Sport on TV: King John takes Castle in battle of the bons mots
An email this week from my reader – sorry, a reader – suggested that the BBC's show-court tennis commentator Andrew Castle might possibly be "unctuous", maybe "toe-curling", hell, might even be a "thump-the-mute-button cringe-maker".
Now John Inverdale, I'll give you. There should be a law against John Inverdale. But – and maybe I'm losing my bully-boy touch – Castle doesn't seem so bad to me. Not too intrusive, only averagely cliché-laden, a decent foil for John McEnroe...
He did, however, ask possibly the most redundant question in the history of sports broadcasting this week. On Monday, as Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet walked out for the fourth set of their fourth-round tie on a tense Centre Court, he asked the viewers: "Are you watching this on the TV?" The only answer was a question, something along the lines of: "What are you banging on about, you blithering idiot?"
Castle doesn't tend to excessive jingoism either, which is refreshing in a fortnight clogged to the arteries with it. By the time Murray was staring victory in the face on Monday, however, his carapace of objectivity had slipped more than somewhat. When Gasquet challenged a line call in the final game it was the last act of a desperate man. "Hah! It's miles in!" Castle crowed.
McEnroe – as usual, the star of the whole Wimbledon show – was strutting his funny stuff on "6-Love-6" (Radio 5 Live, Tuesday). First up was Marcus from Cambridge, whose opening gambit was: "It's about Alex Bogdanovic..." There's probably a scientific term for the shortest measured unit of time known to man; it took less time than that for McEnroe to stomp on Marcus from Cambridge.
"Oh, forget that," he spat. "Can we move on? He's 0 for 7 here. Next! Thank you for the call. Hilary from the Isle of Man. Alex Bogdanovic – I mean, Jesus, no offence. Shall we talk about Miles McLagan [now part of Team Murray] and his results here, Tim?"
Henman thought for a second, picking out the perfect witty riposte from among the dozens surely playing around his mind.
"No," he said.
A little while later Henman was stumped, to mix metaphors, by a caller who wanted to know why a backhand was called a backhand.
"A. Backhand. Is. A. Shot. That. Comes. Off. The. Back. Of. The. Hand," he intoned, shifting up into comic overdrive and putting on his best Dalek voice.
Then came an interview with Murray's victim that day, Fabrice Santoro – except, wait a minute. Fabrice Santoro? Didn't Murray see off "the Magician" in the first week? Then the truth dawned: the Beeb's listen-again facility is currently running a week-old show, with the first Tuesday's programme where the second Tuesday's should be.
It's all very well having a swanky website with 360-degree views of the Terrace Restaurant, Tarango 'n' Cash podcasts and replays of rain-delay funnies from the studio. But you need to get the basics right first.
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