The retirement of commentary greats such as Henry Blofeld and Brendan Foster in 2017, and the upcoming retirement of Match of The Day’s John ‘Motty’ Motson in May, raise the point of how crucial commentators are to our enjoyment of sport.
The excitable tones of ‘Motty’ and the considered analysis of Blofeld have become familiar and expected elements of entertainment for fans, and their remarkable careers show just how much sports fans appreciate commentators.
Blofeld retired in September after 47 years of commentating on cricket Test matches. Foster stepped away from athletics commentary in August after almost 40 years. While ‘Motty’ will hang up his microphone in May after 50 years with BBC Sport reporting on football.
Figures such as these are legends of their respective sports and their longevity proves this. The current crop of sports commentators, such as Martin Tyler in football and Stuart Barnes in rugby, have themselves built up impressive reputations that emphasise the importance of commentary in sports.
It is extremely difficult to imagine a sports match today on the television without a commentator to provide analysis and information on the match. Whilst watching a game live remains the most desirable way to experience a match, those at home are not able to experience the atmosphere of the stadium. That is what makes commentators so important. They provide the atmosphere for the viewers at home and are integral to the spectacle.
Sports without commentators would make televised matches and events seem far less personal and interesting. This is particularly true in the case of events such as horseracing. Figures such as Peter O’Sullivan, who retired in 2015, largely created the excitement of the race for thousands of viewers.
A race without an eccentric build up to the end would seem extremely strange to the modern viewer and far less entertaining. The race itself would also seem far more uncertain, with commentators providing crucial information on which horse is winning and how far there is to go. In this sense, commentary is crucial to the viewers’ enjoyment of the sport.
In football, commentators have provide invaluably famous moments that ink the moments in the game itself into fans’ minds forever.
The quote that sparks the excitement of any England fan: “They think it’s all over. It is now!” – Kenneth Wolstenholme on England winning the World Cup in 1966.
The words that raise the hairs on any Manchester United fan’s neck: “Can Manchester United score? They always score!” – Clive Tyldesley moments before Manchester United scored two goals in injury time to seal their historic treble in 1999.
The quote that brings jubilation to any Manchester City fan: “Aguerooo… I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again” – Martin Tyler on Sergio Aguero’s last minute goal for Manchester City to win the title in 2012.
Commentators have become as much a part of modern sport as players. It is unthinkable that we should sit down to a silent sporting event without any added information or analysis.
Away from the events themselves, there are entire television programmes and stations entirely dedicated to the analysis of the game, and they are extremely popular. This shows even further how important the role of commentators really is in sports today.
Sports fans far and wide will lament the retirements of the legends Blofeld, Foster and Motson. They have become iconic in their respective sports and represent their events perfectly. The affectionate nicknames, such as “Blowers”, “Big Bren” and “Motty” that fans have given these commentators shows just how much they are respected, loved and appreciated.
Whilst the post-Motty world may take some adjusting to, there is an incredible batch of commentators in sport at the moment and commentators will continue to be adored as they always have been.
Image courtesy of Ben Sutherland