Friday, August 10, 2012
What these Olympics need is John Arlott
If I was a commentator at the Olympics I would avoid saying "what can I say?" for fear someone might ask, isn't that your job?
Maybe the reason they can't think of anything new to say is that they don't try, preferring to flail around for superlatives when a little description is what's really called for.
All the commentators agreed that David Rudisha, who won last night's 800 metre gold, was a beautiful runner but none of them tried to tell you why or how.
John Arlott, the great cricket commentator of my youth, would have done. Arlott likened a Clive Lloyd shot to "a man knocking a thistle top with a walking stick". He described Ian Botham running in to bowl as being "like a shire horse cresting the breeze". Asif Mamood approached the wicket "like Groucho Marx chasing a pretty waitress".
He was good at describing cricket because he hadn't wasted time playing the game. He was a policeman. He was also the only commentating genius we've ever produced.