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Think back to the last time you watched a sporting activity, match or race with family or friends. Do you remember the excitement building as the game began?

Perhaps you remember the tension as the room went silent for a crucial moment? Or maybe you wish you could forget hiding your face in your hands as your favorite team or player lost to another…

There are so many different aspects to watching live sport on television with others: the tension, the adrenaline, the chat, to name a few. As we watch live sport, we comment on our favourite players and the previous matches or races they’ve played, divulge the hopes we have for how the game turns out (hopefully in our favour!), and joke about the sport we’re watching.

Action Replay, the newest exhibition at the National Science and Media Museum, provides the chance for visitors to see behind the scenes, and catch a glimpse of the methods used by commentators to keep us all on the edge of our seats. It’s a chance for you to discover how fun, diverse and difficult sports commentary can be!

Inside Action Replay: the sports commentary display Close up detail of an interactive sports commentary display in Action Replay

Sport can be incredibly confusing. The need for commentators to prepare is absolutely vital. With detailed notes, announcers can eagerly tell you how well a player fared in previous matches, worries concerning new injuries, and even where their home town is.

Commentary notebooks belonging to Nick Barnes, BBC Radio Newcastle’s commentator for Sunderland football games, are on display in Action Replay. The crowded yet neat and colourful pages highlight the importance of preparation and symbolise the excitement which can be communicated by live announcing.

Annotated notebooks belonging to sports commentator Nick Barnes

Not all commentators, however, have time to relay anecdotes about previous games. Some sports, like horse racing, are over too fast for detailed commentary to take place.

In Action Replay you can try out a fun interactive activity where you listen to commentary and then guess which sport is being described. This showcases the diversity of commentary between distinct sports, and makes you understand how important the style of commentary is in order to set the tone of the sport. It also makes you wonder how different watching some sports would be if the commentary were switched…

Yet despite the differences and difficulties, commentators still manage to have fun—whether it’s giggling hysterically at each others’ comments or trying cake sent in by viewers. More importantly, they help the viewer to have fun too!

Come to the exhibition, look in more detail, and see if you think you have the ‘Gift of the Gab’. With over 50 sports represented in the exhibition and 80 objects on display, there’s plenty to comment on!

A sign for the Action Replay exhibition

Action Replay is open at the National Science and Media Museum until 30 September 2018.

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