Global voice of British football results retires
Jul. 24, 2013
LONDON (AP) — The broadcaster who has delivered British football results to global radio listeners for 40 years in a distinctive style has announced his final score.
James Alexander Gordon is retiring from the BBC because his voice is no longer strong enough following surgery to treat throat cancer, the broadcaster said Wednesday.
The Scotsman has been reading the football results just after 5 p.m. on Saturdays since 1973, with his clipped tones transmitted on the BBC's domestic radio stations and the World Service.
"It's with great sorrow that I have to give up the most exciting part of my career, the classified football results," the 77-year-old Gordon said on the BBC website. "They have been my life."
Gordon became a British sporting institution with a name as recognizable as some of the footballers whose goals determined the scores he announced.
A BBC profile said that "few people would recognize James Alexander Gordon's face — yet millions of football fans instantly know his voice."
"Such fun getting it right," Gordon said Wednesday. "The most important thing, though, has been making it exciting for the listener."
And that he did.
Particularly in the days before mobile phones and the internet delivered results instantly, the excitement for fans was hearing their team's fate from Gordon's precise first syllables as a score line started to be read out.
"Even people who don't really even like football knew who James was, even if they didn't realize it," said Mark Pougatch, who presents "Sports Report" on BBC radio. "Such was James's unique style of reading the classifieds, his wonderful inflections and stresses, that even non-believers of the sport knew the result after the home team's score.
"Nobody else will be able to say 'Wolverhampton Wanderers' with quite such mellifluous tones."
Gordon livened up the delivery of a bland list of scores after being inspired by his musical background.
"I play the clarinet and the piano, and I thought, 'How can I make this like a song?'" he said in "The Daily Telegraph" newspaper in 2008. "I just gave it a bit of a lilt."
Gordon, who spent much of his childhood in the hospital recovering from polio, worked in the music industry before embarking on a career in radio.
He is being forced to hang up his microphone despite undergoing successful surgery to remove his larynx after contracting cancer.
"This is desperately sad news for everyone at BBC Sport and we know our sadness will be shared by many millions of listeners," said Richard Burgess, the BBC's head of radio sport. "For so many of us, James has been a mainstay in our lives — a reassuring and reliable presence every week.
"It's not an exaggeration to say that Saturdays at 5 p.m. will never be the same again without the warm, melodious sound of his voice."