Anthony Richardson and the Art of Bad Commentary

Anthony Richardson

Anthony Richardson, co-star of the ESPN web series "How Will They Line Up" and creator of the web series Bad British Commentary, talked with The Sports Post recently about his new book, "Bad British Sports Commentary: The 10 Greatest Moments in American Sports History."

As the title explains, the book relives great moments in our country's sporting history as seen through the eyes of a mock British announcer, complete with accompanying audio commentary. Each event includes a statistical breakdown and explains the story behind each broadcast, which in some cases overshadows the game itself. Which events are those, you ask? Richardson will brush upon those himself, and how the events were chosen as well.

In addition to the book, Richardson sheds some light on how his career in mock commentating began, the state of broadcasting in Great Britain versus the United States, and offers his authoritative outlook on the World Cup.

Joe Diglio: Who or what was your inspiration to do parody commentaries?

East vs WestAnthony Richardson: It began quite by accident with a web series called the Premier League Playthrough. I’d predict upcoming Premier League football matches by simulating them on EA Sports’ FIFA, whilst providing my own commentary over the top. After a few weeks doing this, I noticed that the NBA All-Star game was coming up. To me, East vs West sounds more like a Cold War reenactment, but apparently the All-Star game is quite a big deal. I simulated it using NBA 2K12, commentated on it as best I could, then stuck it on YouTube and prepared myself for the wrath of the United States of America.

Bizarrely, basketball fans seemed to enjoy it. I’m not sure why—I was confused by the incessant buzzing of the shot clock (honestly, that’s the most stressful sound you could ever hear. Why do teams even go close to letting it go off?), and shouted goal every time a player got the ball in the net. But still, it caused quite a stir on your side of the pond, so I believe. I even got onto NY Magazine’s "Matrix Of Cool," just pipping Annie Lennox to the top of the "lowbrow brilliant" scale. Clearly a slow week for Annie Lennox.

After a few months toying around with basketball video game footage, I began commentating on real games: Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s debut for the New York Yankees; The NBA Finals; The big NFL match between Alabama and Notre Dame (the first French team ever to play American football). I guess that top American announcers might have missed these stories, so therefore it was my duty to cover them.

I have never heard or watched a game announced by an American broadcaster. I can only assume that my commentary is similar, if a touch hazy on the rules. Incidentally, do basketball commentators go all the way through an entire game?! They must get very tired, or else choose to commentate on every other point. Perhaps basketball should reduce its duration from four halves to two to help them out.

JD: What was the most enjoyable part of writing this book? What was the most difficult?

The top ten moments I’ve chosen are now the official ten greatest moments in American sports history. Glad I could be of use.

AR: The book was incredibly fun to write. If all books are this fun, then I’m going to write a ton of them. Revisiting the great plays in American sports was a privilege. The Miracle On Ice, Michael Jordan’s Last Shot, The Rumble In The Jungle—it was an honour to be the man who finally explained what really happened during these iconic moments. I also enjoyed compiling the stats—Americans love stats, and I’m sure that U.S. sports fans will swarm all over my facts and figures like replica jersey-wearing ants at a leisure themed picnic.

The most difficult part was choosing which moments would make it into the top ten. What a rich history you chaps have to pick from! And yet, one of them features a brass band wandering on to the field of play, only to be mowed down by an advancing football team. Of course, a top ten list is always up for debate, but as you’ll see I’ve put this particular debate to bed. The top ten moments I’ve chosen are now the official ten greatest moments in American sports history. Glad I could be of use.

JD: Your book includes calls from the great Tommy Hightower. Without giving away too much, can you tell us a bit about this legendary announcer?

AR: Ah yes. The great Tommy Hightower. He was my grandfather. Tommy was the greatest American sports commentator Britain ever produced, but sadly he’s been forgotten by all but a few dedicated fans. Tommy called The Rumble In The Jungle whilst struck down by malaria, called the Miracle On Ice from the point of view of the Russians, and got an unfortunate crick in his neck during the 1998 NBA Finals which meant he could only see one half of the court. As a result, he failed to witness Jordan’s winning goal, instead believing that Utah had won.

There will never be another commentator like Tommy, and it was my humble duty to find his old recordings in my attic, then dust them off and put them in an eBook.

Bad British Sports CommentaryJD: What is your favorite catchphrase to use when doing these commentaries?

AR: I like shouting "Wowzers in me trousers." If an American commentator shouts that during a baseball game, or "MORK AND MINDY THAT’S GOING FOR SIX," I’d consider my work to be done.

JD: As someone with experience calling games on both sides of the pond, tell us: in which country do you prefer commentating—America or England?

AR: England has a distinct advantage via the sheer range of sports. You have football: two bores in a pub designed to induce as much rage from the viewing public as possible. Rugby: very similar, sometimes more insightful; one of them Welsh. Cricket: a marathon revolving door of experts and ex pros spending as much as 15 percent of the time discussing the game that’s actually in front of them. And snooker: two old men using the same whispering technique that a veterinary surgeon employs when trying to coax a sick cat from out of its cage.

I’m not saying that the English are better, but blimey, the variety!

JD: Finally, with the World Cup coming to a close this week, what's your expert opinion on how the final matches will play out?

AR: Firstly, well done USA. You’ve always been my second team. England at World Cups look like a child forced to perform a song and dance number at a family gathering, so it was refreshing to see a nation actually enjoying themselves.

At the World Cup final I predict there to be 13 corners. There are always 13 corners.

"Bad British Sports Commentary: The 10 Greatest Moments in American Sports History" is available on Amazon. The accompanying commentary can be heard here.

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