Each game has a separate time limit. A football match generally lasts for 90 minutes, a rugby match lasts 80, and a basketball game just for 48 minutes.
For a commentator, restoring time is hard already, but the nature of the sport makes the job even harder.
A giant part of the commenting process takes place at the outset and the end of the day. In between the attacks, the breakaways, and the finales, commentators frequently have hours to recharge and little action with which to energize them.
“Commentating on cycling is not like snooker or tennis,” Carlton Kirby tells Betway in a recent interview, one of the principal commentators for Eurosport’s cycling coverage, who has served in the sport since 1996.
He further says, “In tennis, you never talk through a point because the crowd doesn't. In certain sports, you have to respect the action, and then you comment on it. That makes for a really easy job, as far as I'm concerned."
And also, “There are some other sports, like cycling, where the commentary has to be complete. There are no gaps - you might shut up for five seconds or so to listen to the crowd, but that's it", he mentioned.
How Does The Process work?
Commentating for hours to the end is hard enough, but commentators also have to handle directors in their ear, constant radio declarations, and an uproar of other actions around them.
“Quite often you are talking while being handed a note, being spoken to by the director, and listening to race radio at the same time as well,” confesses Kirby.
“There’s an awful lot of distractions to keep on top of, so if you happen to be looking at your notes when somebody has a moment and you don't see it, it's not your fault.”
Kirby laughs by saying, “But try explaining that to Cycling Weekly and their letters column.”
It would only take you an immediate Google search to understand what Kirby is referring to here. There are fan forums phoning for his disposal from Eurosport, and even a petition has been requested the same, referring to ‘inane chatter’, ‘terrible jokes’, and ‘unnecessary screaming.’
Good thing is, there are still plenty of fans who admire Kirby for his knowledge and excitement on the mic. However, the advancement of social media, people expressing their opinion also implies that criticism is never too far away, but Kirby is at ease with it.
“It's not like the written press where you can write something out and finesse it and shave it,” tells Kirby. “I don't have that gift. Once I've said something, a couple of hours later it's hitting Saturn. It's gone, it's irretrievable.
“There is no editing process, except between the brain and the larynx. Once it's out there you're done, so you'll just have to forgive me if I make the odd gaffe.”
His Present Activity:
While Kirby and his teammates would head across the channel for the Tour de France, the recent situation suggests he will be covering the 2020 edition from the Eurosport studios in London.
Being in France would be preferable, but, unlike other sports, the suitability of cycling commentary doesn’t alter too much when doing so remotely.
“When you're on-site, even though you're there, you're still watching a monitor,” Kirby says. “You're at the finish line, essentially watching the TV - albeit with extra screens.”
That doesn’t signify his job has not become a whole lot harder. The sights and sounds of the race and the attention of aptitude in an ample pressroom can renounce some useful chunks for a commentator.
“Being on-site gives you an awful lot of extra material,” he explains. “Especially on a long transition stage, that material is going to be gold.
“If it's one of those days where it's going to end in a sprint and you need to cover 240km, then it's gonna be a bit of a drag. The break's going to go up the road, they're going to be allowed anything up to 15 minutes of an advantage and everyone else is just having a chat - including us.”
“When you're on-site, you get up in the morning, you feel the atmosphere, you get the buzz. Breakfast is all about what was said off-camera, picking each other’s brains."
“All the other commentators from all the other nations and all their information are in the same room, so you often get people saying: 'Have you heard this?', with loads of things to share. Info-wise, being on-site is amazing.”
So, encyclopedic proficiency and behind-the-scenes chatter are two crucial elements for commentating on the sport of cycling, and on Grand Tours specifically.
Nonetheless, one other thing that Kirby believes, sets the very best apart is commitment.
There will, of course, be people who disagree, it is not something that Kirby minds. Over the years, he has found a style that certainly works for him and, after 25 years on the mic, many others to come.