For this weeks Friday Five I have decided to look at sports commentary & in particular my five favourite pundits on TV. Now there is no significance to the ranking numbers as I would be hard pressed to pick my favourite from such an accomplished list of individuals. All of them appear on British television in some shape or form.
What makes a good pundit is probably different for every person. We are after all pundits ourselves with highly intelligent views on any variety of subjects. Perhaps we want experts to articulate similar views to our own. Thus while one person may regard Geoff Boycott as a genius for others he may be nothing more than self opinionated fool (I'd probably lean towards the genius verdict). So its rare to get consensus on who is or isn't a good pundit. I've personally liked my commentators to keep me informed with insights that I may not have noticed (I know talk about the impossible). I also want the commentator/pundit/summariser to offer his own opinions. They might be completely laughable but that still makes it a million times better than listening to cliches.
- Mark Petchey - As a regular contributor on Sky Sports tennis coverage Mark Petchey gets through plenty of commentating hours per season. Equally adept as live commentator or studio pundit his insights are always worth listening to. Rather than the banal 'he'll be disappointed with that' nonsense that we so often get Petchey's more often than not picks up things that most viewers will not have noted. The other thing I like about Petchey is the ability to take a dispassionate view of proceedings, which given the desire for success for Andy Murray from Sky Sports is a commendable achievement. The clip selected is a highlights package of the US Open Quarter-Final 2007 between Roger Federer & Andy Roddick.
- Martin Brundle - With F1 returning to our screens today it feels appropriate to have Martin Brundle on the list. Pretty much a straight talker, Brundle is always to the point regardless of who he's talking to. He's also shown a willingness to give his opinions but at the same time he's not afraid to admit when he's called something wrong. A decent driver in his day he has without doubt proved to be an excellent addition to the commentary box. The video is from one of his famous grid walks, which in this instance is from the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix.
- Michael Atherton - The former England Captain has made a swift transition to the world of journalism. As a graduate of Cambridge University he's obviously got the background to succeed in journalism as witnessed by his recent award for Columnist of the Year. What I like about Atherton's analysis is that he provides thoughtful approach that is grounded in fact rather than cliches. Softly spoken Atherton displays a train of thought that was rarely visible when he led the team as Captain. The clip selected is in relation to his book about the 2009 Ashes series.
- John McEnroe - Just to prove that not all top commentators are mediocre former players (sorry Messers Petchey, Brundle & Atherton) here is a true great of his sport. McEnroe's transition from brat to sage has probably surprised even him. As someone who reached the very pinnacle of the game he can offer insights into the thought process of the very best players. This knowledge means he nearly always offers a very prescient analysis of the situation. The chosen clip is of the final of the 2009 French Open between Roger Federer & Robin Soderling. Now while I'm a big Federer fan there's no conspiracy to just use his clips but he generally has the most videos on YouTube & hence why I've ended up using two Federer videos.
- Andy Gray - I did debate whether to include Sky's leading football commentator ahead of someone like Michael Johnson who also offers a lot of interesting opinions. Ultimately I decided that as football is the national sport I had to include somebody from it. Gray is opinionated & speaks with a lot of passion as we see from the clip. He's not always right but he more often than not provides an accurate analysis of the situation. He does have a tendency to go touch overboard about English players but as everyone else does to it hardly constitutes the worst crime.