Proof of my old boss’s belief that one of the perks of talent is knowing when to break the rules, Harry Carpenter‘s finest moment comes at about 5.55 in the following clip and when learning of his death on Monday, I was delighted to learn it had made as much of an impression on others as it did on me.
It tells you everything about Carpenter’s understated professionalism that he remained mortified by that ‘lapse’. Too many of those who benefit from television’s current obsession with hiring former stars over broadcast journalists to anchor its sports coverage would be smugly proud of the moment.
To those of us standing in bars and hotels watching the Bruno-Tyson fight on new-fangled satellite TV 21 years ago, however, the ‘lapse’ did what good commentary should do – drew its audience fully into the drama of the moment. I still feel the hairs rise on the back of my neck when I think of it (just as I do with “here comes the Rock” – not one of Harry’s but another example of the right words at the right time).
Steady, undemonstrative, helpful yet never intrusive, Harry Carpenter was like a favourite uncle and because Sportsnight was always his baby in my eyes, I’ve thrown in the second clip, from 1982: testimony to the power of music to transport you back in time faster than a speeding bullet. Just like the occasional magnificent lapse…