Commentary or not…

The last few weeks have been filled with a whole host of sporting goodness, excitement and disappointment. Having watched the Women’s World Cup and now being fully engrossed in the Wimbledon season – I have been thinking about commentary on broadcast sport. The attitude towards speaking over footage is quite different between the above settings and has made me wonder about how and why this is the case.

In tenni, the commentators are mainly silent when the match is in play with speech occurring in-between points. There is therefore less back and forth comments about individual shots leaving commentators to make overall chat about each rally after it has happened. Saying this, a lot of the post-point chat is observational such as “that was a fantastic serve” or “what a long rally”.

In football, the commentators talk over the whole match, with a lot of general comments regarding who is in possession and where the ball is going. However, there is often a lot more and wide ranging discussion about individual players and connections linking records, performance history and other trivia that in tennis.

The main difference of when commentary occurs is predominantly due to the tendency for football to be streamed on radio, thereby giving the audio the importance of describing and relaying what is happening on the ground to those who can’t see it meaning fluidity is also needed. Furthermore, with the umpire already confirming each point in tennis, the commentators in football have the potential to talk about more which isn’t already being stated – although the latter is a similar with a referee, they do not speak, so their calls and decision also have to be communicated by the footballing commentators. With the viewing angle for tennis being much closer, the sounds of the sport are far more vivid than in football, with the crowd, umpire, ball hit, net ‘ding’ and player shout being very noticeable and, in many ways, part of the experience. This can therefore feel more raw than football as its distance, subdued audio and camera angle can create a slightly dulled, more onlooker feel.

This is just a brief comparison, but having watched a lot of both sport in close proximity over the past few weeks, the small differences make quite a difference to the atmosphere of watching them – the subtleties of the commentaries’ content adding to this.

Whilst the Women’s World Cup finished a few days ago now, Wimbledon is hotting up and well worth watching – the sound playing a major part in creating thrilling, tense and unpredictable matches.


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