They say a picture paints a thousand words. And while there are many that wish the likes of Motty would take greater heed of the maxim, it stands to reason that your average radio commentator or pundit must be called upon to produce added verbiage by the ton in lieu of pictorial evidence.
Little wonder then that the radio was once the spiritual home of guff.
It certainly produced the landmark sporting gaffe of our time. The England – West Indies test series of 1976 provided the backdrop. Brian Johnston was at the mic and Peter Willey and Michael Holding were poised at the crease. The likes of David Baddiel will die trying before they could write what followed: “The bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey.”
While living up to those standards represents – as they’d say themselves – a big ask, the football commentators have not been slow to step up to the plate. You’ve got cranky Alan Green, excitable Jonathan Pearce, sensible Mick Ingham, and lyrical Stuart Hall and his jockstraps full of dynamite. And then there’s Tom Tyrrell, the Mancunian nonsense factory that blows everyone away.
In Fever Pitch, Nick Horby described listening to football on the radio thus:
“Football reduced to its lowest common denominator. Shorn of the games aesthetic pleasures, or the comfort of the crowd that feels the same way as you, or the sense of security that you get when you see that your defenders and your goalkeeper are more or less where they should be, all that is left is naked fear.”
He was nearly right. Fear and guff.
Top 10 slices of Radio Guff
10. “Fifty thousand here tonight, but it sounds like fifty two thousand.”
9. “Our talking point this morning is George Best, his liver transplant and the booze culture in football. Don’t forget, the best caller wins a crate of John Smith’s”
8. “What will you do when you leave football, Jack – will you stay in football?”
7. ‘Neil Sullivan has stopped absolutely everything have thrown at him… Wimbledon 1, Manchester United 1.’
6. “He’s only a foot away from the linesman – or should I say a metre, in modern parlance”
5. “Sporting Lisbon in their green and white hoops, looking like a team of zebras.”
4. “John Moncur has been much more effective since he came on.”
3. “The trainers weren’t on the pitch at all… but of course the referee does have to take into account the minute’s silence.”
.2 “Roy Keane didn’t go through the book with a fine toothbrush’
1. “We are about as far away from the penalty box as the penalty box is from us.”