Manic tendencies and the anti-depressin'

Sport on TV

During a quiet period of the Headingley Test Match (BBC), Geoff Boycott reeled off one of the most cogent bits of sports commentary ever. "Well," he said, looking chuffed, "it's perhaps not been the most exciting day's Test cricket you'll ever see. In fact, it's been quite depressin'..."

He was referring to that passage of play that began with the first ball of the day and terminated around tea-time with the dismissal of the final Pakistani batsman: a four-hour period during much of which Moin Khan's doggedly scampered century was accompanied by one of the most horrible fifties ever scored by a batsman other than Chris Tavare, against a full range of long-hops and half-volleys from Chris Lewis (who was so out of sorts, incidentally, that he dispensed entirely with his am-I-not-gorgeous? head-wobble before turning to start his run-up).

Asif Mujtaba was the half- centurion in question. He scored his runs with two shots. One, a half- intentional driven squirt behind square on the off side between gulley and slip (Michael Atherton making like a porpoise and getting nowhere near); two, an attempted punch through midwicket which he would mistime on to his foot, causing the ball to dribble out towards square-leg, which allowed plenty of time for a jogged single while Dominic Cork came haring in like a madman to fling the ball over Jack Russell's head for overthrows. Depressin' was the word.

It was marvellous that Boycott felt able to use it, however. TV sports commentators are allowed to say lots of robust things in the course of their work. One thinks of Barry Davies declaring that "it's important that Southampton don't get carried away here," as Francis Benali chases an opposing winger into the Solent with an axe, or the barbed rhetoric David Coleman likes to use when a runner gets spiked and elbowed out of a race: "Bllbbb blllb flub-a-dub Bulmerka inna babylonout-tath'lympic final!" And so on. But one word sports commentators are supposed never to use is "depressin'". It's a grey word, a word that does not encourage the viewer to continue watching television, for the obvious technical reason that it's not a word you can shout very loudly. You have to hiss it or, like Boycott, squeeze it sideways out of the corner of your mouth like sausage meat.

Anyway, as a consequence of the great man's sudden uncensored honesty, I resolved to look out for instances of authentically depressin' (as opposed to merely bad) sport on telly over the week in the hope that I might piece together a thesis either proving or disproving that sport itself is in some way deleterious to the psychological well-being of TV sports fans.

Naturally, I expected much of Match of the Day's (BBC1) coverage of the Charity Shield highlights, which the BBC took as an opportunity to give Messrs Lynam and Davies a rest after their summer labours and increase speculation that John Motson might be on his way to the Nationwide League on a free transfer. Sunday's dream team consisted of Gary Lineker in the anchor position with a huge microphone and several new teeth, and Tony Gubba, who commentated with his usual mixture of of excitable banality and tremulous disbelief that, yes, oh no, ...er, yes, YES, it's football being played out there on Wembley's green, er, turf. I tried to take notes but the guy just refused to say anything worth writing down. Not authentically depressin', then. Just par for the course.

As for Monday night's episode of Match of the Seventies (BBC1), there was nothing depressin' there, either; just Ipswich Town's brilliant haircuts on the road to Wembley in 1978. Being an East Anglian myself, and having a complicated fondness for Paul Mariner, this was about as far from depressin' as you can get. I'm sure I even recognised some late-Seventies cousins going mental in a typical East Anglian pub, with waistbands up to their ears and feathercuts down to their waists.

In the end the only depressin' thing to occur was that my wife fell asleep on the sofa during the highlights of the final day of the Test match, thus depriving me of my traditional enjoyment of the moment when Richie Benaud comes on at the end to summarise the day's play. Usually when he appears, my wife suddenly rouses herself and runs screaming into the kitchen and starts banging pots and pans around as if to expunge the memory of what she has just seen.

I always think this is a great shame because it means we never get to share the greatest editorial trope in TV sport: the moment at the conclusion of Benaud's round-up when he turns to "Geoffrey Boycott" and announces that the empty space, off camera, somewhat below the level of his left shoulder will now give us the benefit of "his ideas on the events of the day".

Cut to Geoffrey, looking mad, with a different lighting set-up and subject to completely different weather conditions, with his mouth open in readiness and angled in the direction of short midwicket. "Well..."

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits