Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Tony Deyal | Mamma look a boo-boo

Published:Saturday | September 17, 2016 | 9:00 AM

I knew what a 'boo-boo' was long before I knew how to boo. I was a boy when Lord Melody sang his classic, self-mocking calypso about ugliness, Mamma Look Ah Boo-boo Dey. In Guyana, 'bubu' has a different meaning - it is essentially dry mucus around the eyes or what Barbadians and Jamaicans call 'bugaboo'.

Now, while any bubus or bugaboos are inadvertent and directly due to my increasing age, the boo-boos in which I generally evince an interest are embarrassing mistakes or blunders. I especially like those made by sports, particularly cricket, commentators.

My favourite commentator who, like Lord Melody, was always full of self-deprecating humour was Brian Johnston. Describing one of his boo-boos, he wrote: "1974 at Old Trafford - England vs India. It was raining heavily on Saturday morning. The covers were on, everyone with umbrellas or macintoshes, the Indian spectators sitting huddled up looking miserable and cold. Test Match Special came over to me at 11:25 a.m. - 'Any chance of play, Brian?' 'No, I'm afraid not,' I said, 'it's raining hard, it's cold and miserable, the covers are still on. It doesn't look as if it will get any better either ...' (and here I meant to say, 'There's a dirty black cloud') ... 'There's a dirty, black crowd here!'"

At Trent Bridge in 1950 (Johnson recounted), England vs West Indies - Worrell and Weekes put on 283 for the fourth wicket for West Indies and on the Friday evening were hitting the English bowlers all over the field. We got a bit tired of showing four after four, so as to vary things, I said, "I wonder what Norman Yardley (England's captain) is going to do to separate the two batsmen." The camera obediently panned round to Yardley at mid-on, but unfortunately, he was scratching himself in a very awkward place! To cover up this, I had to say something quickly and came out with "Obviously, a very ticklish problem."

 

BUBUZELAS

 

Johnston quotes an unknown commentator who is reputed to have said, "He was bowled by a ball which he should have left alone." This is my cue for another boo-boo or bu-bu or even vu-vu. It is the bubuzela or vuvuzela, also known as a 'lepatata' or a stadium horn. It is an instrument blown by South African football fans, and we found out how distracting it could be during the World Cup in South Africa a few years ago. The instrument emits a loud monotone like a foghorn or an elephant. It is extremely distracting and may also damage hearing. I know even from this year's Caribbean Premier League (CPL) that a conch shell is soothing compared to a bubuzela.

They are, however, not half as bad as the ones we cricket fans who are occasionally forced to listen to the matches on radio have to put up with. We have some booboos and bubuzelas who are far worse than anything Melody or South African can produce. I cannot forget the commentator who said that a player "elongated himself to the left". There are the problems of pronunciation - Is it Chandrapaul or Chanderpaul? Kai-sweater or Keys-wetter? Key-run or Kai-Ron Pollard? Nar-een or Nahrine, Dinner-rine or Dee-Onarine, Breas-man or Bresnan? Couldn't the commentators ask the players how they pronounce their names?

This lack of professionalism and the endless talk about everything but the cricket was why I stopped listening to the coverage on radio. For instance, the Line and Length commentators, the WICB's contractors for radio and some television, tend to go to great lengths to discuss side issues like the relative merits of mangoes and bananas, or after lunch, the food. While the discussions might be fruitful or even filling, the subject tends to be so slippery that any reference to the cricket is perfunctory and coincidental.

 

ENDLESS ARGUMENTS

 

Then the endless arguments. For example, in one game, the heated discussion was about who was the better candidate for the captaincy - Bravo or Sammy. One commentator, and the show's producer, insisted and repeated several times that Sammy is per capita better than Bravo. The term per capita translates literally into 'for each head', but is used to mean 'for each person' or 'per person'. Perhaps the cricket expert thought that Sammy and Bravo suffered from multiple-personality disorders, but if he wanted to say that Sammy was 'head and shoulders' above Bravo, he could have cited the shampoo of the same name.

The fact is that per capita, West Indies cricket fans suffer more from poor-quality cricket commentary by booboos and booboozelas than anyone else. We walk in the footsteps of legends like Arlott and Johnston. We had the incomparable Tony Cozier - master of the language, the statistics, and the great and glorious traditions of the game of cricket. Yet, we hear "forward is Smith" or "Taylor bowls and he hits the ball through the covers for a four". Taylor has to be like the magistrate in the calypso by the Mighty Spoiler about himself charging himself.

Most commentators keep the action going to infinity by saying, "The batsman is playing forward" instead of "The batsman plays forward." One of the worst is by Andrew Mason. Describing a shot by a South African batsman, Mason said, "Not cueing it very well is the batsman Petersen." There was also, "Coming down the wicket is De Villiers." The worst and most stilted I ever heard is from Fazeer Mohammed. Speaking about how long it took before a particular fast bowler was chosen for the test team, Mohammed commented, "Waited some time to make his debut did Rampaul." That did it for me.

- Tony Deyal was last seen repeating a Howard Cosell observation: "There are two professions one can be hired at with little experience. One is prostitution. The other is sportscasting. Too frequently they become the same."