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BRACKLEY BLOG: COMMENTATORS' MISTAKES

11 November 2015


In the latest in a series of light-hearted articles on his career as a radio and TV football commentator, sports broadcaster and sports presenter Peter Brackley, born in Brighton and a lifelong Albion fan, takes a look back at some of the moments those in the media spotlight would rather forget!
 
It's not the things we get RIGHT as sports broadcasters that people want to hear about, of course, it's the things we get WRONG! But then, as Robbie Savage and Paul Merson keep on proving week after week, sports broadcasting isn't easy! (only teasing, guys!)
 
And we all make mistakes, get confused, and make a faux pas. Like the TV news reader who had to tell viewers that the Democratic Republic of Congo had just won the night's big game in the Africa Cup of Nations, but when he looked at his autocue, saw only that the name had been shortened to 'D R Congo'
 
Then he read, "And finally, in the Africa Cup of Nations, a big win tonight for DOCTOR Congo."
 
There was the racing commentator during the Irish troubles who said, "There's been a bomb scare, let's hope it's not another hoax."
 
And, of course, the many priceless gems from the legendary motor racing commentator Murray Walker, such as, “As the drivers approach lap 55 of this 45 lap race, do my eyes deceive me, or is that engine sounding rough?"
 
Most of them are just slips of the tongue, something that can easily happen, especially when you're under pressure and having to think quickly on your feet in the heat of the moment. Sometimes even one tiny mistake with a word can make all the difference.
 
"This game at Derby has had to be delayed, because they've found some GRASS on the pitch," I announced once in deadly earnest on BBC Radio's legendary Sport on 2 programme, after a bottle thrown from the stands had smashed on the ground.
 
I'd meant GLASS, of course, although actually given the state of Derby's old Baseball Ground pitch in those days, I probably wasn't far from the truth!

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On other occasions, of course, like with pronunciations and the identification of players, you just know there are accidents waiting to happen, especially with all the long, foreign names we have to pronounce these days. 

And the squads are so big! Years ago on a match day, you might have had 15 or 16 names per squad to worry about, nowadays a team photo at Man United is like the crowd scene in the Gandhi film!
 
Some of the hardest names to get your tongue around are the old Yugoslavs, like the Serbs and the Montenegrins, as they often have several syllables in them, and you could pronounce them lots of different ways.
 
One week on the Football Italia programme on Channel 4 back in the nineties, we sent presenter James Richardson off to the Milan dressing room at the San Siro to find out how we should be saying the Milan player Savicevic's name?
 
 Was it "Saveetch-er-victch" or "Savvy- chay-vitch" we wanted to know? It could be either, and we'd always got confused by it in the past.
 
A few minutes later, James came running back all excited," it's definitely, definitely,"Saveetch-er-vitch!" he announced very carefully and precisely.
 
"Who told you?" we asked. "Savvy-chay-vitch himself!" he said proudly, before slapping his forehead in frustration as he realised he'd got it muddled up again!
 
Rather like the time during a live match when a bossy, know-all director pushed the talk-back key to a commentator, and said, "Stop saying Paul PESKY-SOLLY-DOE (Peschisolido) will you, ducky? It's pronounced PESKY-SO-LEE-DOE!"
 
"No it isn't," said the commentator," it's pronounced PESKY-SOLLY-DOE, I asked the player HIMSELF!" "Well, he's wrong," said the director.
 
I had a producer once on a live Italian game who tried to tell me on my talk back that Gabriel Batistuta had scored for Fiorentina in one of the other games.
 
"Goal for Fiorentina to mention Peter," he said in my headphones, “from Gabriel Botistartsi, sorry, Bartistitty, no Bitty-stusis, hang on, I'll try again, Buttistarty, Battastartus., Bartytissy."
 
"Oh, for heaven’s sake, just spit it out man," I shouted into my live commentary microphone. "Sorry viewers, but my producer is trying to tell me that Gabriel Batistuta has scored for Fiorentina, and by the time he gets to say his name properly, the game will be over and we'll be getting  ready for the next one!"
 
But if one of the most difficult aspects of football commentating is the name pronunciations, then even harder still at times can be identifying the players.
 
Commentary positions miles from the pitch, pillars or even manic spectators in the way, striped shirts with unreadable numbers, there are plenty of reasons why picking out one player from another can be hazardous.
 
Not good news either when you've been given a definitive squad of 22 names with corresponding numbers for each team, as I was for a live Copa America match between Colombia and Peru off a TV monitor for a pay TV Channel and number 23 comes on for Colombia and scores the winner!
 
"Brackley's phantom number 23," declared the report of the TV coverage in World Soccer magazine, going on to quote my impromptu goal description. "What a goal that was! I haven't the faintest idea who scored it, but I'm sure his mother, tuning in to us tonight live from Bogata, is very proud of little Jose!" Well, what else was I supposed to say?
 
It doesn't help with the identification either when one team, all eleven of them, are sporting identical peroxide blond hair perms as the Romanians did, you might recall, in the 1998 World Cup. Impossible to pick one from another; they might just as well have been wearing an astronaut suit and a balaclava.
 
And I had a similar situation when Sir Alex Ferguson's Man United played away to Dinamo Kiev in the Champions League. There's always a pre-match commentators’ briefing for these games and when the Ukrainian PR guy walked in, he had some" wonderful news" for us, he said.
 
"As a MARK OF SOLIDARITY, all the Kiev players have shaved their heads!" he beamed.
 
"Oh! Fantastic news!" The suicidal commentators hissed, all looking round in despair for the nearest ledge to leap off. Eleven baldies to pick out! He said, "No, don't worry, they will all still be wearing a NUMBER."
 
"Yes," I shouted from the back," but as a MARK OF SOLIDARITY, I bet it's the same ONE!" 

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