Fan Fever

Uruguay 4-3 victory on penalties to Netherlands to win Copa Conf

Recent events in the Premier League have called into question the degree to which supporters should follow their club without regard for circumstances and understanding of a situation. Whilst listening to ex-cricketer Geoffrey Boycott discuss his love of Manchester United on radio 5Live I was struck that he took umbrage with being called a fan, preferring to be referred to as a supporter. He noted that a supporter, by nature, simply supports whereas a fan is, by nature, a fanatic. While some may disregard the subtle difference between the two terms, it is an important one. A supporter is simply someone who supports, but a fanatic is defined by ‘excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion’.

Wolves Supporters Celebrate Together

Wolves Supporters Celebrate Promotion Together. Photo: TGIGreeny

The personal abuse Steve Kean has been subjected to by Blackburn Rovers ‘supporters’ this season has little to do with his team’s performances on the pitch. All supporters have a right to voice their opinion on their team’s performance, its management and how the club is run. Some people seem to confuse this with an excuse to shout obscenities and personal abuse though, these are not the actions of a supporter.

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez argued that the language he used is not perceived to be racist in his native Uruguay. Photo: jikatu

Patrice Evra returned to Anfield recently for the first time since the incident which led to Liverpool striker Luis Suarez receiving an eight game ban. The booing he received from all corners of Anfield could be expected from a passionate Liverpool crowd and accepted against their fiercest rivals were it not for the fact that Evra was singled out. None of the other Manchester United players were subjected to the booing received by their captain, suggesting that Liverpool fans were condemning him for having been a victim of racist abuse which led to their striker being punished. This booing was again, not an act of support but of uncritical devotion that portrayed the Liverpool crowd to be condoning the racist actions of their player.

Chelsea followers’ recent treatment of the Ferdinand brothers has also crossed the line beyond support. The sending of a bullet in the post to younger brother Anton, and subsequent booing of elder brother Rio in Sunday’s encounter at Stamford Bridge displayed a lack of critical thought towards their club that epitomises the actions of a fanatic. Chelsea defender John Terry is charged with racially abusing Anton Ferdinand following a complaint to the police by a member of the public, not Ferdinand himself. The criminal prosecution service clearly saw enough in the evidence to charge Terry, so why should the Ferdinand brothers be subjected to abuse when they have done nothing wrong?

Following a football team elicits emotions from sublime joy to gut-wrenching disappointment, supporters embrace this and support their team through thick and thin. However, people shouldn’t be so myopic and unwavering in support of their club that they lack the ability to criticise the actions of their club or player if they are in the wrong.

So shout, cheer, jeer and applaud as much as you want, but never cross the line from supporter to fanatic.

Photos: Wolves supporters – TGIGreeny, Suarez – jikatu

It’s Not Always Good To Talk

Having written recently about the skills required for good sports commentary and the value it can add to a sporting occasion I feel it necessary to show the other side of the coin. Due to the extensive coverage given to sports in a multi-platform and subscription television based world there will inevitably be bad commentators. The word ‘bad’ is perhaps misused here though as judgement of commentary is not an objective matter, it is very much a matter of opinion, what may annoy someone may be exactly what others desire from a commentator.

There must be some things that annoy a majority of viewers though, below are a few of my pet hates that can guarantee a cringe every time I hear or read them, I suspect I’m not alone with some of them;

Nicolas Anelka in action for Chelsea

Nicolas Anelka - He may be French but he's definitely a man. Photo: americanistadechiapas

Mispronunciation: I fully admit that as more foreign players have found their way into British sport and more international sport is broadcast that there will inevitably be names that are difficult to pronounce. What annoys me is when names we all know how to pronounce are mispronounced by those who should know better. A perfect example of this to have recently annoyed me is ITV4’s cycling commentator Phil Liggett calling the French rider Thomas Voeckler, Thomas Voikla. Liggett is a veteran of countless Tours, he commentates on cycling for a living and will have been to France more times than most so how on earth does he get it wrong? It should be pronounced something like Vercklair but a widely heard and acceptable pronunciation is Verckla. Another example that gets up my nose is David Pleat’s (he is a serial offender) pronunciation of the French footballer Nicolas Anelka, Pleat insists on calling him Nicola. I know in French the ‘s’ is not pronounced but he calls him Nicola in an English accent, by all means call him Nicola but if so don’t make him a girl and so do it in a French accent, if you’re intent on using an English accent then do as most do and simply call him Nicolas.

Over familiarity: Steven Gerrard should be called Steven Gerrard, John Terry should be called John Terry, no Stevie Gs, no JTs. A commentator is there to inform and describe, if a teammate wants to refer to them in that way in a post match interview then so be it, a commentator can call them by their nickname in pub conversation just as you and I would but please not in a commentary. This is one criticism I have of Tom Fordyce, he has a habit of creating new names for sportspeople that often have little relation to their actual name. His current favourite seems to be referring to Tim Bresnan as Brezucio, I don’t know why this annoys me but it does.

David Coulthard in a Red Bull

David Coulthard's helmet meant he was easily identifiable. Photo: :: De todos los Colores ::

Missing action: In my opinion a cardinal sin of a commentator; so caught up in finishing what they are saying that they miss something. It may only be the beginning of something happening but I like my commentators to react to things as they’re happening, not with a few seconds delay. It can often feel like the commentators are actually at a disadvantage being at the event because for television commentary they aren’t necessarily seeing what the viewers are and as such may not react to something on our screens due to them not looking at their monitor at the time. A culprit of this particular pitfall was Jonathan Legard, the 5Live turned BBC1 Formula 1 commentator, he didn’t seem to manage his move from radio to television too well and was often found to be still talking as Martin Brundle interrupted him to update the viewers with something happening out on the track.

Referee Howard Webb

Referees such as Howard Webb rarely escape the wrath of Alan Green. Photo: thetelf

Know your stuff: This may be the most important part of preparation for a commentator, if your job is solely to commentate on one sport all year round then I expect you to be able to identify the main protagonists. In many sports and for most commentators this will come naturally just through being a fan and recognising the way somebody kicks a ball or runs a bend or pedals a bicycle. Kits, numbers, car bodywork, haircuts and tattoos all help in this respect yet commentators still get it wrong, unfortunately Legard falls foul of this as well. Most Formula 1 teams are kind to the commentators and make some distinction between their two cars, be it the colour of the nose or the camera on the top of the air inlet, not forgetting that each driver likes to make their helmet very distinctive, yet Legard still seemed to have trouble identifying drivers. I say seemed as he was booted off the Formula 1 coverage and back to football league commentary after two years of complaints from F1 fans and was replaced by the very knowledgeable David Coulthard. Henry Blofeld is another prime suspect for this one, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been listening to Test Match Special and he’s called Stuart Broad, Chris. Stuart has been playing international cricket for nearly five years now and Blowers still gets it wrong at least once a day.

Alan Green: There isn’t anything inherently wrong with being opinionated and sharing your opinions with the audience, in fact I’d say that I probably prefer commentators and summarisers to have opinions. However Green angers me with his opinions as he more often than not assumes everyone shares his and dismisses those who don’t. I also find that he is far too quick to criticise and pass judgement, whether it be the performance of a player, the referee or the standard of a game in general. If he commentates on a poor quality game, and with the amount of games he covers that is inevitable every now and again, then he appears to take it as a personal slap in the face from all the players on the pitch that they can’t put on a performance worthy of his presence. He seems incapable of accepting then not every game will be Arsenal v. Barcelona, not every pass will find it’s target and not every referee will go through their career without making a mistake.

Right that’s a few things off my chest! Feel free to comment if you agree with my criticisms or defend a guilty party if you feel they’ve been harshly treated or simply to add to the list and vent some frustration of your own.

Photos: Anelka – americanistadechiapas, Coulthard – De Todos Los Colores, Webb – thetelf