I WAS recently astounded to read about the purported analytical prowess of one of footy's legion of special comments men. Had I not been familiar with that gentleman's distinguished playing career, my assumption, based on his not overwhelmingly special comments to date, would have been that he first encountered the game roughly lunchtime yesterday.
Another esteemed analyst, in constant demand for his chin-stroking pontifications on the game, seems, to my ears, hell-bent on dividing his time between spouting observations that even the thickest-headed of onlookers could have worked out for themselves in about five seconds, and providing a dim blither of, at best, semi-relevant and entirely unexplained statistics.
Apparently, we find ourselves steaming headed dead ahead towards one of the great unexplored Bermuda Triangles of human thinking, namely, ''What on earth are the commentators there for?''
The question is further complicated by the fact that there are different kinds of commentators. For example, boundary reporters, with the main exception of Dr Peter Larkins, largely seem to be there to keep a fairly substantial amount of hair product from otherwise hitting the turf. Also, when it rains on them, this always seems to amuse the guys up in the main booth, so at least that's someone being entertained.
Increasingly, the role of the main match commentators seems ambiguous. Are they journalists, are they entertainers, are they network/AFL shills? The answers, respectively, may well be: ''intermittently, at best'', ''not so you'd notice'' and ''you're getting warmer, pilgrim''. Like a good deal of the commentary, this leaves us none the wiser.
The role of the special comments folk seems less ambiguous. It's surely to provide the average armchair bozo with insight into the play. Unfortunately, for every Leigh Matthews, who weaves pertinent match analysis from a number of readily assimilated simplicities and, bucking a major trend, chooses to do so in the English language, there are at least five jokers who habitually spout the stunningly obvious in the most portentous of tones, cloaked in a lot of impenetrable footy speak bunkum about ''structures'' and ''intent''. As a character sagely noted in the movie Blazing Saddles: ''That's authentic frontier gibberish.''
The mission statement for the special comments men is not that complex. From the listener's perspective, it simply boils down to ''Tell me something I don't know.'' That's really the whole deal.