A Word in Your Ear - July 7, 2011

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It appears TV’s love affair with the pundit may be under attack and from that most reserved of groups – the British tennis fan.

In the old days, they did nothing more aggressive than vigorously slice the top off a strawberry, or give their clotted cream an extra back-handed whip – double-handed I dare say.

Then, a decade ago, they took part in the tennis equivalent of squatting, by taking over a hill at Wimbledon to cheer on Tim Henman.

Oh how the media loved it, a mass gathering of vocal fans who wanted to cheer on the self-styled Tiger, until his usual exit midway through the second week.

What Henman Hill showed, though, was how passionate the tennis fan is.

I love the game. I love the complexity of it. I love the mix of physical talent, tactical expertise and mental toughness, all rolled into one handy three or five sets.

I am not alone.

But it seems while we Brits love the game, we are getting fed up of the constant commentary involved when Wimbledon is on.

The BBC, never one to watch our pennies, have once again hired an army of ex-pros to fill their commentary box to analyse, criticise and summarise.

But now the Beeb has been forced to come out and apologise, because their experts cannot stop talking.

Tim Henman and John McEnroe were among the ex-players offering punditry. Pat Cash, Boris Becker, Lindsay Davenport and Greg Rusedski also commentated.

But despite their A-list cast, the viewer has hit back, with more than 100 fans ringing in to join in a chorus of “SHUT UP!”

Before McEnroe could hit back with his immortal catchphrase, the Beeb had banged out a statement which, at first glance, appeared to almost agree with the viewers by stating “we do appreciate over- talking can irritate our audience”.

However, the statement went on: “The aim of our commentary team was to inform our audience and give context to the matches we showed.”

I have to say, while I would never be brought to complain to the Beeb, the viewers who did have got a point.

Tennis, like football, is one of those games which does not need constant commentary or analysis – or Andy Gray telling the players who cannot hear him to “stand up son and take a bow”.

Sometimes you just need to watch what the players are doing and work it out for yourself.

You’ve heard the phrase “tension filled the air”, that is football and tennis to a tee.

So why fill what is classed in broadcasting as “dead air” with often inane comments between pundits who appear to be in competition with their colleagues for who can rabbit on the most?

Some of them just need to give it up and let the viewer enjoy the duel being played out before our eyes.

I mean, what has Greg Rudeski really got to say about success at Wimbledon?

Bring back silver-tongued Barry Davies full-time, I say.