Sport on TV: If commentators went back to square one they would be lost

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The Independent Online

Having once been part of a Southport Trinity boys football team that lost 24-0, I have some experience of being completely overwhelmed by the opposition. I recall time-wasting towards the end to limit the damage. (We did win one game 29-1, so I've seen the other side too).

It was therefore possible to have a sense of what Alberto Martin was going through on Eurosport on Tuesday as Andy Murray frowned his way through a near-triple bagel. The Spaniard kept his composure well, I thought, but David Mercer in the commentary box imagined what was going through his mind as the second set flashed by and he wiped the sweat from his brow one more time: "'Hang on a minute, I'm losing five-love, I've had two over-rules against me in a row. And it's gone nine o'clock and I've missed the last flight out.' He keeps sending for his towel, Martin. I'm surprised he's not chucking it in."

As for Murray, Mercer was taken by the patch on his sleeve advertising a water company, apparently the Tour's most lucrative deal for such a tiny space. "His earnings potential is enormous," Mercer purred. "You can forget David Beckham and his million dollars a week."

Monday, meanwhile, is the 80th anniversary of the first football commentary (from Arsenal v Sheffield Utd), and Radio Five Live are marking the occasion for Arsenal v Man U tomorrow by recreating the famous set-up by which the Radio Times printed a numbered grid of the pitch, with the numbers read out according to where the ball was passed.

This is supposed to be where we get "Back to square one" from, as that's the square where restarts happened. I'm not convinced. On the original grid, square one is in one of the corners, while four squares meet at the centre-spot, so the phrase would more correctly have been "It's back to squares three, four, five and six."

I wonder if, in all the kerfuffle, anyone will spare a thought for poor Hugh Johns, who uttered the least-remembered words in the history of sports commentating. While Kenneth Wolstenholme was talking his way into history one sunny July afternoon, Johns was saying this on ITV: "It's Hurst! He might make it three! He has, he has!" Doesn't have quite the same ring, does it?

There was some shocking behaviour on Celebrity Big Brother this week, by the way.

Dirk from The A-Team was expounding. "So Alan Shearer has scored the most goals of any Premiership player, right?" he asked of Jade Goody's idiot boyfriend.

"Fink so, yeah," drawled Slack-Jaw Jack.

"He just retired," Dirk continued. "I used to watch him a little bit. He was so smart. I suppose he'll be a coach."

An American au fait with English football? Absolutely staggering.

Sorry, is that racist?

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