View from the Sofa: As Barry Davies and now Metallica know, it’s good to shut up
Glastonbury BBC 2; Wimbledon BBC 2
There’s an important rule of music stating that any band with the genre contained in the name should be avoided at all costs. Yes, Metallica, that means you.
The po-faced, four-man riffing juggernaut were controversially headlining Glastonbury on Saturday night – controversially because James Hetfield, the lead singer (who, at 50, bears an uncanny resemblance to the newsreader Peter Sissons) said recently that he enjoyed bear hunting, which is considered a sport by bloodthirsty gun-wielders.
It isn’t, of course. Shooting animals as a survival method: fine. As a means to get food: no problem: As a sport? Nope. Not when the contest is as horribly mismatched as Rafa Nadal against… well, pretty much anyone on a tennis court.
A mismatch was in our minds earlier on Saturday when we settled down to watch the world No 1 against Mikhail Kukushkin, a Kazakhstani who arrived on Centre Court grinning like he’d won a raffle.
He had oversized shorts and a name that sounded like a reject for a Kate Bush song. Surely Nadal would deal with him as Metallica appeared to do with their critics when they were rewarded with a rapturous reception from the Glasto great unwashed – no doubt helped by Hetfield keeping schtum about his “sport”.
As the match began, Barry Davies and his cohort Peter Fleming said they expected a trouncing. Then Kukushkin started playing – well. Davies filled us in as best he could on who the unknown was by recounting that he had asked around on the practice courts and all the other players and coaches could tell him was that Kukushkin was very nice but one of the quietest players on the tour. Then at 3-3 he exclaimed: “I’ve never heard of this guy but he’s really good!”
Even better than that moment of candour, the commentators kept silent for much of the first set, in which Kukushkin bamboozled Nadal with some tremendous passing shots at unconscionable angles. In fact, they were both quiet for a full five minutes for one game, which Kukushkin won. The silence was broken by a single word from Davies: “Superb.” Fleming fleshed it out by telling us the Kazakhstani “probably won’t hit another three crisp shots like that in his life”. He may have been right, as Kukushkin won that first set only to lose the next three 6-1.
The match was a good reminder that the best commentaries are given by people who know when to shut up. Earlier, during a rain delay, BBC 1 replayed Grigor Dimitrov’s epic five-set win over Alexandr Dolgopolov.
The match was great, but Chris Bradnam’s commentary was like a farmers’ union dinner on a budget: overrun with tripe. Between points we had “wow, he is a magician, he has brought a wand on to court”, and “the ball keeps coming back until it doesn’t”.
Bradnam should heed an important rule for TV commentators – and singers with unpopular hobbies. Silence is golden.
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