two possibilities: If the striker comes around, it’s “that’s far too easy” or “he (meaning the defender) has to intervene more energetically” or even “he gives a friendly escort”. If the striker gets stuck, “he keeps getting stuck”, “he overdoes the dribbling” or “he plays too stubbornly”, “he overlooks the other player…”.
Here, too, it is a game of probabilities. Some strikers, because of their ability, even get the order from the coach to look for the one on one. The coach knows very well that he cannot get around in all cases; getting stuck is calculated in. If he gets past in one out of three cases, then it is already successful overall (remember: defensive two-on-ones are much easier to win than offensive ones; see databases).
As already indicated, more differentiation is needed everywhere. Rattling off standard slogans is definitely boring. You can comment on the action with your eyes closed. One doesn’t even pay attention to particular truth content, one that action may still remotely appropriate. Like this one: “They were all asleep then.” Well, and now? Do you still want me to look? If it’s true, I don’t want to, because it’s cruel to have to watch such weak football. If it’s not true, it won’t be much better. Especially not for the speaker, who should have the job of keeping me focused and informing well and objectively. You don’t want to hear it anyway, no, not a string of falsehoods. And this is completely independent of the truth content, which, as already indicated above, depends on the point of view, on claims. “They are not fit for the first division.” But they might be too good for the second? If anything should ever happen to be true….
6) No conclusion
Neither conclusions nor interim conclusions serve the cause. Above all, they could only do one thing: the viewer trusts it and, since it was a conclusion, switches off. The examples would be endless – since one is drawn virtually in every game and this is almost always premature. More concretely, it would be comparable to the attempted prophecy of individual actions, the unsuccessfulness of which is predicted when a game is 1-0 and the final minutes begin: in this phase of the game, there is almost always philosophising about the – as always – “deserved” winner, while on the pitch down there, it’s all happening. Inevitably, one gets the feeling that the announcer does not really like the tension that is just beginning to build up, since a change in the score would shake the conclusion that has long been drawn? As an experienced football consumer, it is worth noting that this is the phase in which exactly the drama that should make a sports journalist a sports journalist is most likely to happen. The equaliser may or may not come, now and then the 2:0, but scoring scenes are pretty much guaranteed. Whether the surprise is an act or real – the latter would suggest stupidity – you regularly hear that you “wouldn’t have expected this team to do that after their poor performance so far”. “They are actually creating something like a scoring threat. Not expected, not hoped for. But that’s what happened. Was it only like that last week? What did the man “learn” from that? Nothing. Exactly. Stupid.
Conclusion, and here one may be drawn calmly:
No conclusions while the ball is still rolling! Funeral speeches can be held after the funeral. Today’s commentators are not even just burying fake dead people, no, they are trying with all their might to put quickies in the ground.
If you now think that you can “lure back” the viewer, whom you have finally scared away live with all the nonsense, via the subsequent summaries by playing the highlights in compressed form, where at least a certain frequency of goals occurs, then there are also plenty of reservations about this: a summary is ALWAYS post-commentated with us. This means that the speaker takes the position of the person in the know anyway. That he then partly pretends, is supposed to pretend (do they even consider that in the broadcasters? “Make it exciting, so don’t reveal too much!”, as an instruction?) as if he doesn’t know yet, so that the summary remains exciting for the viewer who doesn’t know the result yet, is wastepaper. He can’t help it, usually the commentary becomes “treacherous”. Give the loser credit for a great goal? No, you don’t. The danger he was exposing himself to was that presenting such a weak team in a positive light would contain the seeds of cluelessness. So the prevailing view is that the true expert (i.e. the speaker himself) can recognise from every single action, even from the highlights, that it can’t work out for them today. As an attentive listener, you will be able to tell from their tone of voice that they won’t get anything done today.
The defeatism is even worse compared to a live commentary, because he now reliably knows who will win and can therefore confidently comment on a failed action with “this is what the Freiburg attacks looked like this afternoon”, with pictures of an unsuccessful attempt. Live, there would still be the small imponderability of the final outcome, afterwards this doubt is removed, the certainty of the weakness (through the known defeat) of a team offers even better “hacking possibilities”. “Take a look at how they handled their few chances. Miserable is still flattering.”
And, what can be done as an alternative to “spouting more and more nonsense”? Exactly, think outside the box. How do others do it? My role models: The English. There is virtually no commentary on a game. If a scene is reworked, it is always with the original commentary. Just watch such a Sunday morning for fun. It is not even necessary to know the language One would hardly be able to look away. Yet it is only a summary of the previous day! Well, I can say a lot.
First of all, there is one more thing: In our case, the possibility of realising the proposal to do without post-event reports has been eliminated: Because a German live commentary offers even better opportunities to fall asleep and switch off.
In an interview, it must be clearly recognisable who is the football expert and who should be the question expert. Please, dear interviewer, be glad that you succeeded and were allowed to get this real expert in front of the microphone. Try to ask interesting questions and elicit some valuable information that will bring the viewer closer to the interviewee’s point of view, that will provide insights that otherwise remain hidden from us. And don’t keep starting with these cruel questions: “What made you lose today?” or “How long do you think you can keep working?” It is do tiring, unbearable. This nonsense also creates an atmosphere in which the interviewee no longer has any desire to provide such interesting insights. Please, please, also stop analysing the statements. In the studio later: “Why did he say that?” “You always say that when you already know you’re not going to be in office next week.” “The pledges of allegiance are still being made. But we all know the business.” The spectator did not gain any information. Not from what the coach said, anyway. And he was annoyed to no end.
If the coach should also reply: “We conceded an unfortunate goal, after that it’s always difficult, of course, plus we missed the two or three big equalising chances.” Reaction: “Aren’t you making it too easy for yourself?” What more can one say now. And the interviewees, recognising the hopelessness of the endeavour to be perceived with a meaningful statement, are increasingly giving way by simply answering: “Yes, we were simply lousy today and deservedly conceded the defeat.” Then at least the otherwise usual “Why did you…?” is unnecessary. The answer is exhaustive. The only thing is that the viewer learns nothing more.
9) Acknowledgement of luck and bad luck.
This is almost the decisive demand. For as soon as this had happened, all the other platitudes could be dispensed with. As soon as one knows, recognises and lets the spectator feel that in every action it depends on the small coincidences whether it succeeds, whether the ball possibly comes exactly to the place where the striker can use it, whether he then hits it exactly in such a way that it actually lands in the net, or whether it possibly does not find its way over the line on the other side with exactly the same amount of bad luck, as soon as one recognises this, one would be able to feel the fun in the matter and convey this to the spectator. A referee’s decision, a loss of the ball in the build-up, a momentary lapse, everything is permanently dependent on these little coincidences that ultimately decide victory, draw or defeat.
What’s the problem with recognising it? Sure, there are differences in playing strength. If all teams were equally good and it “degenerated” into a pure game of chance, it would be seemingly exciting throughout, but still, as a spectator, you would turn away at the end. “They could throw the dice”. You can no longer see any differences, you don’t even have a chance to pick your own favourites, because in the end it’s always red against white or blue against yellow. All with identical aptitudes.
Since these differences exist, one is obliged, as a speaking expert, to recognise them and make them clear to the spectator. In this way, one underlines one’s own expert status, which, however, should not have any significance per se in my estimation. This has come to the fore in this country, but it would not be necessary if one were committed to the (only sensible, because the viewer finances the whole thing) motto of entertaining the viewer well.
My basic theories as to why it doesn’t seem to be necessary, especially in football, to entertain the viewer well, but instead to mercilessly track down all “mistakes” and flog the perpetrators without restraint, lie in the fact that there are a perceived 40 million experts who “all know better”, all of whom in some way take the speaker’s place, and secondly in the fact that football is such a reliable quantity, the famous dinosaur egg, which you simply can’t break. Football will always exist. The media are full of it, the stadiums are full, now I can, as a spokesperson, talk about all the “catastrophic mistakes” and the “really, really weak game” and “just imagine: The first shot on goal in the 30th minute of the game – that says a lot about the quality of this game”.
In a smaller sport, or indeed in any other report, the announcer would certainly feel obliged to sell “the story”. With football, he can go on saying throughout the game that it’s totally weak and boring. a) Football doesn’t break and b) I’m really good, a true expert who not only recognises this but also dares to say it. Maybe one day I’ll get the job of national coach, the way I know my way around?
Acknowledging good and bad luck would immediately bring back more humanity. And for those who don’t think that’s a goal worth striving for: If, after a game, one could for once say, “Too bad you lost, but thanks for the great game and the good entertainment” instead of always just asking, “What was the reason you lost?” and, if one should give the answer, which is correct in many cases, “We had (some) bad luck.” then one would be really taken apart: “Taking refuge in cheap excuses,” “Doesn’t have the greatness to acknowledge defeat” or even succinctly, “Aren’t you making it too easy for yourself there?” It would not only be more humane, but also much closer to the truth. And that’s what journalists should be interested in, isn’t it?
In the case of a defeat, the question is not whether it was bad luck, but how much bad luck it was. Because in any game that has no predetermined winner, the increase in probability from the chance of winning before the game to the eventual victory can only be achieved through luck. So even an 80% favourite needs luck for the 20% remaining to 100. Despite the possibility of using his (superior) skills in the game. If the increase came about other than by luck, it would merely mean that one had misjudged the chance of victory beforehand.
10) Two commentators
This is also a matter of course in England. There are always two commentators trying to shed light on what is happening. This has a lot of positive effects. For example, at least one other voice can be heard in controversial situations. This has the effect that the person commenting at the moment would not dare to give a final judgement, out of sheer politeness that there is someone sitting next to him who might take it differently. There is certainly no argument, of course. If at all, there are discussions, occasionally even controversial ones – but this is anything but a disadvantage, because the viewer, perhaps even sitting in a group in front of the screen, could have a similar experience. One thinks for oneself, one sees it this way, the other that way.
Incidentally, this could also be applied to everyday life situations: if you want to come to a good decision on your own – almost regardless of what it relates to, a judgement, a purchase decision, a question of taste – it is much easier to do so if you hear another assessment. Confirmed or questioned, one’s own view: one inevitably goes in search of alternative arguments or is presented with them.
In Germany, it does happen occasionally that a co-commentator is invited, but it is by no means the rule. At the same time, this co-commentator – in the rare cases that one is available – is apparently instructed not to contradict the main commentator. A “talking-to” is largely pointless, so one could do without it – or grant the invited person equal rights. Despite this restriction, they still seem much more pleasant, the reports carried out in this way.
In the case of individual commentaries – i.e. the rule – one is always lectured by an individual as to what the correct interpretation was in this or that scene or who plucked whose jersey and who did nothing, apart from the permanent judgements about mistakes with which no agreement can be reached and which at the same time encourage the aforementioned causes – “I am the greatest and know everything and may judge” – as well as consequences – tension in the cellar.
It is a nuisance when one is told that this “was an offside position”, even if it is, as always, gossamer and borderline and thus “debatable”, despite the still image, or that “was not a penalty” and one has no right of objection and not even a second vote can be captured. “That was foul play, yes, let’s look again. Ok, here you see it: clear foul play.” Unbearable, especially if you disagree (and who would be entitled to a final verdict?). It has also long been the case with us that the speaker no longer even has any kind of “right of insight” to correct himself. He has to confirm his first opinion, his first view, at least that is his conviction, because the next person has long since been hoofing it behind him, waiting for the second error after which the change would be made.
This makes the whole thing almost grotesque. An arbitrary scene, a spontaneously pronounced judgement. Comparable to the role of the referee. Whereas a) the referee has his assistants and b) the speaker extends this to any other scene except those that require a referee’s decision. Immediate, spontaneous and unreflective judgements made everywhere without any possible “dissenting voice”, which receive nothing but confirmation? No, it simply doesn’t work that way. “Goalkeeper is partly to blame”, “he has to play faster”, “he should have tried it himself”, “he has to make more of it”, “handball, indisputable”, “gives him far too much space”, “he has to keep it”, “clear swallow”, “…”.
It doesn’t get any better from the fact that such assessments, once made, can only be confirmed. One simply bends it to one’s own advantage. But even the search for truth is no longer the criterion. Rather, it’s: “How can I wriggle through here unnoticed and always look good?” Ridiculous and sad. The viewer/listener has long been lost from sight anyway.
With two commentators, all such problems would be eliminated. “For me that is a foul. What do you think, Gary?” You don’t know for sure, you don’t even want to act like that. An alternative view is sought, by enquiry, or gladly a confirmation.
Sympathetic, pleasant and so much closer to the truth…