Friday, August 22, 2003

Unless I'm very much mistaken

I've got round to reading Murray Walker's autobiography "Unless I'm very much mistaken."
The man who commentated on car and motorbike racing for more than fifty years finally tells something of his life but this is far from a tell all book.
Running to 462 pages here is the story of Murray in the army, in the advertising business and of course behind the microphone.
Walker is a bit like Forrest Gump, marvelling at his achievements and dazzled by the company he keeps. He wants to see the best in everyone - turning James Hunt and Nigel Mansell into nice guys. He denounces Ayrton Senna for taking out Prost at Suzuka in 1990 - "I never forgave him for that" - yet he glosses over Michael Schumacher's similar move on Jacques Villeneuve at Jerez in 1997. There are several pages of hagiography for Michael - all unconvincing as he invites us to feel sorry for the world's highest paid sportsman - "he's a really decent bloke."
Murray is on safer ground when he talks about the difficulties of commentating - as one who has been behind the microphone I know how fiendishly difficult it can be - the jetlag, the petty rivalries, the language barrier, the funny food, the late nights.
His anecdotes about the Macau Grand Prix are of particular interest to this reviewer although his Jackie Chan-style fictionalised account of a Triad hit at the races was particularly ill-advised - his publisher must have fallen for this tripe.
In view of the dominant position tobacco sponsors have held in motor sport Murray is courageous in saying "Why anyone smokes when they know the possible consequences is beyond my comprehension."
There are some 'Murrayisms' in the book - he refers to Enzo Ferrari as "the greatest driver in the history of Formula 1"; Paul Tracy becomes Paul Tracey; and Peter O'Sullivan, the horse-race commentator, becomes Peter O'Sullevan; but these are quibbles.
You have to wonder however at a man who counts appearing on "This is your life" and Noel Edmonds' "Late, Late Breakfast Show" among the highlights of his life. Receiving a gong, an OBE, from the Queen was "the ultimate achievement I could have hoped for."
Having met Murray on a few occasions I know him to be a decent man with no side, better than his book portrays him. He is missed on the airwaves for his self-confidence and his sheer explosive enthusiasm.

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