I’ve been watching the Amgen Tour of California, and just realized something: my favorite part is listening to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen narrate it. I swear, every time a stage begins and they start talking, I get the “Christmas is here” feeling.
So I’ve been trying to figure out why. Is it that I’ve got a lot of good memories tied up with watching the Tour de France, and they’ve always (as far as I’m concerned) been the soundtrack to that race? Or is it that they actually make the race into something more than a race? That they take what is otherwise just a large group of anonymized people turning small circles with their legs, and turn it into a dramatic story with interesting characters?
Probably both, really. Plus I really like their voices. And I’m amazed at how they can continue to talk for hours and hours, day after day, and stay interesting — even when the race is not (and let’s face it, long flat stages that make you incredibly glad you have a DVR aren’t all that interesting, even to hardcore fans).
There’s more, too. No matter what happens, they handle it. Need to announce that the next show is about competitive fish cleaning? They do it. Need to talk about a race that they can’t see and have no information on, due to rain keeping the cameras off? No problem.
Need to announce that, due to the very important necessity of Versus wanting to show a lengthy NHL promo, followed by a hockey game, they won’t be showing the final three minutes of a breakaway comprised of three podium favorites? They do it with grace, reflecting none of the rage I was experiencing as I, dumbstruck, watched the screen go black with under three Km to go.
In fact, if Phil and Paul had commentated the hockey game, I might’ve even stuck around to watch.
Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind if Phil and Paul commentated a lot of things. For example, it would have been really helpful if they had been around to commentate The Phantom of the Opera when I saw that last December:
Phil: Yes, the heroine is still singing. She’s got quite a set of lungs, that one. She’s quite sad, you can see that, and I can’t blame her. After all, she’s got to contend with a crazy, scarred man who until recently was her singing coach but is now pursuing her and is killing her co-workers left and right.
Paul: And that’s not all, Phil. You can see she’s in a cemetery now — a very sad place indeed — and thanks to some important visual cues we saw earlier, I think it’s very likely we’ll see a violent encounter involving swordplay any second now.
Phil: Right you are, Paul, it looks like that fight has begun now. The phantom seems to be the superior swordsman, and the duke looks like he’s been caught off-guard. Oh, but he’s recovered nicely and is counterattacking! This could be a fight for the ages.
Paul: And I don’t think we should discount the fact that the Phantom is seriously unstable. It’s hard to engage in a strategic and tactical swordfight at the top level when you’re a raving lunatic…
Phil: But a handsome lunatic to be sure.
Paul: No question, the ladies seem to like the mask, though a professional fencer I’ve talked to made the excellent point that this mask is going to seriously affect the Phantom’s peripheral vision.
Phil: A handicap that’s just became evident now as the Phantom is down! That’s right, the Phantom has made a serious miscalculation and is now at the Duke of Wellington’s — I’m not sure that’s the right name, we’ll get back to that in a moment — mercy!
Paul: And with that, we’ll take a break. Don’t go away.
See, I understand the opera better already, and that’s just by imagining what Phil and Paul would say.
Honestly, there’s no pro I’ll be sadder to see leave racing than when Phil and Paul — hopefully not for a long while yet — retire.