After a while the producer, another Andrew, came in and gave me the running order. We were to be on the air for two hours but Crofty and his co-presenters would look after the first half. I don’t know why, because it’s blindingly obvious, but I was really surprised to see just how minutely the air time is meted out. When a pre-recorded interview ends and the camera returns to David who simply says words along the lines of ‘and we’ll be back after the break’, those few moments that barely register to you and me and all accounted for, down to the last second.
I wondered when we would rehearse and wondered too how many, if any, at Sky knew I had never done this before. I never found the answer to the second question but the first became pretty clear when Crofty simply announced, ‘and now it’s over to our commentating team of Andrew Frankel and – pause – Tony Jardine.’ We were on and despite a couple of nights of less that average amounts of sleep getting ready, I’d never felt less prepared for anything in my life.
Now all those questions I had never thought about listening to others commentating flooded my head. How do I know when to talk? How do I know when not to talk? How do I make sure I don’t talk over Tony? What if I get a fact wrong, do I correct it or blunder on in the hope no-one will notice? What if a car I simply don’t recognise appears before me? Which screen do I look at? What do I say if someone crashes lightly? What do I say if someone crashes heavily? And so on and on.
At first this job which had seemed so easy, was almost impossible. There was too much going on: in much less than a minute you had to identify the car and its driver, say something relevant about the history of both, make informed observations about the way the car was being driven, keep an eye on the clock, have in your head the time that needs to be beaten and be ready to stop talking the instant either Tony gave me a tap on the shoulder or the producer had a word in my ear through my headphones. I mean cans.