Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
14 July 1969
I suppose this story only has a vague connection with sport and television. I mention it here because many times in my lifetime of working in the medium of TV commentary I have heard people try to tell me, and other commentators, just 'how it (TV commentary) should be done!'
Many of these 'experts' do this while mostly not ever having ever been anywhere near a microphone.
My late and much loved Father-in-Law came in that class. I reckoned dear old Tom's often announced firm opinions about how TV sport should be covered - or the News - came about because he watched a lot of it from his armchair. However I always respected his view; he was a viewer and entitled to it.
Not many people can claim to be expert broadcasters of sport on TV. What exactly is expert? No one really knows.
I certainly cannot claim to be one. But what I can claim is, I hope, my own style of doing a call.
In summary, over the years, I have tried to belong to a personal school of trying to mainly identify, entertain and inform' That's all - but to do it in a TV way, not done with the total verbal description that might be better say, in radio.
Others of course have other ways of doing a perfectly good TV call. And that's fine.
Back in 1969 the great news anchorman Walter Cronkite was on the air for CBS News from Cape Kennedy in Florida. For a massive world audience he was doing the TV commentary of Mankind's first flight to the moon. For the still young medium this was - and still is - one of the world's most significant TV moments.
Cronkite was hugely famous at that time. He is forever recalled as the man who 'told America' via the CBS news that President John F. Kennedy had been killed by an assassins bullet.' He also had heavily influenced a change of view from hawk to dove on America's involvement in the Vietnam war.
Cronkite was also expert on the American space programme - and the TV coverage of it.
So while he was on the air on that famous day many of the CBS staff wondered just what the great man would say at the moment of lift-off on such a momentous day for TV and world history.
But as the rocket blasted off from its 36-story high launching pad, in what surely must have been a fantastic opportunity to exclaim something - Cronkite said - NOTHING!
In the truest example of 'how to do' TV commentary Cronkite later stated that he believed that 'no human voice should ever interrupt such a dream.'
So that day at the microphone he waited and waited in silence as the world gasped in wonderment.
Only after some breathless moments (though in reality probably only a few seconds more) did Cronkite utter what was considered by American viewers and historians to be the immortal TV line.
'What a moment!' he cried, 'Man is on the way to the moon!'
How would we commentators of today have reacted in that same situation?
Great Britain beat NZ 6-3 in the first of a four test series. From Carisbrook in Dunedin a local 4YA staff member Alfred Laurie Canter was the commentator.
Guy’s Hospital and England
1 international for England 1906
Arnold Alcock was a ‘one cap wonder’ whose one game for his country came about in rather unusual circumstances.
Alcock was a useful enough club player for Guy’s Hospital who, it is insisted, never had aspirations at all of becoming an international. Imagine his surprise when he received in the mail an ofﬁcial invitation to play for his country against the touring 1906–07 Springbok team.
Alcock was initially shocked but then felt honoured and on the great day of the game he duly turned up at Twickenham all set to play. Upon seeing him, the secretary of the Rugby Union realised that the man before him was not the man the selectors had thought they were getting. Apparently they had chosen L.A.N. Slocock of Liverpool, and only by a typing error did Alcock receive his invitation to play. By then, of course, it was too late to summon Slocock from the north, so Alcock took the ﬁeld for England. By all accounts he played sensibly and tolerably well. However, it was not a major surprise when Alcock was not invited to play for England again. Slocock was. In fact, Slocock went on to play the next eight internationals.
Arnold Alcock later had a distinguished association with the Gloucester club, for which he was president for nearly 50 years.
In which town or city was the first international rugby match played in Wales?