Well the first week of the World Snooker Championship is drawing to a close, and what a week it’s been. Some fantastic snooker played and over the top of it all the drone of the commentators. Unfortunately quite a few of today’s commentators have not learned the gentle art of when to shut up, and they prattle on incessantly telling you that Higgins has just missed the blue, when you’ve just watched Higgins missing the blue for yourself. It wasn’t always like this. Not so long ago, commentators were made out of better stuff.
Just yesterday I was listening to Terry Griffiths and John Virgo commentating on the Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Mark Allen. O’Sullivan took on an audacious plant at one stage, which Virgo had declared “impossible.” Naturally, he made it. After which Virgo commented several times that it had been “an outrageous plant” (meaning, presumably, one he couldn’t have pulled off) and Griffiths chipped in “I suppose he’ll go on to win the frame now like he usually does.” Honestly, they sounded like a pair of bitter old men, chuntering away in the face of the brilliance of a younger player. This is the dark side of snooker commentating. For the side of the force, in the main, you have to return to a more gentlemanly age. An age when commentary was delivered in hushed tones.
1. “Whispering” Ted Lowe And the tones don’t come more hushed that Ted Lowe’s. Called Whispering Ted on account of the fact that he whispered and his name is Ted, he was the main commentator for Pot Black, the show that introduced snooker to the television watching public in 1969 after the Beeb had been scratching around for formats to exploit the new-fangled idea of “colour” television. Ted Lowe’s commentary lives on in our house as I can be heard to growl “still anybody’s frame” at various humorous points in a match, most notably immediately after the break-off shot.
2. Jack Karnehm A contemporary of Lowe’s, Karnehm was a regular commentator from 1978 until 1993. Less well known perhaps is his development of the swivel-lens glasses, from an original design by Theodore Hamblin, which were instrumental in helping Dennis Taylor to his famous World Snooker Championship victory in 1985.
3. Clive Everton Of the “modern day” snooker commentators, Clive Everton stands head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. His calm, measured delivery combined with years of experience, encyclopaedic memory and a total absence of showing off makes him a firm favourite. Fans were hugely annoyed to learn of the loss of his position as head commentator in favour of more “famous” colleagues, and in this year’s tournament he won’t be in the commentary box from the quarter finals onwards.
4. Willie Thorne Of the more recent ex-players in the commentary team, Willie Thorne is easily the best of the bunch. He has a relaxed informal delivery style, is knowledgeable, and only rarely lets his commentary get in the way of the game. His misfortune is that he is often teamed with John Virgo, so even if he wanted to get a word in edgeways he’d be struggling.
5. Steve Davis When he’s not playing (his first-round appearance this year was a record-setting 29th appearance, as we were regularly reminded), Steve is mainly employed by the Beeb as a studio pundit. However he does occasionally venture into the commentary box and when he does, as in all aspects of his professional life, he is the consummate gentleman, giving relaxed well-informed commentary when required and shutting up at all other times. They should make more use of him in this role!