Is this the worst SKY rugby commentating team of all time?
Of course it is; completely woeful, overstated, and increasingly removed from the viewing and paying public. But it seems to be a sacred cow that must not be criticised.
First of all, look at the size of it. Like so much with All Black© rugby these days it’s overblown and self-important. Take the roll call at last weekend’s test in Christchurch:- Grant Nisbett, JUSTIN MARSHALL, Ian Smith, Scotty Stevenson, Ian Jones, Jeff Wilson, Richard Kahui and Melodie Robinson. There were probably others as well; it all merges into a bloated sea of meh.
There was also Mark Stafford running around flogging his huge array of pre-match odds. He is not officially part of the SKY team, but that line is becoming pretty grey now; he might as well be.
Yes, your not insignificant subscription fees are being used lavishly. And that is putting aside any paybacks that might be coming on the back of Smith’s “Pure” prduct placement.
Johnson and Nisbett are still pretty good callers of the game. Except for when the All Blacks play in England. It is like they read the worst of the UK media during the week leading up to the test and take it personally, and a sneering undercurrent develops. We should not be sucked in so easily like that. Watch for that happening again in November.
But the real problem is in that ever growing support cast. It is a really good example of how the Channel 9 philosophy of picking ex-players en masse to commentate is so wrong.
Let’s start with everyone’s favourite Justin Marshall.
He has one pace of delivery, and it’s SHOUTING. The volume is turned up beyond noise police levels, and so is the hyperbole. EVERY TRY SCORED IS THE BEST TRY EVER. Superlative passes leading to superlative breaks leading to superlative opportunities leading to superlative tries. ALL OF IT YELLED AT YOU AS IF YOU NEED TO HAVE IT BLOWTORCHED INTO YOUR BRAIN. It is just exhausting.
Quite why he was chosen as the person to promote the introduction is the new 500 frames / second slow motion camera defies common sense.
“LOOK AT THAT FANTASTIC FOOTAGE”. OK; the super slow-mo camera coverage is a good addition to the coverage, but it just does not go with SHOUTING. We can make our own call on that, thanks. Just let the viewer get on and enjoy it in peace.
Jeff Wilson is now to the job, and hopefully he will improve over time, but he’s mastering the art of talking down to the public when making a comment at an early stage. The facial gymnastics do not help either.
At least you can understand what Marshall is saying though; the same cannot be said of Ian Jones. He may be a good analyst of the game, and we are often told that, but he is simply incomprehensible. The diction is fumbled at best, he has a strange use of words, and quite often does not actually finish the sentence. Monday morning must be a busy time for ear specialists around the country.
Sub-titles would be useful.
As for the famed analysis itself; once again it is overblown, self-consciously clever, and actually not that helpful. During half time on Saturday night, there was a pretty convoluted piece about how the All Blacks were kicking the ball into space. Fair enough, they were, and was worthy of analysis.
But how did Jones & co explain this? By showing graphics overlaying an ugly yellow and black grid over the top of these open spaces. That’s cute, but surely the best way of showing open spaces is by showing them as … open spaces? Showing off can get in the way of useful information.
Next up, and it’s not Stevenson’s fault; what on earth is the point of the 30 second side-line interview getting in the way of the player leaving the field? The guy needs a break; that is why they have a half-time, and is hardly going to say anything of interest anyway. Just let him join his team-mates and play the ads.
None of this is the fault of any individual as such. It is a collective approach to the coverage which is overpowering, random, condescending at times, and just not in the interest of the viewer.
Remembering it is the viewers, being subscribers, who pay for all this chest-puffing.