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That Infernal Noise

FEATURE BY GLEN CROMPTON
24/04/2012

This offering concerns only those subject to the British TV (Sky F1) commentary feed of F1 Grands Prix. Perhaps I'm just turning into a grumpy old git but by about lap 4 of the Bahrain GP, I found myself hoping that the local insurgents might break into the Sky Sports commentary booth and abduct David 'Bloody' Croft. Not that I wish any harm on the bloke, I just wanted not to have to hear anything he uttered!

I'm setting aside the politics and many significant issues to air this grievance; the politics of whether or not the 2012 Bahrain GP should have taken place, the politics of the BBC on-selling their F1 rights to Sky Sports and the politics of Sky Sports' parent company apropos journalistic integrity (phone hacking, lying, managerial miscreants etc.).

Four races into the 2012 season and I have already had about as much of David 'Bloody' Croft as I can take. Race 1, in my native county, I was prepared to cut some slack, however much it annoyed me. Race 2 and things didn't seem to get any better. Race 3 and I was finding it hard not to turn down the volume even if it meant missing Brundle's sage insights. Race 4 and I was starting to get apoplectic.

Permit me while I vent my spleen. I find Croft to be a cacophonous t**t. I find myself constantly wanting to explain that volume is not a substitute for content and that a notepad filled with historical factoids does not enhance my regard for a current race. Most of all, I find that I want to wrap my hands around his throat until the noise desists and patiently explain to him that full stops have a purpose - that a never-ending sentence is bloody annoying, particularly when your are sat beside a bloke who actually drove F1 cars and can't find a gap to speak.

Being as I am nearing fifty years of age, I am perhaps fortunate to have encountered the many flavours of F1 commentary feed to we Australians since my interest in the sport first took root. Way back when, there was Muddly Walker, sounding as though he was phoning in his comments from a call box. His was not always the most articulate or accurate call but it was impassioned and I am yet to find a respectable F1 fan who can legitimately speak ill of Murray.

The year Murray announced his retirement, I happened to almost mow him down coming out of a bar in Melbourne. When I realised who I'd just shirt-fronted, I stuck out my hand, thanked the gentleman for the joy he'd given me over the many years and wished him well for his retirement. He could have said unkind things to me for my failure to navigate a doorway thoughtfully. Instead he teared up at my thanks and caused me to do the same.

There will never be a better F1 commentator than Murray Walker in my humble view. Exactly why modern F1 trumpeters are unable to analyse and understand the Magic of Murray speaks more of their failure to do their homework than it does of anything particularly special about Murray beyond passion.

Over the years, and as F1 gained traction in the lucrative televisual marketplace, Murray found himself saddled with a number of partners - some good some bad.

The golden pairing, for me at least, was James Hunt. Hunt was from a different world. An ex-racer with flaws and demons all his own. His laconic insight in cultured voice from his time in the cockpit of F1 was the perfect foil to Murray's, at times, unfathomable exuberance. There were days when you wondered if they could stand the sight of each other, yet when Hunt passed away far too early, Murray was first among many to speak highly of the flawed genius.

Murray's next long term pairing was Dr. Jonathan Palmer. Palmer was another former racer though his pedigree wasn't quite as impressive as Hunt's. James was a winner, Palmer was an also-ran. Regarding Palmer's comments, one got the feeling that he was constantly trying to belittle those whose drives he felt should have been his own. Palmer did however, for me, introduce "surely" as part of my vocabulary.

Murray next found himself sat next to Martin Brundle. At the time, Brundle should have still been in the cockpit of an F1 car but that didn't pan out. At first I found Martin as annoying as Palmer. But like a good student should, Brundle assimilated and grew as a broadcaster. These days I consider him to be the best of the bunch and a fitting tribute to his mentor, Murray.

In turn, Brundle has had his own retinue of off-siders. James Allen was not a favourite of mine since he, in my mind, pioneered screeching enthusiasm as a substitute for lucid insights. As it happens, I've since come to regard James as a fine writer. He wasn't suited to commentary and I'm probably not either, but at least he did his homework.

Then came David Coulthard. As a driver, I was never much of a fan. He had his moments but they were to few and far between. He'd been skirting around the edge of F1 coverage for a while until he made it into the booth with Brundle for 2011. For me, this was the best pairing since Murray and James Hunt. It worked, I enjoyed it and despite the network's apprehension about a pair of ex-drivers commentating, it was gold - at least to my mind.

But then in 2012 F1 was sold out by the BBC and Sky got the gig. Martin is now paired with just about the most annoying t**t of a broadcaster I have had the misfortune to have suffer since I first regarded the sport.

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