Sometimes the Diggity Doc and the Wildcard talk to each other...
Diggity Doc - Mr Wildcard, has there been someone whose voice has been synonymous with a sport in your lifetime, like Richie Benaud's was?
Wildcard - Can't say there has been, Doc. I mean, there are great commentators, there are brilliant sporting minds and there are wonderful voices... and then there's Richie Benaud. What a loss for not only Australian cricket but world cricket. And it really has to be said too what a legendary player and captain he was in his own time as well. In the words of the most poignant tribute imaginable (The Twelfth Man's Bill Lawry) "Hail Richie, Hail the great man!". He lived a life that the rest of us could only dream of.
DD - Indeed he did, I can't really speak on his playing ability but the mark of the man is that we all love him thanks to his commentary. How many cricket commentators do you genuinely love?
WC - Oh, man, that's a tough question to answer, haha. Richie was definitely one of the few. Pretty much every current Australian caller is out of the running (Bill Lawry retains some points for nostalgia), and even our lot aren't that great. Ian Smith's still quality, and Simon Doull seems like a bit of a dick but he's at least a talented broadcaster. I don't get to hear much of the international voices outside of the main ICC rotation, and they're mostly all crap, just great players who needed a job. Danny Morrison I suppose is a lovable guy, albeit in the same way as Jason Gunn is a lovable guy. The best commentators don't just tell you what's happening though, they paint a picture that really glorifies the majestic nature of the Gentleman's Game. They make a loose ball outside off stump, left to the keeper, sound like a thing of beauty, and those guys to me all seem to work in radio these days. For me there are four men that sit atop that Mount Rushmore, two kiwis and two poms. Jonathan Agnew and Henry Blofeld of the BBC, and Jeremy Coney and Lord Brian Waddle of God's Own. Hence why New Zealand tours of England, like the one upcoming, are always a special thing. How about you Doc? Any names to add?
DD - That's quite a list you've got there Wildcard and I agree with you on the purpose of a cricket commentator. For me, Benaud stands alone because in much the same way that LeBron James has the perfect attributes for basketball, Benaud ticked all the commentary boxes. He was entertaining and knowledgeable, while also being loveable. We must now put up with Michael Slater, Brett Lee, some Brayshaw guy and Mr Thirsty himself. It's a far cry from the good old days isn't it? Shout out to Jeremy Coney, he's doing his thing in England, I've seen a bit of him on the interwebs and he's a great commentator. If you had Brian Waddle leading the call, Coney offering up some insights and Danny Morrison being Danny Morrison, I'd be in heaven.
WC - Sounds like the morning radio trio to end all morning radio trios. Coney and Waddle playing it straight and knowledgeable while Morrison goes crazy each day. Perfect for the morning commute. What about other sports, I'm wondering. Are there other sports where a single voice can capture the entire experience the way that Richie Benaud did with cricket? One that immediately springs to mind is the incomparable Ray Warren.
DD - Yeah imagine the kerfuffle those three lads would cause. Hmm, definitely Ray Warren, he's borderline Richie Benaud status despite not having the playing legacy of Benaud. But it's not really about what they did as a player, as long as when you think of that sport and you immediately associate it to a voice then that's perfect. Any football commentators?
WC - There are some names, but nobody that stands above. John Motson is up there, Kenneth Wolstenholme was famous for calling the '66 World Cup final and the fella who does the FIFA broadcasts is very good, John Helm. Bill McLaren was the voice of rugby in the northern hemisphere, he's top shelf if you check out his stuff on youtube, though he passed away a few years back.
I s'pose we have a few guys in the rugby scene in NZ but southern hemisphere commentators all seem to have a shocking lack of impartiality. It's becoming a dying art, sadly. Too much emphasis on celebrity and entertainment.
DD - Yeah, do you think that's a problem? I think we can even see it with the Channel 9 commentary team who aren't exactly continuing the great work of Richie Benaud. It's all about entertainment now and I think that goes hand in hand with scathing article by some English joker in the Guardian where he said that they are like an old boys club. 'Remember when you did this?' 'Ah yeah mate but not as bad as you ha ha haaa' ... cue the footage of that moment.
It seems like it's all taken a detour down the entertainment route but cricket fans are unique, especially with regards to Test cricket. There are so many intricacies, so many confusing decisions made and the best commentators can explain and inform, instead of trying to get the most laughs or be one of the boys.
WC - I actually don't think it's a problem, just a regrettable trend in the passing of time. Look at the telly listings next chance you get and see how much time is dedicated to intelligent/artistic content and how much falls on the side of pandering to the masses. That's the way our world works, more money more power. Eventually the public will get sick of it and things will swing back around. All trends happen in cycles, I believe that. Except maybe the Channel 9 folk, they might need to be quarantined.
'Explain and inform', that's it right there. The top playcallers don't just repeat what they see, they compliment the action and add to it. At the moment the networks don't have to do anything to be unique, just rely on their exclusive rights and their long list of names in the comm box. I'm putting my hopes in the internet to ruin all that for them and bring us back around. But in the meantime, I'm perfectly happy to chuck the telly on mute and listen to Coney & Wadds spill their wisdom, no worries.
DD - The ol' radio on and telly on ... mute aye. Did you ever think that a salary cap drama would go down in the A-League?
WC - Well, I prefer not to think about the ugly side of sports, but I can't say I'm shocked either. Good news for the Nix though, given they've already lost to them twice this season (plus a 2-1 win in WA). I dunno about you, but I always find it hard to believe these scandals are what they are. Like, the only reason this is happening is because they got caught, it doesn't mean others aren't cheating too. That's a cynical view, though I also don't think it matters too much. Money doesn't equal success or why have the LA Dodgers not won a World Series since 1988, why can Man City not get over the hurdle of two-legged Champions League knockouts, why is Tiger 'Dumbass' Woods not still winning majors? I don't see a huge difference between facing Perth or Brisbane (who'll likely take their spot in the playoffs) should it eventuate and I don't wanna gloat at something we had no control over. Another one bites the dust is all.
One other thing, so with a little time to digest the whole thing now... how big of a coup is the Roger Tuivasa-Sheck deal for the Warriors, and what's Sam Tomkins' NRL legacy gonna be?
DD - Is it weird that two major Australian leagues have had salary cap dramas? Both have reprecussions that dented title hopes, as well as the financial costs. It's an odd risk to take really. Ah it's a great coup, it's a much better coup than Tomkin's legacy is. If that makes sense.
WC - Yeah I get what ya mean. But I reckon the Tomkins legacy was a worthy gamble. They took a punt on a potential game changer and the worst case scenario was... well, this. He leaves before fulfilling his potential. The guy's got the rest of the season to do his best and I'm sure he will (though I can't imagine the fans being too kind). Ironically I think this might be a weight off his shoulders that allows him to reach the heights it was hoped he'd teach from the start. I'd give him a C- based on failure to attend classes. It was a three year course after all and he's dropped out with a year to go. But fair play to him, there was no way the Warriors were releasing him until the RTS thing opened up, and that's a win for all parties involved. Roger included, gotta make that money. As for the salary cap thing, I'm only surprised it doesn't happen more often.
DD - Yeah it's best case scenario in a way because if Tomkins stayed another year then RTS might not have been available. So Tomkins got to try it out, he made the Warriors better and now they get RTS who is better than Tomkins. Is Tomkins less of a player because of this?
WC - Exactly. The only reason he's leaving is because Tuivasa-Sheck became an option, otherwise the Warriors would have made him battle through. Unfortunately I think he is less of a player, he turned up expected to be this hyper-dynamic fullback with a penchant for slicing through defensive lines, but the player that the Warriors got was a very solid, clever, skillful yet safe player. He was very good, but he was signed with talk of being the new Billy Slater. And he was signed for big money too. He'll probably go back to England and be every bit as brilliant as he was two years ago. Maybe he just needed a few peptides?
DD - Maybe he did, maybe that was why he didn't want to stay? Maybe it's my fault... or great work that created this sitaution, I tried pretty hard to sell him a few peppies. Ah well, there'll be more Englishmen who need to put some muscle on.
WC - That's for sure. An entire ODI cricket team, for starters. Though you might wanna lessen James Graham's dose, looks like it's going to his head. I gotta run Doc, but it's been good.