Man Behind the Mic: Football Commentator Gary Taphouse
Commentating at the highest level of sport does not come easy. You need to have a vast knowledge of the sport you’re involved in, a natural talent to broadcast a match to a mass audience, but most importantly, a steely determination to succeed in a market where many wish to thrive.
Gary Taphouse has done just that. Taphouse is a football commentator who has worked across both television and radio, providing expert analysis for the likes of Sky Sports and talkSPORT. He has commentated on many games including those in the English Premier League, The F.A Cup, The EFL Cup, La Liga, The Champions League, and he was part of the talkSPORT team that commentated at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
As the audience, our job is to sit back, relax, and watch the sport. It is completely the opposite for Taphouse, who discovered early on that football commentry was the route for him. The Sports Gazette spoke with Taphouse to discuss his route into the industry, his remedy for success, and what he thinks makes a truly inspirational and creditable football commentator.
Taphouse said: “It was all I wanted to do as a teenager. The World Cup in 1990 was the first time I was totally absorbed by a major tournament. I watched every game and became just as interested in the various commentators’ styles as I was by the football. I couldn’t believe something so fantastic was actually a job!”
This early set inspirational seemed to be the driving force for Taphouse growing up with the ambition to succeed in broadcast journalism.
He said: “I think from that moment on, every decision I took with regards to education and work was with commentating in mind. I was convinced it was for me.”
After studying hard and gaining acceptance at university, he managed to get his first real break. He said: “The first commentating I ever did was at university. I was studying multi-media journalism at Bournemouth and by a stroke of good fortune; I managed to start commentating on home games for the club’s own video. Basically, someone I knew also knew the cameraman and mentioned he was looking for an unpaid commentator."
Although Taphouse openly admits to being lucky in getting his first break, he also admits that it took a huge amount of self-confidence to ensure that he took advantage.
“Of course luck plays a huge part. I think everyone in sports journalism would say the same. If you happen to be in the right place at the right time or know the right person, it’s a big advantage. But you still have to take the chance that comes your way. And if you blow it, there are plenty of other people waiting to take advantage so that’s where the hard work comes into it. If you let your standards slip, you can be out.
They decided to try me out at a home game with Bristol Rovers in September 1996. I sat there on the rickety old gantry at Dean Court and couldn’t believe I was actually commentating on a football match. It went ok and I ended up covering every home game and then presenting the end of season video as well.”It’s all about luck, timing and experience...Once you’re in and working regularly, you’re half way there.”
A man with university experience, Taphouse professed that his experiences outside of education actually taught him more about what it means to be a football commentator.
He said: “That experience was probably as valuable as my degree. My first paid job was at my local newspaper in South London. On another work placement, I’d ended up with an enormous book of cuttings. That book got me the job – in fact I started before I even got my degree result and never even went to my own graduation because it clashed with work.
Essentially if you’re at university, it will be the work you do outside the degree that will help you stand out from the rest."
Naturally, his hard work paid off and he managed to get his work published in the local newspaper.
“In my first or second week at the local paper I ended up writing the front-page lead about a big new town centre development. I’d spotted something about it in a council planning meeting agenda and ended up with a decent story.
Written journalism was something I really enjoyed but I knew broadcasting was my future. The newspaper job allowed me to still work in radio at weekends so I was still getting the experience.”
Now an in-demand football commentator, Taphouse says that his experience at university and placements have put him in good stead for his future career prospects.
“Once you’re in and working regularly, you’re half way there. It all comes back to having done plenty of work outside my degree when I had the time as a student."
The Sports Gazette quizzed Taphouse on what he truly thinks is the difference between an average and a professional sports commentator.
“Everyone will have their own view on that. Generally speaking, it’s about having natural warmth and authority coupled with terrific knowledge. But it’s also about not being an irritant to the viewer, so supplementing the pictures with worthwhile commentary and not just talking for the sake of it."
To those interested in pursuing a career in sports commentary, Taphouse has strong advice on how to give yourself the best opportunity to maximise your potential.
“It’s all about experience as well as qualifications. Get out there and badger people to let you shadow them or help out for free.
Nothing will come to you; you’ve got to chase it. The more contacts and experience you have, the better. It’s the only way to stand out in a very, very crowded workplace."
Follow Gary Taphouse on Twitter here: twitter.com/garytaphouse