First of all, a few more general thoughts about the fact that a match is broadcast live on German television with German commentary. This description suggests that it happens “on any” channel, but deserves a little more differentiation, especially with regard to the channel Sky – formerly Premiere — which has secured the exclusive broadcasting rights of the 1st and 2nd German leagues. Obviously, matches are broadcast from these leagues where there should be no partisanship whatsoever – at least not on the reporting side — whereas international matches, but also Champions League matches, are mostly broadcast with German participation, which makes the task much easier in two ways: firstly, one knows what one has to commentate on and hope for, and secondly, one can rely quite securely on the passion, enthusiasm, emotionality and partisanship of the audience. In this respect, an urgent distinction would have to be made, but this has already been examined elsewhere (“The neutrality”). Nevertheless, it should be possible to tie a neutral viewer to the match in the event that Werder Bremen – Bayern Munich or VfB Stuttgart – Borussia Dortmund are to be played and this match takes place at prime time as a single match on a Friday evening or a Sunday afternoon. Everybody knows these teams, they know their ambitions, their demands, and practically everybody, apart from one or two other “favourite teams”, can clearly position themselves there. Those who don’t may just gout it as top-class football anyway with a click of the tongue, if that doesn’t break the image (or the tongue).
The field is set. For the sake of simplicity, let’s talk about a Bundesliga match, dispensing with the above restrictive simplification of games of the “Germany versus the rest of the world” type. These take place almost exclusively (which is ensured by the word “exclusive” in connection with “rights”) on the Sky channel. Here are a few adjectives that are considered appropriate for the tone used throughout.
Putting you to sleep
Factual or Unobjective
Now, if you were to look for the opposite adjectives in the live commentary, it is very difficult to find them. Occasionally, when a surprising goal is scored shortly before the end of the game, there may be an initially enthusiastic cry of “Too-or”, but this immediately switches back to sober, objective, analytical, fault-finding after the person shouting it has caught himself inadvertently becoming emotional. The “goal” may still have been drawn out (i.e. already in the single-digit percentage range of a Brazilian announcer), but it can never happen that a commentator does not think about who started the “chain of errors” and who made the biggest one. Shortly afterwards, the viewer is presented with this, of course always wrong and unobjective, but nevertheless “endeavouring”, so to speak, to uncover the “mistake(s)” in order to, yes, why actually? Well, of course, to underpin his expert status. “After all, the others always see the mistake(s) right away. Now I have to react as reflexively as possible, regardless of whether it’s true or not. If I can’t think of anything, I’ll just talk about the collective that failed.”
In any case, a gigantic imbalance in the negative direction can be observed, which, of course, on closer inspection reveals exclusively the commentator’s lack of expertise. “Balanced” reporting — which would not even do sufficient justice to the matter, because one gets to see the best of the best — would, however, be the least one would have to expect. Those who talk down this level had better lace up their own shoes so that they can finally have a good laugh.
Just a brief comparison: If the footballers down there, who are prepared for anything on the field but are completely powerless against this kind of defeatism, were allowed to speak up just once spontaneously during one of these stupid, smart-ass comments of the exemplary condescending type “They played the counterattack badly”, they would force him to call his recreational team together, If they were allowed to speak, they would force him to call up his recreational team and ask him not once but a thousand times, or better still, make a bet on it, to “make more” out of an overnumbered situation of 5 against 3 in a comparable situation, but the defenders would drink three nights beforehand as an additional requirement and no one would be allowed on the field with less than 2.0 alcohol. 0 per mille on the field. And yet: after the thousandth futile run, they still wouldn’t want to help up the whimpering reporter sitting on the ground, but would shout at him: “Here you have once played your ‘badly’. Will you say that again?” That would be pedagogy.
Well then, if it is so far accepted (and there is enough further evidence elsewhere in the text) that this is how it is, then one can gladly take a look at the individual points pointed out, “package by package”, how and when and why they are used, of course without being able to refrain from applying all these terms conversely at the appropriate points to the babbling soporifics themselves.
1) Snide, condescending, arrogant
“Snide”, “condescending” “arrogant” is one such package. What other term would it have deserved if a speaker, failing to bring to a successful conclusion an attack presented at the highest tempo in the face of a sufficiently high number of prevention-trained opponents, comments on it with a “Nä”? That is nothing other than derogatory and condescending. “Nah, it won’t work like that.” The university professor who is known to be somewhat unworldly, scribbling Heysenberg’s uncertainty principle on the blackboard in a hurry to his students, who in his view are only moderately gifted, and who looks into still questioning faces after completing this deed, might come up with this “Nä”. One would perhaps even forgive him for the exaggeratedly high demands. There is no one there who could follow him. However, only he himself sees the reason to wonder.
Only it is not in the least clear what has given the speaker here this high wait? Where is his university degree? Where did he stand on the pitch against these people, was he equal, let alone, as such a statement suggests, is he “better” than them. It’s not even disappointment reflected there. It is simply snideness.
If you look a little more closely, however, it would be, in the event that indeed Pelé, Cruyff. Maradonna or Beckenbauer, who might just be granted this (superior) position, were to embark on a career as a reporter, it would not even then be remotely appropriate to the matter at hand, whereby “the matter at hand” from the point of view of the commentary installation (i.e. the person responsible for the programme) would naturally have to be to entertain the viewer well and to maintain or increase the viewing figures: Who on earth has decided that the viewer/listener feels best entertained when he is made aware of the permanent shortcomings – even if they existed from the point of view of those who have come closest to perfection to date? Would one visit a circus, broadcast a performance live, comment on it, with permanent grumbling about what the artists did wrong with this triple somersault with double twist and how it should actually be performed? No, one would have to click one’s tongue and make an effort to close one’s mouth in astonishment in time to at least stutter and still be able to present the incredible top performance to the man. In what way do these three-quarter gods believe that the performances shown in football, of all things, the greatest sport in the world, have to take a back seat to those of these artists? No, it is the best there is to see. And that is constantly being denigrated in the hope of, well, what? To be included in the world class? “I can criticise them and make ample use of it. Surely they must include me in their circle?
It often seems that the speaker is inclined to spread a certain anticipation. He seems to have forgotten that it was always like this in the 1271 weeks before in his reporting career and that he was then just as often disappointed by the event itself, but at least credit should be given to him for being committed to the reporter’s honour of wanting to capture a spectacle and at least feigning anticipation.
As I said, the disappointment comes every time, at the latest after the third unsuccessful attack, when the grumbling is recorded. “It has to be quicker there” or “That can at best be called a cautious feeling-out” or “they’re trying it through the middle again”, some such remark reveals the first shortcomings – and leads to gradually growing dissatisfaction with what is happening. Well, one wonders, of course, if he has not only forgotten the disappointment but possibly has a completely wrong idea of football in general? One would like to say to him: “Hey, boy, that’s football these days. It’s not all mistakes they make, it’s the way it’s done. A good team consists not only of good attackers but also of good destroyers, who set themselves the exact goal, get this assignment from their coaches, to use their learned, trained skills, which by the way are highly considerable, in such a way that precisely the attacking move you seem to be dreaming of does NOT come about.”
Instructed that he has forgotten this and much more, or that he has never understood it, and also that he is incapable of learning, one becomes convinced at the moment when the apparent dream of the successful action is fulfilled: now he should be satisfied, shouldn’t he? This attack was not only perfectly executed, but also the finish was just right. “Should be quicker” – previously thought – now fulfilled. “Outside positions not occupied”, fulfilled here. “Too inaccurate in passing”, here he arrived. “No danger of scoring, even when they get into the sixteen”, here reversed, but danger of scoring. What was wrong now? Surely now he must finally break out in jubilation?
No, on the contrary, we are told that this really “went far too easily” and that a “chain of defensive errors beginning in midfield” was responsible for this and that “the allocation was not right” and a “capital goof” was then added to this, whereupon fate took its course.
Hmm, yes. He is simply dissatisfied. There’s no escape from that. Wouldn’t it be possible to find someone who is at least satisfied? That would still be far and away before the stage of being enthusiastic or passionate, emotional or even the stage of “he knows how to play football”. Still, that alone could help. One who is satisfied with what he sees. Maybe even lets it be known that he is satisfied that he has the job, that he gets to be there and that he is assigned to let the spectator participate.
3) Emotionless, Tension-stealing, Soporific, Bored
Of course, this is true everywhere. Nevertheless, one may make a few differentiations. If the category of the game is higher, the expectation rises, which is more of a demand. This, however, does not bring any concession or increased respect to the kickers down there, so that one might possibly hope as a spectator that the bubble will leave an old-established, deserving national player “in peace”, spared from criticism. But that is not the case. These critics, the blabbermouths who, through some strange circumstance, were allowed to play in the pompous yakking karaoke and simply won’t let the microphone out of their hands, these critics here are sharp, no, they are relentless. When a player actually misses the ball, which has been passed to him at top speed in a very confined space and “inaccurately”, well, the way a ball sometimes arrives, and he has already recognised in the corner of his eye the departing team-mate on the other side of the field, but realises at the last moment that this pass is simply not going to be successful, but realises at the last moment that this pass simply cannot be successful and at the same moment decides otherwise, namely to take the ball with him and does not succeed in doing so, then there is only one thing that you as a speaker can say, can say no to, regardless of the vouched quality of the player, that sounds something like this: “Stick error here by. ..”
That simply has to come out, that has to be gotten rid of, here a person who has had to hump all his life, has had to constantly submit, whose self-esteem actually lies just above the turf – that is, somewhere in the region of sanity – finally has the chance to place himself above a Michael Ballack or a Bastian Schweinsteiger, people whom he could neither remotely hold a candle to nor, for example, be allowed to kiss the feet of – and this chance must be used under all circumstances. The spectator must be informed of this. There is no mistaking it here. “Suspense? Entertainment? Respect? What do I have to do with it? Stick error remains stick error, and the viewer MUST “experience” that.” Yes, exactly, and remember where the switch-off button is. He has long since found it, while the chatterbox still ignores all the shots that sound every evening. “Shoo, into the basket with you. But first a plaster over your mouth.”
Yes, hmm, back to the differentiations: You kind of sense that playing at a recognised higher level doesn’t do the kickers any good. So what happens when they play further down? Well, the intention to convey tension is not helped by this. No, because the announcer himself notices that his colleague is allowed to “bash” the “treat” Bayern – Dortmund, while he himself, as a commentator, has to play in the lower regions of the table, for example Borussia Mönchengladbach – Eintracht Frankfurt. The players and the spectators feel this. Someone who is not even playing at the top of the table has to reckon with even more malice.
No, the point that should be made here is that it will be much worse if this game does not take place in Germany and without German participation. The Sky channel has logically “brought” the English Premier League and is currently (2010/2011 season) showing a few games live every week. The Spanish league, which was broadcast a few years ago, has already been successfully run into the ground – first by disastrous, soporific reporting, for which ear witnesses are still being sought who have actually listened to a game (apart from the author here), and then by a lack of subscribers, i.e. a lack of money, all of whom have been scared away in an ingenious and perfidious way — now it’s the English league’s turn.
When one has to listen to such a game with German commentary, one really wishes for nothing more than the reintroduction of the torture penalty. First, because thumbscrews applied to oneself must be much more pleasant than listening to this unbelievable drivel, and then, of course, because one would like to lock the reporter in a cell oneself and force him to listen to his own drivel again and again. The danger, of course, is immediately obvious: he would be immune to this method due to lack of reason. At least, however, he would no longer be heard outside for the duration of the application. And this could confidently be considered a “partial success”.
All right, I’d like to give a few concrete examples: How else than emotionless can you describe a comment on a ball flying into the goal such as “Everyone was sleeping” followed by “Let’s see if the goalkeeper is partly to blame”? “THAT’S what I’m interested in, that’s what I’m interested in? No, it isn’t! I just don’t care if who made how many and how horrible mistakes. The pill is in! Save all that analysis, do it for my sake — but preferably behind closed doors — after the game, now I’d like to be allowed to just gloat! That thing was well done, it happens rarely enough, now it’s a holiday, shut up, you sourpuss! Toor, Tooooor, Toooooooor! I saw that.” Didn’t hear the shot? Nah, didn’t hear the shot. But apparently not seen either…
Any sentence that is a generalisation is tension-robbing. As soon as you look for a pattern, it takes away the uniqueness of the concrete situation — which would certainly have a lot of it, if you were looking for it. At the same time, this already requires sobriety, from which no tension can be built. One is already sober and analytical – though of course totally off the mark, which in no way makes things better. Nowadays, a single attack is often already used to make a generalisation: Instead of enjoying a counterattack, a move, whether it succeeds or is (skilfully) stopped, here football is played with all its unpredictability, it is already worked out that “they are getting into the game better now” or “they can switch quite quickly in their counterattacks” or “the opposing team has often moved up too far”, always some generality that is neither true nor suitable to entertain the viewer well. You’re supposed to pay Sky fees to help a few less well-off people get their battered self-esteem back on track? Well, the answer to this “request” has already been given by the (non-)payer: “No, I won’t do it. Go beg, you whistle!”