AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

LOOK SHARPE: How Tommo and I Both Got the Needle

Sports betting PR legend GRAHAM SHARPE writes…

DON’T YOU just hate it when you go racing, and you’re standing watching the runners parading for the next race only for someone to start talking into your ear, telling you the name of the horse you can see clearly in front of you, who it is trained and ridden by, which you can see from your racecard, and, of course, already know as Frankie Dettori’s, Aidan O’Brien’s, Ryan Moore’s and Hollie Doyle’s appearances are well known to you?

Well, yes, I’m pretty sure you WOULD hate it if that happened. Fortunately, it doesn’t.

But I’ll tell you where and when something similar does happen – when you’re watching football on the TV and the irritating commentator is bombarding you with pre-prepared ‘clever’ remarks, and droning on and on while you’re trying to follow the game.

So you turn down the commentary, which then means you’re watching the game in silence which, yes, is better than being droned at, but does remove the crowd noise, which does genuinely add to the atmosphere.

I don’t want to name names but I certainly wasn’t remotely concerned when Sky finally decided it was time to retire M—-n T—r. And there are plenty of others I wouldn’t miss – I’m sure the feeling is mutual.

Unless I haven’t fully mastered control of my TV remote – which isn’t unlikely – I can’t find a setting which removes the commentary but leaves the atmosphere intact. And that really annoys me.

Partly because of the fact that football matches last far longer than individual races, I find that football commentators are far more annoying and irritating than their racing counterparts – although that is also because the latter do tend to tell you just the important things you want, and need, to know during a race – which horse has which colours, which is a front-runner, which usually attacks late from well down the field, which jockey is a course specialist, which well known one is rarely here so probably fancies his or her chances. All of that useful stuff.

By and large I have no problem with any of the racing commentators I hear on BBC, ITV, and Attheraces (or whatever it is currently called). I don’t subscribe to the other racing channel.

I don’t really have a favourite racing commentator, but none of them make me want to turn the sound down and just watch the race.

It isn’t an easy job as has been illustrated from time to time when an outsider has been invited to have a go at the role, so long may the Rishis, Marks, Tommos (the latter, who once told baffled listeners that ‘Further Flight seems to get better and better, although he’s not as good as he was.’) and the like continue in the role – and I hope they never experience commentator Raleigh Gilbert’s 1993 experience when he was commentating at Edinburgh and, fifteen minutes after the last race had been run, had to turn the microphone on again and broadcast a plea: ‘Please come and rescue me, I’m stuck in the commentary box.’

During the same year and by then a revered veteran at the job, Peter O’Sullevan was commentating at Royal Ascot and reminded viewers of his subtlety after a Robert Sangster-owned winner was returning after the race and the great man noted: ‘There’s Mrs Sangster – never far away from the photographers at the business end of a race.’

That was, of course, a very gentle dig, but if you ever wish to hear the funniest and certainly the filthiest ever spoof of a race commentary, check out the late comedian Peter Cook’s version of how it should be done – immortalised on a ‘Derek & Clive’ LP by him and Dudley Moore – it is just too vulgar to sample here! Vulgar, but hilarious.

More serious was the incident during a race at Cagnes sur Mer in January, 2011 when a fall by a jockey resulted in the racecourse commentator calling for the field to stop racing on six separate occasions – only for the remaining riders to ignore him, despite booing and jeering from spectators. After an enquiry stewards bizarrely permitted the result to stand.

Mentioned earlier, Tommo surely has claims to have demonstrated the greatest commitment to his commentating role – in March 2007, he was booked to work at Sedgefield and was preparing for the lengthy drive there from home, only to step on a darning needle, which passed straight through his foot.

Despite this, he drove all the way to the course with the needle still embedded, only consenting to medical assistance once at the track – with the result that he was dispatched to hospital where he spent the night, as a result of what wife Julie – ( Tommo, a real romantic, had been so smitten by ‘the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen’ when he first saw her that: ‘I was very busy, so I sent my floor manager over to her with a note.’) – described as ‘the male version of pain’.

Bet that needled him.


Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.



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