Thursday, March 22, 2007

In Celebration of Radio commentary - mimitig

Bizarre though it might seem, once upon a time there were families who chose not to have a television set. It wasn’t that long ago that we were one of those families. The lack of a TV never stopped me from following my chosen sports with a dedication that bordered on fanaticism. After all, who needs telly - we had the wireless.

As a teenager I closeted myself away for 2 weeks every summer to listen to Radio 2’s coverage of Wimbledon. When play finished for the evening, I would go out into the yard and hit endless balls against the wall. With every ball I imagined Dan Maskell describing the aces I served and I relished the points won against Chrissie and Martina.

In the winter the focus changed to Rugby Football. We would crouch around the Bush Transistor that my Da had given Mum as an anniversary present, so that we could listen to Cliff Morgan telling us what was happening at Cardiff Arms Park. Welsh matches (apart from when we played the English) were only broadcast by BBC Wales and we couldn’t get that on the big wireless upstairs.

The years went by and we still had no telly at home, but they had a big colour set at my Da’s work. On a Saturday, I would go and join him and his chums in the leather-chaired inner sanctum of the Senior Common Room to watch, in summer, John McEnroe shocking us all with his behaviour, or in the winter JJ and JPR thrilling us with their boldness and dexterity. It was a tremendous treat for a teenager.

Fast forward some 30 years, and I still find radio commentary far more compelling than the TV. For most of my favourite sports now, I have some access to television coverage. However, time after time from the cricket and cycling to football, tennis and athletics, my choice is always the soundtrack. Whilst I may be very keen to see what players look like, far more important is the feel of the match. I find this much easier to picture if I see it in my mind’s eye with the aid of good radio commentary. For my favourite sport, the cricket, there is nothing to match the perfect descriptions of place and atmosphere that you get on the radio.

There is something magical, bewitching and beguiling about the painting of a picture with only the use of words. Today, the on-line broadcasters with their over-by-over or minute-by-minute written commentary act as the bridesmaids to the bride of spoken commentary. We can engage with them, we can even contribute and become a part of the event we are following. It is an extension of radio in a way that TV will never be able to compete with. It becomes a glorious adventure with broadcasters and fans working together.

Maybe, just maybe, Radio Commentary, the Poor Man of sports broadcasting will be able to rule the airwaves again.


Zephirine said...

John Arlott. It's a cliche, but he was 'the sound of summer'.

I really liked this, Mimi. Very well written, and an interesting angle.

pipita said...

Lovely piece mimi, really enjoyed reading that. Your nostalgia reminded me of Altman's last film, cant remember the title but its about this live radio show. Its true that theirs something more compelling about sports commentary on the radio, but I can imagine you fully appreciating the visual beauty of sport when watching jj and jpr, not to mention the delights of my welsh favorite, barry john

mimi said...

Everyone: ebren and I put this piece up before the terrible news broke from Jamaica.
Quite understand if no-one wants to post here, but if you want to comment on the news, don't feel that you're going off-topic - we're going to need a space somewhere to put our thoughts, and I'm not sure just now that GU will give us that forum.
Zeph: thank you for being so kind.

tony ellis said...

A very nice piece, mimi. It reminded me of how much I miss the radio.

My only criticism is that there are too many full stops, which stops the flow of an otherwise very evocative piece. Let flow...

tony ellis said...

A very nice piece, mimi. It reminded me of how much I miss the radio.

My only criticism is that there are too many full stops, which stops the flow of an otherwise very evocative piece. Let it flow...

mimi said...

tonyellis: too many fullstops. Probably the curse of the sub, who was trained by a typographer, who was trained by a typecaster!
But I'm glad it made you miss the radio, or as I still call it, the wireless.

tony ellis said...

Oi ebren, this ain't funny: some comments disappearing, others duplicated. Are you getting delusions of GUrandeur?

mimi - are you the sub?

What terrible news? I'll take a look now...

retentiveannals said...

Hi everyone

Devestating as the Bob Woolmer murder story is, particularly to his family, is anyone really so surprised that this has happened?

We live in a world gone mad over sport, where it seems that football seems to have taken the place of religion in some areas, and where colossal sums of money from dubious origins are used to purchase players, franchises and bet on individual pieces of play, as well as results in cricket and other games.
Poor Bob Woolmer was badly let down by his team's performance against a vibrant Ireland side and, as we all know, where there are winners, there are losers also.

Someone must have lost an unimaginable sum to have been crazed and desperate enough to kill an innocent, decent, caring man over a game of cricket.

Let us hope that Bob Woolmer's legacy will be that we all of us learn to appreciate that while sport is important and part of our every day lives, it is NOT a matter of life and death, and that no one should ever be killed because it again.

I was stunned and deeply saddened by his death. Now it almost makes me want to turn my back on the World Cup, and organised professional sport.

tony ellis said...

mimi- the wireless? Stop it! I'm about to throw my tv out.

retentive - slow down - Jamaican police seem somewhat less sure that it was murder. Agree with everything else you have to say, though...

Zeph said...

tonye, the Jamaican police have officially declared it a murder investigation.
Nothing yet to link it to corruption in sport - and there's plenty of other crime around in Jamaica - but it seems there were no signs of a robbery.

tony said...

thanks zeph. Time for bed, I think...

bluedaddy said...

To me, the saddest thing is that the media takes over in times like these. Their insatiable maw gapes for every snippet of gossip, falsehood or paid for titbit to fill another page, or slice of airtime. I pity the poor families of a Woolmer, or Damilola Taylor, or Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, or whoever, who have to endure their grief while the superficially sympathetic but in reality salivating media consume them, and shit them out.
Those fuckers are glad it wasnt a heart attack, while his family probably prays that it was.

I wish them some peace some time soon.

marcela said...

mimi - what a nice read.
i love radio commentary and have relied on it a lot (via internet) to follow boca matches over the last few years.
but i have a clear memory of argentina v. italy in the 1990 world cup, listening to the game on the radio at the airport before boarding a flight.

i got off the plane the following day with a really clear image of maradona and cannigia's interaction. then, when i eventually saw replays, the video exactly matched what i had pictured!

brilliant medium, radio.

hannibalbrooks said...

I can't stand listening to music while I'm driving or even when I'm a passenger in a car and I much prefer BBC's Radio Merseyside during the day or Radio 4 at night, where the human voice and humanity reign supreme.

I have to say though that the Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 is my absolute all-time favourite piece of radio. It's just pure un-cut aural valium. It's usually on in the early hours as I'm driving home from gigs and I'll even sit in the car outside my home and listen to it until it's finished. I missed it tonight though.

I definitely think that I developed my love of speech based radio in my childhood, listening to radio football match commentaries. A few years ago I even gained qualifications in speech based radio production and people tell me quite often that my speaking voice would be perfect for radio.

Marvelous piece mimi.

offside said...

I see the boys of summer in their ruin
Lay the gold tithings barren,
Setting no store by harvest, freeze the soils;
There in their heat the winter floods
Of frozen loves they fetch their girls,
And drown the cargoed apples in their tides

Dylan Thomas (who had a good voice for radio too)

greengrass said...

Ah, the wireless.
I once had a house on an island in Sweden.
Just after moving in, I went down for a night at the island pub. This pushy bloke cornered me and told me that he could connect me up to the cable network he had installed for only 300 quid: if I didn't decide soon, it would cost me twice as much.
I said no, then let him rattle through all his arguments about 88 channels, etc., until everyone else
in the bar was listening to the pair of us.
When he gave me my "final last chance" and I still said no, he said, "But why not?"
I replied: "I don't have a telly."


MotM said...

mimi - I'll come back to this. It's a horrible day as the details emerge.

reemgear said...

Radio Ga Ga - Radio Goo Goo.
Video killed the radio star...

Now this!

Actually, I fully agree with your observations. My son studies Occitain at school - which is a bit like studying Cornish (or whatever).

I would rather he started learning Spanish, but the missus came up with a very good justification of regional language studies: Occitain, for instance, is one of the richest languages in the world. Any language will have its own unique idioms, if the language dies so do some of its ideas - that's just not right.

Radio coverage will become a lost art one day, tv coverage is so bloody easy and, thus, assinine.
Alan Greene aside, I'd take any radio commentator over ANY tv commentator.

Look at Stuart Hall; great on the wireless - but when he had the chance to do TV all he could do was piss his sides laughing; why? Because he had nothing to report! You could see as well as him!

Anyhow, nice piece. Cheers.

levremance said...

I almost prefer sport on the radio. Does youtube do audio only?

Not trying to get on your good side Mimi but my favourite bit of Aussie Rules commentary was Rex Hunt screaming "Yaaabbbllleeeetttt!!!!" when Gary 'God' Ablett pulled down a spectacular mark to clinch the 94 prelim final.

Ebren said...

Margin wrote about the radio on his spurs blog on footballingworld.

He's really rather good

Ebren said...

proper link to Margin's radio bit

MotM said...

Having worked through my anger etc re Woolmer elsewhere, it was a pleasure to read of the wireless. I enjoy it - at its best, "It's coming back for Jonny Wilkinson. This is the one", it'll trump any medium, but I now hate almost everything Five Live do and I've never really enjoyed the Public Schoolboys in the TMS box, nor what I find a complacent network at Radio Four. Danny Baker I love and I'll post a site with clips of him at his best if pseuds want it.

Two things though.

Digital radio is fantastic with BBC Radio 7 at times unlistenable due to laughing. To hear the long gone Kenny's outrage on Just a Minute is a gift.

Also, with help, I was able to run electronic gizmoes from a computer to a radio which allowed me to listen to TMS in the garden in rural Sweden whilst playing cricket with my kids. I doffed my hat again to those geeks who gave us the internet.

reemgear said...

Without wishing to go off topic (god forbid...) does anybody know whether the big blogger thing will be decided today, or not?

I liked Octavemouret's piece on Kirkland Laing - 'cause I'm a boxing fan - but surely the smart money is on Johnnyboy, who has thus far produced two decent efforts?

Personally; I loved that 'Reemgear' bloke's piece on Peter Kenyon - but I suppose genius goes unnoticed sometimes...

reemgear said...

Mouth me auld mucker (can I call you mucker?).

I've been trying to get BBC radio match commentary in France, but they say they don't service Europe.

What's this digital radio malarky of which you speak? I'd really appreciate some info.

andrewm said...

Golf on the radio is great, all the whispering at greenside and the distant roars from other parts of the course.

On TV it's hopeless.

mimi said...

Thanks for your kind words.
HB - it's not just the divine poetry of the Shipping Forecast but also the wonderful, wonderful Sailing By. Years ago the BBC did a TV/Radio tie-up for New Year, and broadcast the most amazing marine montage to the music of the full, long version of Sailing By. Such a shame it was a one off, because that was an occasion when pictures balanced sound perfectly.
Lev: any mention of the god Ablett is fine by me! Did you remember this from a GU Blog?

MotM said...

Remgear - the BBC broadcasts some of its sports coverage over the internet to the world at large, but football and World Cup cricket are probably restrained by rights. TMS was available last summer though.

Digital radio is like digital TV only you get it through an equipped receiver. No hiss, no buzz, no tuning in. Only problem? Not broadcast all over UK never mind Europe.

levremance said...

Mimi - you've pined a few times for mornings filled with VB and aussie rules replays. What a combination.

bluedaddy said...

Reemgear - stick your Kenyon piece on here please.

mimi said...

lev: you forget my yearnings for the large, heavily vodka-laced Bloody Marys that used to kick start those Saturday mornings. Oh to be that young and resilient again!

Anonymous said...

do you really live in northernmost Scotland - Tongue, perhaps?


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