Hadley and Wilson: sapping my pool of Olympic spirit
I’m cool with the fact that there are sections of the Olympic party that will always be exposed to the elements of under-staffed broadcasting options.
With the breadth of sports taking place, there’s always going to be some disciplines that are thinly covered, rendering them susceptible to those downpours of unfortunate ineptitude from someone who has drawn the short straw when the gigs are being handed out.
Lifestyle show tradies covering the BMX racing, former cricketers casually waxing about clean and jerk, and the 4-yearly steadies that have the dust blown off them for the sailing are just some of the examples of stretched resources that leave holes in the coverage.
In saying this, there is usually a handful of sports that Australia can bank on for at least a C-grade pass mark for informed expertise without personal agenda, and one of those is swimming.
Being a nutso nation for aesthetically pleasing humans who can successfully fang through water at a good clip has meant the cream of the nation’s callers has always been allocated poolside for Australian telecasts.
Unfortunately, this golden rule for swimming sport casting prestige has been trash-canned by Foxtel at London 2012 by allowing airtime to Ray Hadley and Rebecca Wilson.
Never before has human water racing seemed more like human water torture.
These two ‘callers’ bring the usual ABCs of Olympic commentary gaffes with forgivable customs such as horrendous mispronunciation of foreign surnames, low-rent footy mentality and far-too-regular tears, all of which we are all able to endure through gritted teeth knowing the nature of their plight.
However, when I’m getting patriotically randy for some hotly contested freestyle or a ripping stint of medley and my telly starts yelling at me in a god awful blend of talkback radio oafishness and tabloid journalism exaggeration, I draw the line faster than an unheralded French relay.
What should be a basic play-by-play description of events that doesn’t divert from the commentary road map is instead a cacophony of shameless self-admiration and haughty life advice sessions.
How hard is it to stick to routine confirmation of placings and times, a raised delivery for a world record, and total ignorance of who’s running first when our competitor is running 7th?
Not for Hadley and Wilson though, who as you will see below never allow giving a balanced description of events get in the way of a good shove of their own wagon.
The early soiling of my Olympic experience commenced with Hadley, and I nearly choked on my Official Burger of the London Olympics when it happened.
The outspoken shock jock’s familiar high-horsing absolutely red-lined in Kendrick Monk’s and Nick D’Arcy’s heats, when instead of sticking to the events from starting block to finishing wall, he decided to impart his best life coaching with advice that they’ve surely been given in chunky doses already.
He firstly set their lives back on track with that Confucius-like pearl of wisdom ‘pull your heads in’ followed by further moral teachings, before filling the majority of the race with a recount of their well-documented and already dealt-with misdemeanours.
I was waiting for him to throw the lines open and take a couple of calls from his cranky listenership, but then halfway through the second lap he finally removed his mentor’s cap and decided to call the actual events of the race.
That Tony Robbins moment from Hadley was just the beginning.
My Official London Fries then became airborne when Wilson got in on the act with the featherweight accusation that the majority of the Chinese swim team were pumped to the back teeth with performance-enhancing drugs based on ‘what she had read on the Twittersphere.’
Whether or not it be true, social media was as good as a positive b-sample for Scoop Wilson. And immediately from her brain to air it went.
Does this pair actually think they are competing for attention-grabbing gold themselves?
I guess in all of this, we really should dip our lids to those highly intelligent techo roadies at Foxtel who have managed to get these two calling from the car park outside of the swimming complex. I assume they’ve had to improvise as there is barely enough room inside a garden variety sized commentary box to house both of their upsized egos.
The shrinking violet personality of Susie O’Neill was the obvious choice as their special comments offsider as her pint-sized demeanour is all that could fit in the remaining two square inches in their allocated broadcast area.
As for the pool pain, not only do I take Foxtel to task over this, I also lay some of the blame at the feet of our lazy chums at Channel Nine.
Their broadcast alternative of saturation cross promoting, repeatedly thrashed montages replete with high-energy techno and recycled Tim Sheridan news stories about how much plum-busting an athlete has done for their Olympic dream does not stem the bleeding and also takes away from our treasured time with Ray Warren.
All of this ordinary coverage of swimming makes me treasure him more than ever.
- 2012 London Olympics