TOM BASSAM ON TV: Walking in an Alliss wonderland
WATCHING the coverage of the Open to see if Rory McIlroy could claim the Claret Jug, and for fleeting glances of David Howell, I was reassumed back into the silver-toungued charms of Peter Alliss’s commentary.
Aliss is a man so wonderfully at home behind a microphone, it is hard to imagine him being anywhere else. His voice and words of choice are the spoken form of a Sunday watching golf.
Making comparisons between golf commentary and almost any other sport is almost pointless because of the way it is covered. The action flits between the holes of interest, requiring more than two sets of eyes and therefore several mouths, until the action piques as the rounds draw to an end.
However, the one truth spanned by all forms of sports commentary is the picture must tell the story and a commentator is merely there to add to the occasion.
Now firmly entrenched into the days of YouTube clips and highlight montage immortilisation, too many of Alliss’s fellow mic-smiths dedicate themselves to the Holy Grail of commentary. They strive to have their name associated forever in the English speaking world with The One Moment.
The One Moment is the two or three-second instance where sporting greatness has been achieved and the commentator has been fortunate enough to add the caption.
Martin Tyler is a serial offender as is, when you can find him, Mark Nicholas. They find it neccessary to add syllables, volume and annunciation to almost any hint of drama hoping for the big pay-off.
One of Alliss’s most attractive characteristics as a commentator is that he seems to do the exact opposite of that. On Sunday, as McIlroy two-putted his way to glory, there were no yelps, no extra ‘ys’ added to Rory, instead the veteran simply told it how it was, adding only a grandfatherly tone and a sense of satisfaction.
Perhaps it comes with the experience of watching dozens of Opens with an audience of millions listening to your every word. Perhaps the soft touch of Alliss’s specialist sport demands the simplicity he provides.
Somehow I think even given the duty of describing the frenetic action from the Formula One at Silverstone, Alliss would offer the same tried and tested formula and never try to have the words outshine the pictures.
It was a pleasure to listen to Alliss on Sunday and be offered a reminder of how nicely a good piece of television can accompany a fine sporting moment.