TV and Radio Sport's Howlers Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

TV and Radio Sport's Howlers

12 Conversations

From time to time television and radio sports commentators will say an off-the-cuff remark, something that seemed okay at the time, but when it is aired it can have a double meaning or just sound funny.

Isms and Balls

Some sporting commentators make so many howlers they have had nicknames attributed to them by the media. Two of those are: British Formula One racing commentator, Murray Walker - Murrayisms, and general sports commentator David Coleman - Colemanballs.


Many of the Murrayisms can be put into two basic categories:

Stating the Obvious

  • It's raining and the track is wet!

  • There are four different cars filling the first four places.

  • This is lap 54. After that it's 55, 56, 57, 58.

  • The gap between the two cars is 0.9 of a second which is less than one second.

  • This is an interesting circuit because it has inclines, and not just up but down as well.

  • Look up there! That's the sky!

  • The faster he goes the quicker he'll get to the pits. The slower he goes the longer it will take.

  • Twenty four points for Schumacher, twenty three points for Hill, so there's only one point between them if my mental arithmetic is correct.

  • As you can see, visually, with your eyes.

  • Either the car is stationary or it's on the move.

Make your mind up Murray!

  • There is nothing wrong with the car except that it is on fire.

  • I imagine the conditions in those cars today are totally unimaginable.

  • I make no apologies for their absence. I'm sorry they're not here.

  • It's not quite a curve. It's a straight actually!

  • He can't decide whether to have his visor half open or half closed.

  • With two laps to go then the action will begin, unless this is the action, which it is.

  • He's here again for the first time.

  • And Michael Schumacher is actually in a very good position. He is in last place.

  • A sad ending, albeit a happy one, here at MontrĂ©al for today's Grand Prix.

Murray's Curse

Murray had an uncanny knack of wrongly predicting racing situations. Any prediction he made turned out immediately to be wrong. If he said how good a driver's race was going, they would crash on the next corner. If he said a particular driver couldn't lose the Grand Prix now, their engine would blow up within seconds. Drivers had been known to ask him not to talk about how well they were doing, especially in a vital race, because if he did he was bound to put the kiss of death on things!


Colemanballs is a general term used for sporting howlers. The term was coined at the Montréal Olympics in 1976. David Coleman was commentating on an athletics race, when sprinter Alberto Juantorena suddenly speeded up and took the lead, which led to Coleman saying:

And there goes Juantorena down the back straight, opening his legs and showing his class.

Other Colemanballs, from David himself, include:

  • And the line up for the final of the Women's 400 metres hurdles includes three Russians, two East Germans, a Pole, a Swede and a Frenchman.

  • That's the fastest time ever run - but it's not as fast as the world record.

  • The Republic of China - back in the Olympic Games for the first time.

  • Linford Christie's got a habit of pulling it out when it matters most.

  • The late start is due to the time.

Part of the reason why Colemanballs caught on was due to Private Eye magazine having a fortnightly article of sporting howlers titled 'Colemanballs'. Many of the following could be classified as Colemanballs.


There is some question as to whether one of cricket's classic howlers was ever spoken on air, and who said it. Cricket commentators Don Mosey and Brian Johnston were in the commentating box for the BBC World Service in a test match between West Indies and England at the Oval. Batsman Peter Willey was at the stumps, bowler Michael Holding was at the crease, but did either Mosey or Johnston really say on air:

We welcome World Service listeners to the Oval, where the bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willey.

Let's look at the evidence; neither of them has openly taken the credit for saying it, no recording of the comment has ever been heard, only talked about.

Another cricket classic is from 1991 between England and the West Indies at the Oval. Knocking over his own stumps had just got Ian Botham dismissed. Then bad light stopped play and commentators Jonathan Agnew and Brian Johnston were filling the time with replays of the match. Johnston was being a bit mischievous and saucy about Botham straddling the stumps, when Agnew went one better and said:

Well, he didn't quite get his leg over, did he?

Johnston tried to continue talking normally and he succeeded for about 10 to 20 seconds; then laughed so much he was unable to speak, and all this was heard on air.


Kevin Keegan has a history in football. Previously he's been a player for Liverpool, then player and later coach and manager of the England team. Today Keegan, also known as Keggy, is a football commentator renowned for his howlers; these are some of them:

  • Goalkeepers aren't born today until they're in their late twenties or thirties.

  • In some ways, cramp is worse than having a broken leg.

  • Gary always weighed up his options, especially when he had no choice.

  • That would have been a goal if it wasn't saved.

  • I'd love to be a mole on the wall in the Liverpool dressing room at half-time.

  • I want more from David Beckham. I want him to improve on perfection.

And finally a word of wisdom from Kevin:

I would ask anyone to try to understand the world he lives in. We all have to accept that he is married to Spice Girl Victoria Adams - and I think he copes very well with it.


Sports commentator Ken Brown was referring to golfer Nick Faldo and his caddie Fanny Sunneson when he said:

Some weeks Nick likes to use Fanny; other weeks he prefers to do it by himself.


Another Murray known for his howlers is New Zealand rugby commentator Murray Mexted. He was referring to a new law recently introduced into rugby, stating that once a player had been tackled to the ground they must let go of the ball immediately, when he said:

I don't like this new law, because your first instinct when you see a man on the ground is to go down on him.

Other howlers from Murray Mexted include:

  • You don't like to see hookers going down on players like that.

  • He's looking for some meaningful penetration into the backline.

A classic howler of Mexted was during the 1998 Super 12 Hurricanes match. He had been involved in encouraging and promoting Martin Leslie when he blurted out:

Everybody knows that I have been pumping Martin Leslie for a couple of seasons now.


There are a couple of classic howlers from the early years of televised snooker. In those years many people had black and white TVs, which led to commentator 'Whispering' Ted Lowe uttering these words:

  • Steve is going for the pink ball - and for those of you who are watching in black and white, the pink is next to the green.

  • For those of you watching who do not have television sets, live commentary is on Radio 2.

Today, Colemanballs can be used to refer to any media howler, not just from the sports world. Retired football player Paul Gascoigne, also known as Gazza (the crying player), and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have both at sometime said:
I never predict anything and I never will do.

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