Shamik Das

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More lightning please!

Viennese waltz: Rain-soaked fans run for cover in front of the historic Rat Haus in Wien

A PLAGUE of locusts, aliens from the Rigellian constellation and floods of Biblical proportions were all blamed by the BBC for last night's temporary loss of pictures during the second half of Germany's semi-final with Turkey.

Pandemonium! Not just in this country but worldwide. You can imagine the scenes in bierkellers from Baden Baden to Bad Bentheim and harems from Hakkari to Kirklareli.

Some of us, however, were prepared, and as soon as BBC One started to go haywire, I switched on the wireless to listen to Radio Five Live's superb glitch-free commentary.

Big John Murray, Chris Waddle and Alan Green all outperformed Motty and Lawro with embarrasing ease. All well and good. Apart from the fact I couldn't see what was happening.

Then, on the tele, the BBC big-wigs switched on the radio feed, which arrived faster than on Five Live, and then the pictures returned, still with radio commentary, but the sound was quicker than the pictures, so you heard what happened, commentary and crowd reaction, before seeing it.

So I mute the TV and switch the radio back on; even then, the sound came faster than the pictures, though not as fast. Finally, the TV commentary resumed, which was even quicker than both radio feeds, by at least a half-second.

Confused? You aren't the only one! The order goes a little like this: TV commentary, radio commentary on the box, radio commentary on Five Live, vision. Reminds me of England's tour to South Africa a few years ago, when the Sky Sports pictures and commentary arrived about two seconds after the radio feed.

Now my head's in a spin. Still, it begs the question of why coverage of a match in Basle should be affected by severe storms in Vienna. Or why the Match of the Day team have stubbornly stayed put in Austria, not once venturing across the border to Switzerland. Maybe they couldn't get visas.

"Save me Gary, save me, for I am the prodigal son!"    "Do not adjust your set"

Now I've got that off my chest it's time for some humility. Two weeks ago, you may recall, I placed BBC Sport's Jake Humphreys on the
short-list for worst broadcaster at Euro 2008.

I was both harsh and premature. The boy's come good, and his performance last night was nothing short of brilliant! Cold, wet and tired, and looking like he'd just been whacked, his despatch from the front line was journalism at its best.

Shaking with fear, or was it fever, he gave us the lowdown on the night's events in the UEFA "fan zone", which was struck by lightning, after which the screens went dead and literally thousands of angry Turks and Germans ran for cover, cramming into local bier hauses to watch the action.

He is replaced on the short-list by ITV Sport's highlights show presenter Craig Doyle, the affable Irishman who knows sweet FA about football, but at least he is Irish, unlike cockney geezer and ITV ever-present Andy Townsend.

Back to last night, where after the match the beeb showed the scenes at St Jakob-Park, the desolation of the plucky young Turks, the elation of the Germans, instead of cutting back to the studio.

How refreshing it was to see Lukas Podolski jumping into the crowd and joining in the celebrations, to be able to soak up the atmosphere, to really feel like one was there, rather than watching Gary Linekar, Alan Hansen, Alan Shearer and Martin O'Neill kiss each other's butts.

Sadly the technical problems abated and there we were in the studio, witnessing the cosy love-in between the quartet of international failures. Quite why the BBC thinks we'd rather watch two boring Englishmen, a dour Scot and an over-excited Northern Irishman pat each other on the back I do not know.

Here's to more thunderstorms, more power cuts that silence the gormless four, more post-match pictures of the players celebrating and more exciting matches like last night's.

Watch extended highlights of Turkey v Germany
Jake Humphreys shivering in the rain


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