The art of shutting up

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As a sports commentator, you are supposed to help, well, educate the ordinary television viewer who might be watching, for example, a basketball game for the first time (yes, Virginia, there are people who have not seen, been to Baguio).

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Your obligation to the cluelessly uninitiated is to help him navigate the jargon of the NBA or the PBA, not lecture the couch potato or, worse, get involved in the game as if you are the 6th man on the floor in a battle between the Timber¬wolves and the Grizzlies.

What we see closer to home, however, is a parade of basketball and boxing commentators who admittedly know the game but could not stop themselves from summoning all the adjectives to describe a dunk shot that Fajardo or Blatche just made.

Or fall all over themselves in picturing an upper cut that Pacquiao lands on a hapless opponent, when an uppercut is just a blow that, finding its mark, can send PacMan’s opponent to sleep.

Well, again, the guy with the cordless microphone must have been an English-language teacher before or a plainly stupid show-off.

There goes, as a result, the first-time watcher of a PBA game who might be thinking to switching to tennis.

Good luck, but tennis matches featuring Filipino players are seldom shown if at all on local television, so we can take a look at how second-tier and Grand Slam champions commentate on the game.

John McEnroe is a great champion but a poor, biased commentator who makes issues with the person of a player, not on that player’s weak or strong shots, as the case may be.

His notoriety in his heyday apparently preceding him, he is unapologetic for unfair criticisms of his fellow tennis players and gets away with it because he gives “character” to the game (I’ll take Federer or Nadal anytime).

Maybe, McEnroe is just getting even, having been bashed and deservedly when he was winning Grand Slams, and for good reason, with his antics clouding his court savvy, if not all-around game.

So, you see, you wait long enough and your time as commentator will come.

Vijay Armitraj, from India, who used to be a top-flight player, is a fair commentator whose voice, however, seems to stretch the patience of a TV viewer.

Mary Carillo, an American, is accused of being a defender of Maria Sharapova and an attacker of Serena Williams.

Of the many tennis matches where Carillo is one of the commentators, this corner has not found the former WTA standout neither overly pro-Sharapova nor over-the-top anti-Serena.

Virginia Wade, a Briton and a former Wimbledon champion is, in my opinion, the best of the lot.

She speaks well, with that British accent not getting in the way of her being understood by non-native English speakers.

Best of all, Wade knows the right time when to commentate and the right time when to shut up, which is a relief because she gives the serious tennis fan to analyze the game on his or her own time.

Other commentators, who think that the game is about him or her, not about the players on the court, can take a few pointers from Virginia and be the better, fairer judge of tennis matches.

Of the local sports commentators, those covering football are the best, with Bob Guerrero and Natasha Alquiros topping our list.

They are articulate in English and Filipino, they speak about the game with authority, they explain why a certain call was made by the referee, they don’t deal with trivia.

Of course, it helps that Guerrero is a former football player and Natasha is a member of the Malditas, the Philippine women’s national football team.

If they had been chosen to commentate on the Azkals-Uzbekistan game last night, they will have brought the beautiful game closer to hesitant futbol fans.

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