Des Lynam, John Motson, Brian ‘Johnners’ Johnston, Henry Blofeld… Illustrious names of football and cricket, the two great English sports, and yet they all have a singular thing in common – they were broadcasters first and foremost, and essentially amateur enthusiasts of the game.
I’ve always wondered why I love these personalities so much. They guided me through the games of their era with wit and excitement, doing what we wanted them to do, yet they have gradually been crowded out by a new breed of broadcaster – the professional sportsperson.
Obviously, the line is occasionally a bit blurred. Jonathan ‘Aggers’ Agnew played for Leicestershire and won three Test caps for England, but he has been far more successful as the voice of Test Match Special.
And many pros have proved to be wonderful personalities of radio and screen, from the acerbic (Geoffrey Boycott, Alan Hansen) to the agreeable (Gary Lineker, Phil Tufnell).
But the vast majority of pros-turned-broadcasters remain sportspeople who happen to have a microphone or a camera pointed at them. Anyone who has been forced to listen to interviews with players knows how excruciating that can be.
Let’s hear from the man himself…
I always fast forward player interviews. Why? They’re just not interesting. They say what you expect them to say, laden with cliches, and most of those who graduate to telly or radio by dint of their sporting prowess continue in the same vein.
Which brings me to my theory. I suspect why I like the amateur enthusiast broadcaster so much is that I relate to them. When Lynam or Johnners talked of the game, I related to their perspective.
When a superstar pro talks about the game, they will always see it from a vantage I cannot really imagine, that of the insider. They may be engaging, if I’m lucky, but only really as a pundit.
As my presenter and guide to the day’s play, I would always choose a person who simply loves the game, and also happens to be an exceptionally talented broadcaster.
It might not be sport to most people, but in Finland fun is all about jumping through holes in the ice (brrrr!)