A new Alan Partridge… aha!

I don’t know if there is a copywrite issue here, but this article is available to read in the newspaper it was originally published in and on line.Michael Deacon is a political commentator who writes with wit and perception… here he is commenting on a commentator at the Olympics:

Olympics on TV: Aha! Ed Leigh is the new Alan Partridge!

Michael Deacon admires the work of Ed Leigh, the BBC Olympics commentator who makes meteorite noises during the beach volleyball.

Good news for fans of Alan Partridge. Some were disappointed earlier this summer when two new Partridge specials were broadcast exclusively on the digital channel Sky Atlantic, meaning that those lacking a subscription missed out. Happily, the BBC has been grooming the great man’s successor – and at these Olympics he’s already proving he can match our hero for vim, insight and verbal panache.

Before scaling the heights of his profession as chat show host, DJ and presenter of North Norfolk’s leading mid-morning digital radio programme, Partridge himself started life as a sports reporter, and few who heard them will ever forget his majestic football commentaries for the 1994 TV series The Day Today. “He must have a foot like a traction engine!” he’d cry. Or, “The proof is in the pudding, and in this case the pudding… is a football.” Or, “Boof! Eat my goal! The goalie has got football pie all over his shirt!”

But now a new, albeit eerily similar, commentary king is risen. His name is Ed Leigh, and today he was describing the beach volleyball.

Like his broadcasting progenitor, Leigh has a flair for metaphor, but he doesn’t exercise it merely for show. He also educates. For example, during Holland v Latvia: “Oh, a massive smash from Smedins! Burying that ball like a turtle burying its eggs!” Until that moment, probably very few viewers were aware that a mother turtle buries her eggs by leaping three feet into the air and smacking them into the sand with a flipper.

Leigh also takes care to illustrate points that the layman might find complex. A Dutchman hit the ball hard. “The Dutch meteorite!” cried Leigh, before helpfully doing an impression of the noise he imagines a meteorite makes. Doing this justice in print isn’t easy, but it sounded something like “PRRCCCCHHHEWWW!”

In beach volleyball, a point is scored roughly every 10 seconds, so the commentator needs a big variety of exclamations with which to greet each tiny triumph. Thankfully, Leigh’s supply seems to be inexhaustible. To give just a few examples: “He’s tenderising this court like a big T-bone steak!” And: “The beast! Like a woolly mammoth at the net there!” And: “The Dutch put the point to bed. Tucked up, night night!”

It isn’t only the sport that inspires him to poetry. On spotting some children in the crowd: “Their big brown eyes could melt butter!”

Though not yet the household name he deserves to be, Leigh is no novice: he also presents Ski Sunday. Even more impressively, it seems the 37 year-old is a three-time winner of the British Air Guitar Championships, where he competed under the intriguing sobriquet “Satan Whoppercock”. I have attempted to trace the origins of this unusual surname, but sadly no Whoppercocks are listed on the electoral register.

In any case, the man is a joy to listen to, so it’s a pity that he’s hidden away on the red button doing the beach volleyball. Imagine him covering the men’s 100m final. “Just look at Usain Bolt go! He’s as fast as if he had four legs! Obviously he’s only got two, of course – four would constitute a serious violation of Olympic law.”

With luck, Leigh’s indefatigable enthusiasm will rub off on his BBC colleague John Inverdale. Inverdale is normally a genial presenter but anything short of a gold for Great Britain seems to leave him sunk in gloom. A mere silver has him sighing and wincing as if at a teenage daughter’s phone bill.

Yesterday this perceived defeatism earned him widespread censure on Twitter. Some users were beating him with any stick they had to hand. “His wife used to teach me French,” sniffed one woman. “I hated her.”

11:08AM BST 03 Aug 2012



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