The mark of an exceptional football commentator is when they add value to a match you’re watching on television. Otherwise, if they’re not adding anything worthwhile, you’re better off watching the game in silence.
Take for example the incident when Dirk Kuyt scored for Liverpool in the first half of Tuesday’s Champions League match against Lyon, only for the goal to be disallowed. Here’s what commentator Martyn Hindley said the moment after the ball found the back of the net:
“Liverpool, through Dirk Kuyt, thought for a moment that they had the lead. Two away from that second highest scorer for Liverpool in European footballing history. The man who scored the winner on Matchday One against Debrecen. Dirk Kuyt with a moment of frustration. A bit too much pressure, a bit too much urgency from Kuyt as he stole in there for the header. Not too much of a complaint from ground level.”
Now if you’re a casual or newbie soccer fan (there may be quite a lot of them especially if they watched the game on the more accessible Fox Sports Net), you may have absolutely no idea why the goal was disallowed. Hindley’s above description of what happened after the ball went in is babble. There’s no explanation of what happened and why the goal was chalked off. Instead, you get a couple of quick stats to fill the dead air, and a vague comment that there were few complaints at ground level (from who, the players or supporters or both?). While Hindley didn’t say it, the goal was disallowed because Kuyt pushed down the Lyon defender before he headed the ball into the back of the net.
If I had my volume turned down for that disallowed goal, I wouldn’t have missed out on any insight from Hindley.
By the way, I was amused to find out that Hindley is the Operations Director of the Tim White Media Consultancy, the firm responsible for some atrocious commentary during the Champions League this season.