It's not over till the fat lady commentates

The presence of a female commentator on Match of the Day this weekend has caused quite a stir. As usual with this sort of thing, the chaps who aren't wholly keen on the idea are denounced as short-sighted misogynists. That's because their arguments are usually short-sighted and misogynistic.

But for me as an absolutely obsessive football fan (do not even think about telling me the scores before MOTD is over thank you very much) there's a much more obvious reason why the female voice isn't suited to football commentary.

"People talk about technicalities like the range of voice," says Clare Balding in this week's Guardian, "but that's nonsense. It's the same as saying that women can't sing."

Err, no it's not. But it is the same as saying a lone female soprano wouldn't blend terribly well with a muscly male chorus (and by the way, the male voice does indeed have a greater range than its female equivalent).

Quite simply, your average football crowd is an overwhelmingly baritone affair. It is the surge of this bass clef roar which is accountable for the atmosphere a football stadium produces. That's why international friendlies brimful of high-pitched children and those bloody kazoos are such spiritless occasions.

The commentator's voice emerges from football's unique tessitura. It is a natural extension of the roar itself which, let's face it, remains and looks set to remain predominantly male. As long as this is the case, the female commentator's voice will sound alien to the occasion it is supposed to be bringing to life. Suddenly the action doesn't seem so real, the descriptions more laboured. The best commentary should achieve quite the opposite.

None of this is sexist. It is fair to say that Jacqui Oatley may indeed be more eloquent than some of her male colleagues. But in this particular profession, eloquence in itself does not suffice.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 12:59 am,

27 Comments:

At 1:56 am, Blogger Librocrat said...

Ah, but you could also argue that someday a female announcer may come along who is fantastic - but without a female commentator to precede her, she would get the same reaction. The Jackie Robinson of football commentary, if you will.

But I don't care one way or the other. I'm only leaving an opposing viewpoint for the purposes of conversation.

 
At 4:19 am, Blogger Ordovicius said...

I though the whole point of having the offside rules was to prevent women from having any understanding of football. Where has this gone wrong?

 
At 7:50 am, Blogger Valleys Mam said...

Wooooooooo are we compartmentalising tasks now -Blue ones and pink ones
The cultural conditioning takes a lot of shaking loose eh

 
At 10:43 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's now a button on the BBC to turn the commentary off. So we never need listen to that crap again, be it coming from a male or female mouth.

 
At 11:46 am, Blogger Blamerbell said...

"Ah, but you could also argue that someday a female announcer may come along who is fantastic - but without a female commentator to precede her, she would get the same reaction. The Jackie Robinson of football commentary, if you will."

You could argue that. But it makes no difference to my previous argument, which is that football commentary depends on a tonal relationship between the crowd and the commentator.

"I though the whole point of having the offside rules was to prevent women from having any understanding of football. Where has this gone wrong?"

It's still doing the trick in most cases!

"Wooooooooo are we compartmentalising tasks now -Blue ones and pink ones "

No. This is an argument about sound, not sex.

"There's now a button on the BBC to turn the commentary off. So we never need listen to that crap again, be it coming from a male or female mouth."

But I like listening to the crap.

 
At 11:56 am, Blogger hafod said...

I think they made a huge mistake in making an issue of it - they should have just let her get on with it. She was OK. It was her first time and she'll grow into the role.
I remember judging Ian Gwyn Hughes by higher standards because he was Welsh (I didn't want him to fuck up) and thought he was less impressive than other more experienced commentators at the time.
I think you may have a point about the noise factor - you have to shout because it's bloody noisy. But her commentary seemed to come from behind a glass panel - how do they do the comm, is it genuinely live (with instant replays available) and then edited or spoken "live" to the edited highlights? I suspect the latter.

 
At 12:09 pm, Blogger Valleys Mam said...

No. This is an argument about sound, not sex.

Gender not sex ;sex and footie now thats a different story
must be a slow news day today
princess mary of denamrks ahd a baby girl may be we could discuss monarchy .... wide grin

 
At 12:17 pm, Blogger Blamerbell said...

"But her commentary seemed to come from behind a glass panel - how do they do the comm, is it genuinely live (with instant replays available) and then edited or spoken "live" to the edited highlights? I suspect the latter."

I would imagine it is recorded live into a lip mic and then manipulated later during editing.

"Gender not sex ;sex and footie now thats a different story"

I was being alliterative. We'll discuss the monarchy soon enough:)

 
At 2:45 pm, Blogger bethan said...

You could argue that. But it makes no difference to my previous argument, which is that football commentary depends on a tonal relationship between the crowd and the commentator.

Sorry but this is blatantly sexist! You try and be all important using music and tone as an argument, but it's so weak!
What if a woman has a deep tone of voice? So what if the crowd are lower in tone? If she can commentate effectively then there's no argument.
I was going to blog saying that it's a great thing for football. Women's football doesn't get any attention, and when women do enter the frame they are criticised anyway!

poor, poor argument

 
At 3:18 pm, Blogger Blamerbell said...

"Sorry but this is blatantly sexist!" [Eh, how exactly?]

"You try and be all important using music and tone as an argument, but it's so weak!"

Why are people so intimidated when a musical argument rears its head in the real world? A world, after all, where the emotions and psychology of sound affect us every day in the most profound ways.

Ignorance is bliss.

 
At 3:42 pm, Anonymous Pedantic Pete said...

Ciaran, the reason you don't like women talking about football is because you're sexist. Why don't you just come out and say it? All that stuff about tonal variation is just teeth-jarringly pretentious twaddle.

 
At 3:49 pm, Blogger Blamerbell said...

"All that stuff about tonal variation is just teeth-jarringly pretentious twaddle."

Are you new here?

:)

 
At 3:54 pm, Blogger bethan said...

I agree totally pedantic pete!

it's sexist because you are trying too hard to find another arugment to suit your view that women shouldn't be commentating.
My argument isn't against blogging while refering to music- only that you use it to be pretentious!

 
At 4:03 pm, Blogger Blamerbell said...

"it's sexist because you are trying too hard to find another arugment to suit your view that women shouldn't be commentating."

Sounds to me like the view of someone who is defeated by the argument. It's easy to throw these labels around and jump on bandwagons. It's even easier when you don't care one way or another about the programme in question.

Perhaps if Eastenders underwent some comparably ill-suited change your response would be a little more considered:)

 
At 4:12 pm, Blogger Ordovicius said...

Sorry but this is blatantly sexist!

Yeah, give your sibling a slap (but get it on camera).

 
At 4:21 pm, Anonymous der said...

I don't see any problem with a woman commentating on football games. It's hardly a a tough macho game niowadays. Rugby....now that would be different.!!;-)

 
At 5:26 pm, Blogger Ordovicius said...

I don't see any problem with a woman commentating on football games

Neither do I really. It's nice to finally get a bit of real eye candy after having to watch all those gay men running around after a football.

 
At 5:45 pm, Anonymous lusty!! said...

"Women's football doesn't get any attention"

that's because womens football is absolutely SHIT!

 
At 5:55 pm, Blogger Ordovicius said...

that's because womens football is absolutely SHIT!


I find watching womens football a highly stimulating experience.

 
At 6:06 pm, Anonymous der said...

"I find watching womens football a highly stimulating experience."

I prefer women's beach volley-ball myself....;-)

 
At 10:38 pm, Blogger Valleys Mam said...

Perhaps if Eastenders underwent some comparably ill-suited change your response would be a little more considered:)
Now you are getting playgroundy
Stereotyping -your better than that Blammy
This post is like a conversation in adolescent changing room tut

 
At 10:47 pm, Blogger Ordovicius said...

This post is like a conversation in adolescent changing room

On the contrary, it's like an adult conversation in the pub. By the way, does anyone know if Leanne Wood's single? She can commentate on my TV any time she wants.

 
At 11:56 pm, Blogger Ordovicius said...

does anyone know if Leanne Wood's single? She can commentate on my TV any time she wants.


That was a joke, by the way Valleys Mam, in line with the boyish playfulness of this post. you didn't have to leave me an answer, especially not on my blog on a post about the French presidential elections. Thanks.

 
At 10:35 am, Blogger Glyn Davies AM said...

Blamerbell, I'm with bethan on this one. Something else we agree about. That will really annoy her.

 
At 4:01 pm, Anonymous simian said...

Blamerbell...

If a female commentator had a really deep voice, would that then be acceptable? (given that she would of course have a good set of jugs and would not have a face like the back-end of a bus...)

:-)

Just curious - I'm female and can't be doing with all this PC stuff - I'll be buggered if any bloke is allowed on my Anne Summers nights - we need to be left alone to talk about small penises etc hur hur

 
At 4:05 pm, Blogger Blamerbell said...

"Just curious - I'm female and can't be doing with all this PC stuff - I'll be buggered if any bloke is allowed on my Anne Summers nights - we need to be left alone to talk about small penises etc hur hur"

Good for you! How refreshing.

"If a female commentator had a really deep voice, would that then be acceptable?"

No. For the same reason that fifty deep voiced women does not a male voice choir make. Even pre-puberty the difference between boys and girls voices is quite profound. King's college choir wouldn't sound the same if it allowed female voices.

It's a question of timbre, not tits.

 
At 5:53 pm, Anonymous simian said...

It's a question of timbre, not tits.

Shame I can spell - could have made a good 'wood' joke there!

Ok Blamerbell....imagine, if you can, your favourite fantasy lady with the voice of Brian Blessed...

How's that? Allowed? :-)

 

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