Try Talking

I see from the lead story on Trials Central at the moment that Jake Miller, the leading light behind next year’s British World Trial at Fort William, is seeking a co-commentator for the event.

I don’t know who the lucky winner of the competition will be teamed with, but I do know that the job, if it doesn’t fall naturally to you, is a very difficult post to fulfil.

And perhaps some of the older readers to this site will recall that back in the very early 'eighties, I put the commentary to some early videos that were made of world trials rounds, those that were held at Bainbridge in North Yorkshire.

I don’t recall exactly how many films I put a commentary to – perhaps it was only one, but I think it was more than that – but it came about totally out of the blue.

I worked at Trials and Motocross News in those days, and I received an unexpected call from Keith Wilson of Photac Video who I knew had been filming trials, and he asked me to put a commentary to a video he had made of an event.

Bearing in mind that the early 'eighties were the very early days of video filming, he arrived at the TMX office one evening, and set up his kit in the office. He ran it through once so that I could see what was on tape and then let me put a commentary to what was showing on screen. That was a very difficult thing to do, and rather unfortunately I was able to view that 1980/1? tape just a few months ago, which is now on DVD.

I had forgotten how bad I was!

Whilst listening to your own voice is never easy, I can’t believe that it was so amateurish, but at the time he seemed happy with what I had done and as they say, it’s there for posterity.

On a subsequent tape (I must have done more than one!), I interviewed numerous riders in the paddock, both before and after the trial, including Eddy Lejeune, Bernie Schreiber, Gilles Burgat and Ulf Karlson, and I cringe at the questions I asked, but as far as I recall, the tapes proved popular at the time and now, getting on for 30 years later, they have some historical significance.

The point that I am making is that the art of interviewing and commentating has improved dramatically over the years, and whoever wins Jake’s competition needs to be very good. Not only will he (or she) need to have an in-depth knowledge of the sport, the person will need to research results, be familiar with riders’ profiles, understand the nuances of modern, world championship trials riding, and be totally confident behind a microphone.

Undoubtedly there will be somebody out there who is a natural for the job, but one thing for certain, I know it isn’t me, and whoever wins it will thoroughly earn whatever comes their way for it is a most difficult position to fulfil.

There are some natural commentators around, but like so many things in life, who suits some definitely doesn’t suit others. The sports commentators and presenters that I listen to on TV and who I think do a great job include Andrew Castle (tennis), Suzi Perry (Moto GP), Jamie Whitham (road racing), Jack Burnicle (motocross and road racing), Jake Humphrey and Martin Brundle (F1), whilst there are others who annoy me intensely but whom I will not name. So beware, the winner of this competition, you certainly won’t please all the folk all of the time.

This has been written late on Sunday evening, following the Barrow Club’s Revenge Trial today, which is seen as a chance to get familiar with the land over which some of the Lakes Two Day is held, and which is plotted by the same organisers.

I have been asked by some riders to put a message at the end of this column which is: Norman, plot the Lakes clubman sections to the severity of today’s trial, and you’ll have got it absolutely spot on!