In the latest in a series of light-hearted articles on his career, former radio and television commentator and nationwide after-dinner entertainer, Peter Brackley, Brighton-born and a lifelong Albion fan, tells of life on the commentary circuit.
As with many of my TV and radio colleagues of a certain age, known collectively as a 'gaggle of commentators', I seem to have been broadcasting on sport since the year dot. Most people of our generation can remember where they were the night President Kennedy was shot, some of us probably know where we were the night President LINCOLN was shot!
Rumour even has it, indeed, that my very good friend Ian Darke, the former Sky boxing commentator, now the main man on the footie mic for BT Sport and one of the best in the business, was not only ringside for Frank Bruno's world title winning fight, but SLINGside for the David and Goliath fight.
Or, as Sky Sports called it on their recent re-run.... the Super Sunday 'Sandal' showdown! (Popular chap, Ian Darke, by the way, last time I checked with him he had over 80,000 followers on Twitter! I had one once. Not a Twitter account... a follower.)
But whatever we've done, wherever we've been, we all remember the first big TV event we commentated on, and mine was a total nightmare. Dateline: June 1986, Guadalajara, and Big Ron Atkinson and I were teaming up for our debut live game together for ITV from the first match of the Mexico World Cup. Brazil v Spain, what an opener!
Super game, cracking atmosphere, Ron and I loved it as we extolled the virtues of some fabulously talented players, and back in the UK, no-one heard a flaming word of it.
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The night before the match, a no doubt well-meaning but obviously misguided Mexican technician, decided it would be a nice idea to change all the seat numbers for the commentators assembling in the Guadalajara stadium from around the globe. Which meant, although nobody actually twigged what had happened until some time later, nearly all the commentary sound circuits on matchday, including ours, were linked up with the wrong countries!
So while Ron and I were probably huge, absolutely huge, that day in Uzbekistan or somewhere, back in good old Blighty, who knows, it was perhaps the dulcet tones of Timor Leste's finest that were patched through to the bewildered sound supervisor at the ITV's London studios.
Embarrassing for us, and for ITV, who had to rope in the Brians, Moore and Clough, to talk over the pictures from the studio for 90 minutes- no easy task when you're unprepared for it!
For one Israeli commentator his coverage (in English) of the match had, for some inexplicable reason, gone to several other countries as well as his own.
"Thanks so much," said one representative of the nations concerned,"we were so grateful that we could put your commentary out for our viewers."
"My pleasure," said the Israeli gentleman, "and a draw a fair result I think."
" Eh?" we all said. "You do know Brazil won 1-0?"
Not for him, they didn't. Sadly, the fact that a Spanish 'goal' had been disallowed had somehow escaped him, and the television companies who'd so gleefully accepted his commentary earlier were now left with the task of informing viewers that actually the match had ended with a Brazilian victory rather than a 1-1 draw!
It reminds me of Gary Newbon's famous question on Central Television thrown live at then Aston Villa manager Ron Saunders as he left the field at Villa Park.
“Are you satisfied, Ron, with a one-all draw?" inquired Gary.
"I might well have been, Gary," replied Ron," but actually we won 2-1."
As for communications in general from Guadalajara, well they certainly weren't perfect, especially with telephone contact. I requested a call from the hotel switchboard to my home at the time in BIRMINGHAM, and to Big Ron's amusement as we waited in his 'office' (sunbeds by the pool), I was eventually put through to a very nice chap in BURMA.
Curiously, he seemed keen to chat (admittedly in broken English), which did seem rather strange, not least because he'd actually accepted a transfer charge call in Burma from someone he didn't know in Mexico!
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