The South Terrace is a new series from The East Terrace editor James Stafford (@jpstafford), taking a less satirical look at the game.
The concept that less is more is not one grasped by an abundance of television broadcasters.
So called ‘dead air’ during match commentary is to be feared as much as World Rugby now fears a tackle that hints it might move above navel height. Why let a great moment speak for itself when you can blurt out all sorts of inane drivel at the moment of drama?
One of the greatest moments in sports commentary history is essentially silence.
Al Michaels’ reaction to one of sport’s greatest upsets - a bunch of US college players beating the greatest hockey team of all time - is, essentially, just silence.
Silence opened with the inspired and immortal phrase: ‘Do you believe in miracles?’, to give credit where due. But it’s silence nonetheless.
Can you imagine a modern rugby commentator letting the images do the talking after a grand slam or world cup win? It’s unlikely.
Most microphone owners no doubt would feel an irresistible urge to release a deluge of pent up hyperbole they’ve been trained to unleash by modern producers - an almost Pavlovian like response to overreacting to almost anything remotely of interest occurring on the sporting field.
We all have commentators we love or loathe. And to be fair it’s a tough gig. Far tougher than it looks. Some fans prefer wisdom and analysis, some actively want bias they can lap up like blinkered fanatical sheep. You can never please everyone. You can, however, constantly annoy a lot of them.
Frustratingly, it really shouldn’t be an issue now. Interactive options are possible which allow for match commentary to be muted and the satisfying roar of the crowd to be pumped out over the television speakers instead. Why not offer fans the option?
I know of one family who endure rugby in total silence on the television, such is the contempt held towards commentators by the man who wields ultimate control over the remote control in the household. It’s amusing, but it’s understandable.
There’s also no need to make the poor man suffer. Rugby with no commentary is one thing. Rugby with no sound at all just feels wrong. Like rock music with the amplifiers switched off, the bassist on holiday and the drummer on sick leave.
Take a moment to review these moments from the opening weekend of the Six Nations sans commentary.
There’s something even more joyful and primal about them than when watching with commentary. They’ve no doubt been removed here due to rights issues, but there’s no valid reason crowd only audio can’t be offered as standard.
For the nerdy of nature, watching without commentary allows them to focus on the technical factors that little bit better. For them, a commentator is like an annoying house mate who won’t stop talking during the game. It’s a needless distraction.
Broadcasters may baulk at this idea and worry that they can’t promote upcoming games if people aren’t being spoken to (or rather at) constantly. But that’s a false fear. Anyone committed enough to watch a game without commentary is going to know when the next match is up and tune in anyway.
I’m not sure I believe in miracles enough to think that is going to happen anytime soon. But I’d like to have some hope we can be trusted to decide what we enjoy most when it comes to our rugby.