The football commentator’s role is a difficult, and often thankless one. When done right, they make it feel like its the easiest job in the world. When they get it wrong, they can make the game they are calling near unwatchable. Sadly, after nearly 65 years of covering the game, Channel Seven have never delivered the latter more frequently than they do now.
While this might be recency bias at work, last Thursday night’s coverage of Collingwood v Geelong feels like the most perfect example of this. We are going to put Bruce McAvaney’s much publicised minimisation of Jordan De Goey’s arrest to one side, as people more qualified than us have discussed this in great detail, and will focus on the more trivial offences committed. Trivial being the key word as that is how McAvaney and Brian Taylor seem to view the game they are calling.
Instead of being supporting players to the game being broadcast, McAvaney and Taylor are presented as the stars of the show. Their egos and their mutual appreciation society seemingly more important than the game or the fans watching. Whenever McAvaney takes over from Taylor, no matter how nonsensical his call, he will congratulate him on a ‘good call’. In return Taylor will bestow genius status on McAvaney whenever he displays anything more than a passing knowledge of sport.
On Thursday, this manifested itself in Taylor being as shocked as somebody learning the twist in The Sixth Sense upon learning McAvaney knew who the Olympic Decathlon Champion was. Beyond the fact that this had nothing to do with the game unfolding in front of them, this needs to be put in some perspective. Rather than a remarkable feat of knowledge, given McAvaney has commentated every Olympics since 1980, it is a little like a football reporter knowing who won Gold Coast’s Best & Fairest last year.
When they aren’t fawning over each other about underwhelming things, they are aggravatingly distracted by nonsense. Very early on Thursday we were treated to Taylor recounting ad nauseum that a kick for goal had knocked over some beers in the crowd. When not getting excited about these things, he seems to be of the view that the viewing public like him repeating words loudly, saying players names wrong, and incorrectly accusing the umpires of mistakes.
If that wasn’t bad enough, later in the game we had to endure McAvaney equally excited about Gary Rohan running fast. Treated to replay after replay, he exalted about how exciting it was. Conveniently forgotten in the short breathed ranting was that Rohan had completely overshot the contest and had allowed the opposition to clear the ball.
For some reason this is what Channel Seven thinks we want. When its not the commentators focusing on the meaningless, the producer will join in and replay a player’s celebration rather than the goal he was celebrating. While we appreciate that there is a time and place for taking the game less seriously, we are frustrated that Seven believes that time is from siren to siren on game day.
Rather than adding to the game, Channel Seven have made the game secondary to the Bruce and BT experience. Its a surprising error for a network with such a long history in broadcasting the game. There is no question that great commentators can elevate the game they are calling, but this only possible when the contest itself is the star of the show. When you reverse this balance and give the callers star billing you not only diminish the game but the commentators too.
C’mon Channel Seven we all deserve better than this.