Robin Scott-Elliot: McEnroe is best darn Wimbledon pundit – and there's Moore
View From The Sofa: Wimbledon, BBC 1/2
Monday 27 June 2011
Where do you stand on Brian Moore? Actually, let me rephrase that because I don't think standing on Brian Moore is a very good idea. I expect he might get quite angry and, to judge by his active cameo in Andy Murray's Friday night show, an angry Brian Moore would be scarier than Ivan Ljubicic's shiny head. Incidentally, the reason the lights on Centre Court were turned out so promptly on Friday was to see whether the Croat's folically challenged dome really did glow in the dark.
Anyway, Brian Moore. Why did he feature more prominently during Murray's third-round match than the omnipresent Judy – who would like to have their mother glowering at them like that at work?– and that youth from Harry Potter?
Time after time viewers were shown what was happening in the life of Brian. As well as roaring Murray on with a passion that put the rest of the crowd to shame, a prime-time BBC 1 audience was treated to him adjusting his tackle, as I believe they call it in rugby circles. In tennis, they stick to balls.
Has the BBC installed a special Brian Moore Cam at the All England Club in an attempt to pep up coverage? Here's Brian queuing for strawberries; here's Brian making a mudslide down Murray Mount; here's Brian roughing up a tout outside. I like to think Brian is the sort who might take the law into his own hands and rough up touts, perhaps dressed in a cloak and trademark mask.
Aside from their Brian obsession, the Beeb's first week has had impressive quantity and enough quality too, even if at times it does come across as the official channel of the Middle England Club. On Saturday it broke off from Maria Sharapova's match to bring a ceremony on Centre Court where Sue Barker introduced a succession of safe sporting stars, and Austin Healy, as the day's guests in the royal box. Unfortunately, there was no sign of Brian, who is by the way (and in an attempt to stave off correspondence from the man himself) a pretty darn good pundit himself.
This is what happens after a week of listening to and watching John McEnroe; I've gotten a little Americanised. Center Court is always a more interesting place for him. Wimbledon on the BBC is saved by its Americans and McEnroe in particular. He apparently doesn't come cheap but you pays your money and gets the best goddam sporting pundit on TV. McEnroe is what sports broadcasting should be about but so rarely is. "Who came up with the triple jump?" he wondered on Saturday as Jonathan Edwards appeared on screen. "A kangaroo?"
The breadth of coverage makes it difficult for commentators to stand out, perhaps because they are struggling merely to make themselves heard above the grunting (there are times in the first week, with all courts in action, that SW19 sounds as if it has become the new destination of choice for the annual wildebeest migration from the Serengeti).
When they have someone of the ilk of McEnroe, or even the much improved Greg Rusedski, alongside, it is easy to overlook the commentators. But a happy nod to Matt Chilton, the man with one of the most demanding jobs in broadcasting as the Beeb's voice of beach volleyball, for the following during a change of ends on Saturday: "Sharapova heads for her chair for something pink and liquidy."
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