A gradual but inevitable descent into cricket-based loathing and bile.

Scorchio! Our Summer With Channel Nine! Pissing On Richie’s Legacy?

Posted on April 30, 2015 by in Opinion

 

Way back at the beginning of the Australian summer we made the commitment to watch every minute of Channel Nine’s coverage of Australian cricket. Like most commitments we’ve ever made, we managed to weasel our way out of it in pretty short order. Not so much through boredom, as there’s nothing easier than writing articles bitching about the state of Channel Nine, but more through the fact we just couldn’t bring ourselves to listen to their banal shite any more. By the time the World Cup rolled around it was the far superior radio coverage all the way. Not that Channel Nine bothered to cover much of the world Cup, but we digress.

So we’re possibly not the world’s biggest fans of Channel Nine. But something about the coverage of Richie Benaud’s passing has still rubbed us (well, at least one of us) up the wrong way. Using Richie’s commentating legacy as a stick to beat the current mob of idiots (messrs Chappell and Taylor excepted) who populate the Channel Nine commentary box with just seems a teensy bit disingenuous.

Besides, they don't need anyone else's help to look like idiots.

Besides, they don’t need anyone else’s help to look like idiots.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone within the wider cricketing community who confesses to liking what Channel Nine does these days. Even those who do admit to a secret admiration of one commentator or another (and yes, there are people out there who actually like Mark Nicholas) usually still hate all the rest. Richie’s unique talent was that he was loved by everyone. Honestly, we’ve sat here for thirty minutes and tried to think of someone who might have had an issue with Richie and come up empty handed. That’s not something you could say about most of the other ‘names’ in the cricketing world. Millions would love to ram Boycott’s stick of rhubarb up his arse (or at least pay someone else to do it), while there are those who feel Agnew is a little too chummy with the vultures that run the ECB (plus that whole Phil Hughes thing, what the hell was that all about?). We imagine some even consider Jim Maxwell, Neil Manthorp and Bryan Waddle to be at times a little too partial towards their respective nations.

Criticising the current Channel Nine ensemble for failing to meet the impossible standard Richie set is a little unfair. Admittedly, they could make a start by hiring commentators who didn’t insist on being as unlikeable as possible (see Brayshaw, J.) but it wouldn’t surprise us if we never see another commentator, perhaps in any sport, who is as universally liked as Richie was.

But there is another side to this that has also caught our attention. People don’t like what Channel Nine does. They don’t like the loud, laddish, over the top presentation that has come to define its commentary these days. And we most definitely count ourselves amongst those who hate pretty much everything Channel Nine does with a passion. It’s a world away from Richie’s laconic style, and this point has been pressed home countless times in innumerable tributes since his passing.

But it also somewhat misses the point. We don’t like what Channel Nine does. We suspect you don’t like what Channel Nine does. We hope the commentators themselves go home at night, look themselves in the mirror and admit they hate themselves for what they do. But what cannot be denied is that Channel Nine’s modern brand of commentary works. Viewer numbers have never been higher. The 2015 Ashes and the last Australian summer saw their highest viewing numbers ever. You might argue it was the cricket, more than the coverage, that attracted such high ratings, but even the otherwise fairly muted series against South Africa and India attracted massive numbers of viewers.

Little known fact; Memento is actually the true story of Mark Nicholas' descent into madness.

Little known fact: Memento is actually the true story of Mark Nicholas’s descent into madness.

As much as cricket fans don’t like to admit it, Channel Nine’s coverage has been extremely successful. And we suspect it is because it has made the conscious decision not to appeal to cricket fans, but to try and draw in the casual observers instead. If you have no interest in the sport and are just flicking between channels, chances are within 30 seconds of turning to the cricket a commentator will, in gushing tones, exclaim that what you just saw was AMAZING! And if it just so happened to involve Steven Peter Devereux Smith then they’re probably right. But you can appreciate how they try and hook an otherwise uninterested viewer in the short period of time before they drift off to another channel.

This is why the moaning about Channel Nine that has accompanied Richie’s passing seems slightly odd to us. Richie was wholeheartedly for increasing the game’s appeal and for attracting new audiences. He wanted everyone to be able to appreciate the beauty of the game he loved. Now what Channel Nine is doing isn’t very beautiful (it’s pretty fucking ugly to be honest) but it is broadening the game’s appeal. If Channel Nine’s coverage was composed of a bevy of Richie clones, cricketing aficionados would probably love it. But everyone else who wasn’t already invested in the sport, and its distinct peculiarities, would simply ignore it. The reason why you never hear a good word said about Channel Nine is because the people who do like (or at least tolerate) their coverage likely don’t belong to the established wider cricketing community. At the very least they probably don’t write for obscure blogs that try and achieve notoriety by slinging shit at Brad McNamara. The utter gimp.

Yeah, this douche.

Yeah, this douche.

We, of course, have no idea how the man himself felt about what Channel Nine has become. Maybe he hated all the loud mouthed pricks he was being forced to work with. But we imagine Richie likely appreciated that, at the least, they were attracting new audiences and not simply appealing to the already ironed on cricket loving community. And who knows, maybe one day those new viewers who were pulled into following the sport by Channel Nine’s over the top act will find themselves, too, bitching online about the rank awfulness of James Brayshaw. Such is the wheel of life. Or something.

 

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