I can hear more than you can see – Sports on TV

Close your eyes and watch: a blind man entering TV

“Götze – do it – he did it, Mario Götzeee! This is insane!“ After countless reruns of the scene, many of you will surely hear the German commentary from the 2014 FIFA World Cup final echoing in your ears immediately. Back then, I watched the game in a restaurant and I suppose that I was the only one there who actually heard the commentator. Since I had just turned blind, they had given me a seat close to the TV. Thus I was able to calm down the rest of the pub a little earlier. They were all in shock because they had missed the loud call of “Offside!“ after Argentina had scored a goal.

While fully sighted people often fail to appreciate their sense of hearing, it is essential to me, for sportscasts too, of course. In live football games the basic commentaries are better than none but they usually lack tangible information. However since 2015 German public broadcasters have been providing an audio description service for blind and visually impaired people when broadcasting games live. This service allows me to experience and enjoy the sport much more directly again. Just like in our live shows, two speakers describe the events as a team. They speak all the time, much more and more vividly than in movies or shows and they add background information as well. The result is similar to a radio broadcast with slightly too many details. This service greatly helped me enjoy the Euro and the World Cup, among others. When experts discuss their perceptions of the matches in the media, I often get the impression that the speakers even gave me the chance to gain a more exact and impartial view. Other sports events receive audio description too, like the Olympics or world championships in handball or athletics. More, please!

I am fascinated by the game myself and Christmas time always means world championship to me. Many often deride darts, but it is a highly exciting sport in which a match can turn at any time. Above all, however, it is the perfect game to follow for blind people, even with no audio description service.

A sport that has had a special status for me since I went blind is darts. When I was down at the bottom, this sport helped me out of my crisis. In late 2014 I was irrevocably blind and I had to abort my studies. I was sitting at home a lot, started zapping around and got stuck with the world championship of darts. I had never noticed that sport on TV before. It is the first thing that I have only known there as a blind person. For the next few weeks, that was something interesting for me to hold on to.

Recently darts has experienced a rapid rise in popularity, especially in Germany. At P7S1 we occasionally broadcast tournaments as well. I am fascinated by the game myself and Christmas time always means world championship to me. Many often deride darts, but it is a highly exciting sport in which a match can turn at any time. Above all, however, it is the perfect game to follow for blind people, even with no audio description service. The “caller“ in the hall calls out the number of points reached by a player and the number still required in the end. Usually two very dedicated commentators share the job. And what visual delights am I really missing here? (Mostly) Men throw darts at a board. A perfect hit into the triple-20 field looks just as unremarkable as a throw that misses the board. Most of the athletes are not exactly beauty kings either, I think. The only things I am missing are the creative costumes that the fans wear. But I can live with that.

In recent years, however, P7S1’s great sports success story has been American football. By now, it has gained a rabid fanbase in Europe too, although I do not count myself among it. Still, our live matches manage to grab my attention again and again, without any audio description and despite me knowing only a tiny bit of the complicated rules. That is because of our team of enthusiastic commentators. Not only are the speakers such as Jan Stecker and Coach Esume experts but they are fans themselves and their great excitement captivates the viewers. These guys could turn a game of chess to a spectacular event. In this case, just like in darts, I think that an audio description service would not even be desirable. Sure, more details would be nice, but would I pass on those commentators just for that? No, thanks.

For “regular“ football, however, special descriptions for visually disabled viewers are worth gold. and in 2021 the German Bundesliga will return to Sat.1 for nine live games per season after many years. Especially for someone like me, having witnessed “ran“ reinventing football television with presenters such as Beckmann and Kerner when I was a child in the ‚90s, this is fantastic. After our great start with GNTM and TMS it would be nothing but logical to broadcast thesose games with audio description too. High ratings can be expected, after all, and with older viewers as well. As long as I work for P7S1, I will struggle for the expansion of accessability, not only concerning sportscasts. To make sure that, when we win the World Cup again, I will once more be the only one who knows what really happened.

Finally, just like last time, let us talk about music. There are many sports songs. Songs about sports, tracks that only become sports anthems after their release. Stadiums full of people sing the melody of a guitar riff. In the past, the German team always used to show us their singing “skills“ when it was time for a World Cup. Clubs have their anthems and special songs to be played after a goal, all professional darts players have their specific walk-on song. So theere is plenty of choice for my song on the subject in my “Open your ears!“ section. Choosing “Bayern“ by German rock band Die Toten Hosen would probably put my future in Unterföhring at risk. “Three Lions“ is great but already well known. What remains is a track that even haters of sports really should have heard. “Der Tag wird kommen“ (2014) (English: “The day will come“) by Marcus Wiebusch, singer of German indie band Kettcar, is an impressive statement against homophobia in general and especially against homophobia in football. The message is serious, the track is long, but still always entertaining and never corny. This is the link to the video.

So have a good summer, stay sporty, and make use of your ears... They spare you misunderstandings so you have more time for important things... like sports.

Yours,
Alex