Already that single word has raised the blood pressure of several readers.
If you are on medication, don’t read on. For the rest of you...
The early days of snooker commentary on the BBC were done by Ted Lowe, who was involved in the sport through running Leicester Square Hall in the post war years where much snooker was played.
Ted would commentate from the audience. In those days, the referee didn’t ask the spectators to turn down their earpieces, they just told Ted to shush it a bit.
This is the reason he was given the ‘whispering’ nickname that helped make him into one of the best known television voices of the 1980s.
It was Ted who commentated on Pot Black. Quite right too, it was his idea.
But when the BBC began daily live coverage of the World Championship in 1978 it was clear he would not be able to commentate on two tables simultaneously all day long.
So it was that those other BBC stalwarts, Jack Karnehm and Clive Everton, became full time members of the team.
In Clive’s case this was something of a shock. The BBC’s executive producer of the time sidled up to him in the press room on the first morning and asked him if he would be interested in doing some commentary. Clive confirmed he would and asked when he would be needed.
The producer consulted his watch and said, “in about 20 minutes.”
The BBC had some legends of the game in the experts’ chair – the roles were clearly defined back then as ‘commentator’ and ‘summariser’ – including John Pulman, John Spencer and Rex Williams.
Pulman and Williams would set sail for ITV when they came into the fold, alongside the likes of Mark Wildman and Ray Edmonds.
Dennis Taylor was also a big part of the ITV team before he was world champion. Famously, at the Yamaha Organs International he and Pulman commentated on a frame the saw the highest break equalled.
Taylor remarked that the player in question would share the prize. Pulman, a dryly amusing character with a voice as rich as velvet, replied deadpan: “Yes, Dennis, but what can you do with half an organ?”
The 80s saw snooker commentary very much being in the background, with the action taking centre stage. So it was that when Ted Lowe collapsed in the box at the Wembley Masters - and his co-commentator Williams put down his mic to send for help – not a word was uttered on air for around 15 minutes.
The BBC did not receive a single enquiry or complaint. Food very much for thought.
Times change and so does television. Sky Sports were the brash new kids on the block and their early snooker coverage was innovative and brought voices like Phil Yates and Jim Wych to the fore.
The BBC’s sports coverage changed too and former players came to be relied on much more, even in the roles traditionally occupied by journalist/broadcasters.
Taylor joined the BBC team in the early 90s, John Virgo has been there since the mid 80s and Willie Thorne has come to the fore during the last decade.
Three great characters of the game who, like all commentators, have their fans as well as their detractors.
The BBC today also use the warm and witty Terry Griffiths, always likeable Ken Doherty and Neal Foulds who many, myself included, rate very highly as an excellent analyst.
Who is to say who makes a good commentator? It’s entirely subjective.
Jim Meadowcroft once told me that he wasn’t supposed to be commentating with Lowe on the denouement of the famous Taylor/Davis final in 1985 but that the executive producer had decided he had done so well in the early part of the session that he could carry on.
Doubtless, on another day another producer would have given the gig to Spencer or Virgo.
If you look at the absolute masters of television sports commentary - I'm thinking Richie Benaud on cricket or the BBC's multi-purpose Barry Davies - it wasn't just that they knew when to speak. Just as importantly they knew when not to speak.
This came from having a solid broadcasting training. Yes, Benaud was a great cricketer but before he uttered a word of commentary for the BBC he was sent on an intensive course.
Players are frequently entertaining and incisive but Clive (magazine loyalties aside) remains the master at encapsulating the moment because he comes from a journalistic background where words count.
For example, when Stephen Hendry made his 147 at the Crucible in 2009, Clive said: “Marvellous champion, marvellous moment, one of many in a marvellous career.”
It was clear, cogent and perfectly put the break into context without recourse to a string of cliches.
Some people enjoy this approach, some don’t. Some people hate the way certain voices sound, others warm to them. Some want more talk, many want less. Some think the players in the box are out of touch, some think they are brilliant. Some turn the sound down, some enjoy (almost) every minute.
The truth is, commentators seem to raise the ire of viewers the minute they open their mouths.
It’s a job many viewers are certain they could do better themselves (not realising the technical challenges involved, not least people talking in your ear, timing remarks to go into commercial breaks and coping with all manner of hidden behind the scenes disasters).
And it’s also a job that is regarded with far greater importance than it really deserves. We all recall great matches and frames. But how many can honestly remember who was calling them?
Perhaps it’s worth reflecting that for all the many, many, many hours of snooker commentary there has been, most of it is long forgotten.
One phrase remains memorable. It was uttered by Karnehm as Cliff Thorburn stood over the last black of his 147 at the Crucible in 1983.
Karnehm merely said, “Good luck, mate.” It was perfect. It set up the drama of the moment and articulated the thoughts of all those watching.
Most viewers would agree that a commentator should add to the action with useful analysis, information or anecdote.
But nobody will ever agree to what extent the various characters behind the microphones get this right or wrong.