Dear Bruce, stop the stats!

I’m sorry, but this has gone far enough. In the interests of all that is good about our game and the clash this Saturday, I make an impassioned plea on behalf of those of us who will have to watch the Grand Final on Channel 7.

Dear Bruce:


Look we all know, Bruce loves his stats, whether produced by him or by a locked basement full of IT freaks and stats gurus.

And I love a good stat as much as anyone. It’s just that I am sick to death of them taking up valuable space and time in a broadcast when we could be, (I don’t know, crazy thought here), TALKING ABOUT THE ACTUAL GAME!!

Last week in the Swans game, we all knew that Jude Bolton was playing his 300th game and good luck to him, he’s a great player. But that also seemed to give rise to every stat possible about 300 gamers and we were then treated to the Bruce stat that he was only the second player to win a final in his 300th game.

Ok, Fine. Happy for him. But who cares?

A few weeks ago, with the Bulldogs being thrashed on a meaningless Sunday afternoon televised game, Bruce spent most of the second half breathlessly waiting for Ryan Griffen to break the record for the most possessions in a game by a Bulldogs player since Simon Atkins. He did, the Bulldogs got belted and the game once again finished 10 seconds before they cut to the Sunday 6pm news.

It’s at the Brownlow that Bruce seems to rise to the stats pinnacle, with comments that only two players in Brownlow history had polled more than Watson had by Round 7, or he’d got more votes by a certain stage than when Dick Reynolds won one of his medals, or he had more at round 13 or whenever than anyone ever had.

Bruce seems to love quoting stats to players about themselves, that they couldn’t possibly know, solely for the purpose of either embarrassing the player into being awkward or making himself look good (too close to call that one)

(Imagine if a player said “yes, I was aware that I am now the greatest vote winner in St Kilda history and not before time too!”)

Last year he was talking to Dane Swan after he won about the fact that his tally and that of Scott Pendlebury was the highest one club/two player tally in history. Swan earned my undying respect for not going with ‘big deal Bruce’ or ‘so what’ when it was more his moment to cherish as the winner, not Bruce totting out this stuff to further enhance his reputation.

It just makes him look like a know-it-all.

Now, I used to love Bruce. I think his race calling was stunning and I have heard him do phantom or reproductions of Cox Plate calls that are brilliant. His hosting of the return to the mounting yard of Makybe Diva’s third Cup was restrained and respectful, and the Cathy Freeman call is legend.

But I think he may just have been sipping on his own bathwater just a touch. My fear is that he’s becoming a parody of himself. This is after all a bloke who if memory serves, took twelve months off from footy and broadcasting before the Sydney Olympics to prepare for his hosting and calling duties.

Bruce, calm down. Peter Donegan seemed to move effortlessly from calling the VFL at North Ballart to being in London a few months back, and we don’t need to know every stat about every PB and placing in an athlete’s career to enjoy the spectacle.

My Dad didn’t quite get or like cricket, but tolerated it because it was a passion of my mum’s. However, he’s always loved teasing her by impersonating Alan McGillivray and Lindsay Hassett with ‘is that the highest score on a Tuesday afternoon in December by a red headed left handed second drop with a name starting with P on this ground’ sort of stuff that makes cricket great.

Some stats are helpful and some fascinating. There are some quirks of stats that make for great trivia. I love the fact that most people seemed to know that Jason Blake hadn’t scored a Brownlow vote in his career up until last night.

This week will be full of stats. The traditional and useless (how many pies will be eaten at the GF), the intriguing (the Swans with the most miserly defence against the Hawks high scoring average) and the historic (the Swans record at the G).

But can we stay away from all the other ones that just don’t matter. Don’t tell us that the Swans win a certain % of games when leading at half time, or that the quarter time score is the same as when they last met in a final or that if a player kicks more than a certain number of goals his team always wins.

Many of these stats are best written down and followed with a “really?” before moving on. That’s the place for them.

But don’t, please don’t, use up the airwaves with useless stats designed more to show off the commentary team’s research in favour of talking about the game itself.

Many stats about games signify nothing anymore. Players rack up meaningless possessions, uncontested marks and turnovers that really only matter to Dream Team aficionados.

The main stat is the score, and if Bruce tells me about the history of who leds at three quarter time in a GF, I’ll ask if they give out medals based on that.

No. In the end, the final score will judge the GF winner, as it does every year.

So Bruce, leave us alone, retain some of the dignity you once had, and treat us with respect:


About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.


  1. craig dodson says

    I’m with you Sean, at times I think Bruce and Dennis seem to call the game for their own amusement. For the first time in memory I actually turned the sound off in the 4th quarter on friday night..

  2. I also used to like Bruce, and now he annoys the hell out of me. He peaked in the mid/late ninetys I reckon, with the Cathy Freeman run where he reached his pinnacle.

    It’s all been a a steep downhill curve since then.

  3. Let’s start a Bump Bruce Campaign. He’s good over the distance – calling a 10,000 meter event in London. Anything shorter is too close. When you think of late Clinton Grybas – who could make two rain drops sliding down a window sound like the Stawell Gift – you could weep at Bruce’s inanities. I’m old enough to remember the late Dick Mason. There was another one who’d have you glued to your crystal set calling GWS playing The Suns in Port Moresby. Dick died young too. I hope it’s not the price, of excellence.

  4. Skip of Skipton says

    Try watching the TV with the sound off.

  5. Barry Nicholls says

    I disagree Sean I don’t mind Bruce and his stats.
    It’s his ‘reason for being’- always has been.
    It’s the fourteen talking heads that annoy me.

  6. unlistenable. “Isn’t it?” and gushed stats… refuse (in both its meanings!)

  7. Stop picking on Bruce. His commentry is…….. Un….believable. (20 times per quarter)

  8. Sean

    The 8 second delay on Radio is so frustrating. If not for it, we could tell Bruce, “Good riddance to bad rubbish.” As it is, we’re stuck with him. He defiles football the way an empty sardine does a picturesque beach. I’ll share your irritation this saturday.

  9. Bruce is so obsessed with stats because he knows NOTHING about the game. It is his way of masking this fact. Names and numbers. It’s like a maths geek trying to be a hip in a room full of artists!

  10. Wrap, lets go one further and have a ‘Sack the lot of them bar Lingy’ campaign. If only there was an option to listen with just the crowd sound….

  11. Shane Kennedy says

    Try this for a reverse mexican backhand … keep stats on how many times Bruce says:
    “off a step,” “loads up,” or “clever”. It drives me insane.

  12. Shane

    Sounds like the making of a very ugly GF drinking game:

    1 shot for every ‘loads up’, ‘clever’, ‘off a step’, ‘goes long’
    2 for every ‘special’ or ‘goes inboard’
    3 for ‘you just get the feeling that if (insert side trailing by 4 goals here) kick the next one…
    Shotgun a can for a ‘delicious’

  13. Barry Nicholls says

    Can I suggest the critics of Sir Bruce have a go at calling a game themselves….not so easy

  14. Hey, don’t sack Richo. A very listenable voice – as smooth as caramel – and he talks a lot of sense. Although, when you consider some of the things he did in a rush of blood on the field, you’re tempted to wonder if he’s reading off a cue card.

    Back to Bruce. I can’t recall which match it was – it might have been the Saturday match. It was come to think of it. Big Tex was lining up when Bruce said – you guessed it – this shot to make a difference. Every scoring shot makes a difference Bruce, you ninny.

  15. Sean,
    Thankyou. I thought it was just me becoming an even grumpier old man (that was my wife’s verdict) when I was listening to Bruce on Friday and Monday night. Jude Bolton being only the second player to play his 300th game in a final was the most meaningless and we got the highly important significance of it early in the game. We did not need to be reminded. Watch out for the gushing over Buddy and Cyril this week.

  16. Bruce can keep quoting stats only if he stops ending each sentence in a rhetorical question – and I think that’s beyond him, isn’t it?

  17. “Arches his back”?????!!!!!
    Ps (and this from a die hard cats fan): Tom Harley’s corporate speak/analysis/white noise drives me insane (when it doesn’t send me to sleep). Can’t quite understand, having heard the dross he comes up with in the commentary box, how he didn’t manage to confuse his teammates rather than inspire them.

  18. Maybe Bruce was better at racecalling because
    a) the race lasted less than 3 minutes
    b) the same horses didn’t race week after week
    c)they only ran in one direction
    d) the colours weren’t something to get excited about
    e)the horses didn’t celebrate winning or get teared-up when they lost

    Maybe commentators could have a “favourites” box and drop a $100 in it when
    a) they’re too effusive-vote online
    b) their focus on the player and not the play fails to mention more than 2 players in the play
    c) their focus on statistics does the same thing
    d) using brilliant instead of good,laser instead of accurate,disastrous instead of bad,…well ,you get my drift

    I don’t want them to be dispassionate but I do want them to be unbiased

  19. This is great – everyone I talk to about footy on TV agrees that Bruce McInaney is an annoying twerp. But still my favourite of his meaningless stats is describing the player who came equal 6th in the Melbourne Best & Fairest! Who with ? the bootstudder?

    It is obviously not easy to call a game live on TV but many others seem to do it smoothly and without irritating a large part of the audience. And while we are on the subject – what about the production at 7 and sometimes Foxtel – shots from a helicopter, shots from right next to the pack, replays that intrude onto the actual play (which should be sacrosanct) and sometimes causes yet another replay if something important happens whilst the previous replay was showing; and endless shots of feral fans and coaches instead of live action shots. What is wrong with seeing how the players prepare for a ball-up or throw-in? All those involved at 7 should be made to watch how Ch 2 televised the VFL grand final.

  20. Andrew Walker says

    I don’t mind Bruce and Dennis so much It’s the special comments men including Lingy, Richo and Darcy who at times just won’t shut up during general play. I don’t often shout at the TV but I do when these blokes start babbling. Whatever happened to letting the picture tell the story. And as for live television…..20 seconds or so behind the ABC radio coverage is live on television.

  21. At least Lingy and to a certain extent Richo konw what they are talking about having been ‘over the top’ on a few occasions.

  22. Greg,

    black and white are not really colours; but they are what Bruce appears to get most excited about.

  23. Great work Sean. I believe that’s the most erudite criticism of the over-use of stats ever written by someone who has the initials “S.C.” and 11 letters in their name.

  24. Sean. There’s a follow up article in this, complete with spreadsheet’s and quarter by quarter analysis.

  25. Barry Nicholls says

    There’s a good piece on life inside the commentary box in this month’s Inside Sport .I suggest you all read for some balance on this topic.

  26. Barry

    I take your points in defence of commentary in general and Bruce in particular.

    I have only done it (sort of) once and that was an added voice over commentary of a junior GF DVD for later showing to the parents, so I had the luxury of knowing what was going to happen and stopping the taping when I wanted to. So I appreciate it is hard.

    Having said that, it is his profession and he has years of experience. and I don’t with respect agree that only those who have done it can criticize, as film critics haven’t made movies usually not food critics run restaraunts.

    My point was to have commentators focus on the game. I do believe that the commentary on a Friday night has become the participants believing we want witticisms, endless stats and other irrelevant stuff.

    TV commentary is hard, as radio can call every handball as it needs to create a visual for us, whilst TV has to balance bwtween the bloody obvious (as we can see it) and the helpful.

    My issues is that they go overboard on stuff we don’t need, in an effort to raise their profile, instead of the game.

    You make a fair defence though and I’ll check the article out


  27. what about the rubbish BT talks? what a wally; get rid of him first.
    Cometti is excellent – never know what he might come up with next. He and Bruce seem to work well together but I agree Bruce uses . Stats are so forgettable.
    Richo is a great commentator and interviewer. He works well with anyone it seems.
    Lingy is a bland clown, maybe commentary is not for him.
    Channel 7 should lose the overhead camera shots and endless long periods looking into the coaches boxes. But I don’t mind seeing an occasional glimpse of a passionate fan.

  28. Elise

    I think I got the Bruce Trifecta on Grand Final Day:

    “Off a step, arches his back, has it got the carry?”



  29. Quaddy Sean? – ‘You betcha he has’

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