I think there is nothing fundamentally wrong with my resolution to make football, or sport in general, more attractive. It just seems to me that there is a conviction that a) all the measures to do so have already been proposed and discussed by “true experts” – so that it is impossible. for a nameless person to come up with a good, new and convincing idea and b) that football is attractive enough after all and the stadiums are full, so that it is simply not really taken seriously and improvements do not seem necessary. Well, in this respect these are the “common objections”, but they don’t change the point – more attractive, yes, sure, why not? – do not change anything.
One measure that, in my estimation, is very far down the list is improving the coverage itself. Well, there is certainly nothing to be said against thinking about reporting as well. There is a jargon in which people talk that is “state of the art” – Anglicisms pro and con or not – and that every one of these gentlemen who wants to join the ranks of the “greats” has to use. There are plenty of starting points to think about this jargon and to question it. Mind you, I am talking about German reporting here.
I have personally conducted surveys — far from representative, but nevertheless with an astonishing and very clear result. The questions I ask my interviewees are like this: “Do you watch football?”. And if someone does – the selection of people is rather random, albeit in a general “circle of friends” — then I can immediately ask the next question: “What do you think of the commentators?” or “How do you like the coverage?” and the amazing thing happens then: It’s as if they were just waiting for this question, comparable to the pissed-off barrel that’s about to spill. I am jumped on directly: “The comments? You can forget all of them. You have to turn off the sound. That’s what I do.” And even if highly different levels of education, the tenor is always the same. My comparison to this is like this: I’m knocking down open doors.
So, since the ensuing discussion is limited to a “pro”, the requisite “con” being omitted, it is not really a discussion but rather just a kind of “build-up” in which people indulge in still greater outrageousness in the reporters’ statements. So although ineffective, this fact is thought-provoking: Is it just because we Germans are a nation of complainers anyway, so we also complain unrestrainedly about the (complaining) reporters, or is there actually something rotten about the reporting?
Since I’m so far fluent in English, I watch games with English commentary as often as I can. Even if I may now be biased: listening to them is a pure blessing. I remember the first English commentary I heard. It was: “This game could go either way.” Translated: “This game could go either way.”
I was quite dumbfounded, but at the same time thrilled. Because a German speaker would never admit this ignorance. In principle, he knows in which direction it will go. Only he apparently maintains the tension until the goal falls. And then he says: “That was foreseen.” It’s not only at a point like this that the smart… gets on my nerves. The Englishman is not only tense, gladly ignorant, but he feels obliged by journalistic honour to convey this tension to his listener. He doesn’t know what will happen. But he also does not want to know, to anticipate, to anticipate, and would not even do so if he did know.
My conclusion, due to the fact that I have a comparison and am also looking for one: it can be done differently. It definitely works better than in this country.
I have had to deal with French, Italian and Spanish commentators, and recently even with Russian or Arab commentators via Internet TV. And even if I don’t understand a word – in contrast to Italian (so-so), French (school French), Spanish (from holidays) – I sense that there is a basic intention to convey excitement. The speakers are excited and enthusiastic. They are waiting in suspense to see what is going to happen, and then they bring it to the audience in a positive way.
Well, I was reassured to the extent that I can say for sure: There is another way. Even if some points of criticism of German reporting may have shone through up to this point, I would like to clarify them with the help of a few questions that I keep asking myself and which I would like to address to the chosen ones:
And they are as follows:
1) Do you believe what you are saying?
For me, this is an absolutely central question. I simply cannot imagine it either way. So neither the answer “yes” nor the answer “no”. If the answer were “yes”, some of the follow-up questions would possibly become superfluous. On the other hand, I would then see every reason to hold the person responsible who let the gentleman speak there. For one thing is certain, even demonstrable: it is simply not true. There is a great deal that is not true. Almost nothing is true, except occasionally a few facts like the current score or how long a striker has gone without scoring. Even counting corner kicks may work as a rule. But in terms of content? When a striker gets past a defender, then, without pause for breath, without the possibility at all for the spectator to interpret the situation, the action, as exciting or as successful, it is as if shot out of a pistol: “That goes far too easily.”
Of course, at this moment I ask myself if the speaker doesn’t want to see this action right now? Which one would he like to see? But I also ask how I am supposed to enjoy this as a spectator? I might just want to jump up, whether my club has the defensive side or the attacking side, I might also be neutral, but it is the action that makes football fundamentally exciting, it smells of goal danger, a goal, a player is free, he has all the possibilities now that he has shaken off his opponent, a dream as it so rarely happens. And already my joy is robbed, because it went “…far too easily.”
Gosh, I wish he’d stayed hanging. Although, it then occurs to me. I already know what I would have heard then: “He keeps getting stuck.” Or: “No, that’s not going to work,” or “He’s too stubborn, he’ll miss the one who’s running with him…” or whatever. It is almost impossible to see a successful action.
In other words, you can always make the effort to find the fault in the action. If one is malicious, it succeeds. If an action leads to a goal, the defenders are to blame. If it doesn’t lead to a goal, the strikers have “not played well”.
If 19 crosses are hit into the penalty area and all are headed out by the defence, it’s called “stereotypical, no suitable means”, but if the 20th cross is actually reached by the striker and he is able to place the ball past the goalkeeper into the net, it’s called “collective deep sleep”, the striker was “criminally free”, “where’s the opponent” or “there the back line lets itself be duped.” All this without taking a breath. Nine times unwise = Klugsch….
So are you serious? You think the backline was bamboozled? Or what is the point of the comment? To me the case is clear: all the slogans are being chanted down unthinkingly. It is child’s play to comment on a game according to these guidelines. There is no differentiation.
Well, if the answer to question 1) is therefore “yes”, the follow-up questions are superfluous. Then the follow-up questions are directed at the programme director: Why did the commentator get permission to speak? However, if it is “No”, then I ask further:
2) Is it supposed to be particularly entertaining in this way?
Although implied above, I’m happy to repeat: it is not entertaining. Absolutely not. It is the complete opposite. Unless it is to aid and abet the Germans in their (third) favourite pastime, grumbling (after evading taxes and being right). Some then grumble about the speakers (about a perceived 98%), the rest grumble about the active ones. “Nu loof do ma, kriegste nicht jenuch Kohle dafür? Our people have to slave all day for a pittance, and the peepers don’t even run for their millions.” But even then it is not entertaining. Lower needs are “served”, if anything at all. In other words, or alternatively, the speaker just wants to celebrate himself, how good he is. The entertainment value does not matter. The worse you make the game – that must be the view of the speaker – the higher you move yourself.
3) Does it serve to increase the tension?
The answer to this can only be: No. Because it is definitely a tension killer if you already judge the quality of an action during it. In doing so, you express precisely that you are not excited. “I’m not worried about whether the action will lead to a goal. I’m only concerned about who acted how well. And that was weak. And in this case, by the defender.” And here the expression “worrying” would already be mistaken. If one were to feel tension, one would not think about it, but simply feel it. A good speaker would even succeed in conveying that – and does, as the foreign comparison shows.
An example? A great action for me, a successful finish, a great save — the impact prevented. The thing that makes football, it happens on the pitch. The announcer, almost while the shot is still in play: “The goalkeeper’s best save.” Although praise, it is tension killing. Because: not that he held his breath. Not that he enthusiastically shouts, “And…. Shot… ouh… just in time, the keeper”, not that he might even think for a moment “… that could be close…”, not that he says nothing at all and lets the spectator enjoy it, no, he has already reviewed all the other actions in his mind’s eye and identified this one as the “keeper’s best”. With so much sobriety, how is the viewer supposed to feel? How is a spectator supposed to go along with that? Or are the comments made in this tone out of protection for the heart patients?
I switch to English commentary whenever possible. And I realise: they don’t know what’s going to happen. And they let me, as a viewer, feel that they don’t know. That creates tension. And only a commentator who doesn’t know what’s going to happen can convey tension. But if he does know, the clever gentleman, then his task would still be to make the viewer believe that he doesn’t know. Because one thing must make you a journalist: “I’ve got the story. You have to hear it.”
4) Is it supposed to be particularly funny?
It’s clear to me that it can’t be done without wit and humour, and it shouldn’t be done at all. In this respect, some of the word creations are creative and funny. Unfortunately, I have to conclude that humour has only one direction left. And that direction is: malice. They mercilessly pick on losers, players who look unhappy in a situation.
There was once a Werner Hansch. He had a commentary on a new player in the Sportschau. Sergej Bustos, as far as I know, who made his debut. In the game there was a scene in which Bustos sat on the ground, then slumped back again because of the recognised failure of his own action, only to get up again. Werner Hansch had prepared the following commentary on this: “Bustos had a decent debut.” He straightens up at that moment. “That was a 4.” Bustos slumps again, falls back onto the grass. Werner Hansch: “All right, it was just a joke, it was a 3.” Bustos straightens up again. That was real humour, without devaluation, without malice. Brilliant.
Today, after a goal has been scored, he only says: “If I were to say that it’s just like in training, that would be an outright lie. It’s much harder in training. Or even when an attacker successfully closes the scoring gap, beating his opponent: “The defender is giving friendly escort here.” That’s supposed to be funny? Once, perhaps. But as a standard saying? Where is the differentiation?
5) Does the speaker want to seem particularly clever?
Well, unfortunately it’s the only question here that I can unreservedly answer “yes” to. There can only be this one intention. That is proven for me. An attack by a team that is trailing 1-0 is described per se as “that’s not enough, there are no playmakers, the outsides are not occupied, 1-on-1s don’t work either, no one takes a risk and the last ball doesn’t arrive either. And when they do have a chance, it’s miserably missed.” Only when it comes to the equaliser, he says: “Yes, it was foreshadowed in the last few minutes. Of course the equaliser is deserved, no question.” Ugh. How stupid do you think the spectators are?