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Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Murray Walker OBE

Being Irish I'm not one to go around calling Bob Geldof, Sir Bob.  In the same way I wouldn't be calling Alan Sugar, Lord Sugar.  That kind of shtick is another country to most cases.  Murray is a different animal entirely.  Here is a giant of the motor racing scene, a man who deserves titles and praise to be showered down upon him on a nearly daily basis.  Master of the Microphone, the original F1 fanatic, the "Voice" of motor racing, there just aren't enough appellations, nicknames, or titles to go around.

He always commentated on a race in such a manner that, even if you knew nothing about the sport, you could immediately get into what was going on.  It was part of his ethos, as he said in an interview with the Gold Coast Bulletin in 2002:

My target audience in my mind was not the dedicated, dyed-in-the-wool knowledgeable anorak, who would watch anything and listen to anything on the subject. It was the un-committed, uninvolved and probably not very enthusiastic ordinary folks who were watching at home. I wanted to grip them by the throats and say 'Hey look this is fantastic! I love it and you ought to love it too. And here's why!'.

What he brought to the commentary box was his love of the sport and it was he and James Hunt commentating in 1990 that really brought the whole F1 show into clarity for me.  I understood the enjoyment of it and wanted to know more about it.  He gave me an insight into his love for the sport and gave me some of it.

Obviously without Murray there would be no Murrayisms and we all have our favourites, mine particularly came in 1993 when Senna was in the McLaren, obviously the wrong car that year.  At the time James was his co-commentator and Senna was in third place but massively uncompetitive, holding up about seven or eight cars behind him.  He was doing a brilliant job of it though and Murray in his enthusiasm referred to the crocodile building up behind him.  James immediately corrected Murray (which seemed to be a habit of his) saying, in his laconic manner, "I think you'll find it's called a snake Murray".  There were a few moments of silence only punctuated by the engine noise from the circuit and then Murray capitulated.  Obviously James had broken Murray's flow and Murray for a moment only was lost for words.

It wasn't really his Murrayisms that stuck with me though.  The phrase that he used over and over again that stood true up until this year and the introduction of DRS, KERS, and degrading tyres was "As I always say it's one thing catching up to the car ahead, it's another thing entirely to get past".  The last time I thought of it was at Monza when Lewis couldn't get past Michael for lap after lap.  I know Schumi enjoyed that and I bet Murray did too, if he was watching.

Happy Birthday Murray! Thanks for your dedication, your talent and above all for your love of the sport.  I wish you and yours all the best for today and for the future - Are Sky bringing you in as commentator? I'll pay for the Sports package to hear you aurally, with my ears!