On Monday I read some sad news; Paul Sherwen died at the age of 62.
As a professional road cyclist, he never scaled the heights that would lead to fame and glory (although he rode the Tour de France seven times). Instead, Paul’s worldwide respect emanated from his subsequent commentary career and his much loved partnership with Phil Liggett.
I started to reminisce. Often the sporting moments we remember best, are intertwined with the commentators that brought them to us. Keith Quinn, David Coleman, Ted Lowe, Dan Maskell, Ray Warren, Bryan Waddle, PJ Montgomery, Peter Alliss, Grant Nisbett, Martin Tyler, Richie Benaud and his colleagues at Channel 9 – you’ll have your favourites and when you think of them you’ll think of the moments and vice versa.
No doubt commentators love what they do, but it’s a tough gig – and a huge responsibility. Hours, days of research to be prepared for a multitude of scenarios. They need to describe the game objectively in real time and in a style the audience can appreciate. Like the players, they understand the expectations of the supporters, viewers and listeners; it’s pressure to perform in a different way. So often they will get stick for the one slip of the tongue, or an emotional reaction which some consider to be out of place, but they are sports fans like the rest of us. When I think of Grant Elliott hitting that six at Eden Park I think about Ian Smith’s passion in bringing it to us just as much – he was proud and excited like the rest of us and it came through loud and clear.
Sport can be powerful. It influences people’s attitudes and behaviours. How many kids picked up a bat after that six at Eden Park? How many asked about pole vaulting after Eliza McCartney’s bronze in Rio? Who dreams about crossing the finishing line first, scoring the winning goal, the winning try? Those dreams come from somewhere and usually there’s a voice at the end of a memory that will be on demand whenever we need it. Good times, sad times, inspirational times, linked to a fan just like us, a person who we lived the moment through. Thanks to them, memories that can last a lifetime.
Thanks Paul. Rest in peace.
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