Gerhard Delling has added a new colour to the sports moderation: take the athletes seriously, not so much the sport. With Sidekick Günter Netzer he created a very special genre.
Delling and Netzer, of course. That was one of the lasting couples in television history like Wum and Wendelin, Stöver and Brockmöller, Heinz Schenk and Lia Wöhr, Kuli and his butler, Harald Schmidt and Manuel Andrack. One was unthinkable without the other for years. Netzer stopped being a TV expert and sidekick in 2010, and since then viewers have had a kind of phantom pain when watching Delling on TV. Something was missing.
At the age of 60, Delling will follow his old TV buddy Netzer in April next year and leave ARD, as he announced on Thursday. “Sportschau” without Delling, ARD international games without Delling. Actually hardly imaginable. But that was what Heribert Fassbender and Ernst Huberty thought. There was also a “sports show” after Hans-Joachim Rauschenbach and Eberhard Stanjek.
Nevertheless, this Gerhard Delling will be missed. Because he was a kind of trendsetter who presented sport, especially football, in a different way. When you see him in front of the camera, you always have the feeling that this man takes the athletes seriously, but not necessarily the sport as a whole. The subtext always resonates in his presentations: People, it’s just sport.
Without making a big fuss
That was precisely the recipe for success of the Delling/Netzer combination. There were two people standing at their little bar table, in the background a bubbling stadium atmosphere, who do not define themselves as the centre of their lives through football. They can talk about it, for hours if need be, without losing their face. Always a little bit of mockery in the voice, at best a mild smile about this excitement football, but just don’t let it infect you.
And then there were the little teases between the two, the deliberate playing with each other, the sometimes demonstrative bad mood that Netzer embodied, so that they were compared to the Muppets sour maws Waldorf and Statler, who have something to complain about: None of this had been seen before on German sports television. Above all, they cultivated it at a time when sports coverage on television was becoming increasingly hysterical, screaming and louder. An island of unexcitement between all the marketers of football.
Probably that was what excited Rudi Völler, the German team boss at the time, the most when in 2003, after the DFB international match in Iceland against the two of them on ARD, he went to his famous rage suada. That Delling and Netzer never waved the patriotic flag, that they stayed cool when right and left the exuberance raged, that they pointed out mistakes rather than strengths. Völler complained in the ARD studio of the sports populist Waldemar Hartmann about “shit” and “cheese”, knowing full well that this is exactly the language style that Delling and Netzer would never use. Waldemar Hartmann was then awarded the Media Prize for Language Culture for advertising contracts for wheat beer, Netzer and Delling. There is no better way to describe the difference.
After twelve years, tiredness came
After twelve years of partnership, the duo had become tired and experienced, as is the case in everyday relationships. The mutual piesackerries had worn each other out, expert knowledge was only rarely heard from the two of them, the flappiness took over, in the end one noticed that the interest of the two in what they had reported about was exhausted. Then it was time to part. Netzer alias Statler said goodbye, Waldorf continued, tormenting himself a little with expert successor Mehmet Scholl, but it wasn’t the same anymore.
Delling had long since developed into a face of North German Radio, he spent his whole life more or less in the north except for one station at SWR, from Rendsburg to his studies in Kiel to his jobs at NDR. Again and again he tried to do something other than sports. He hosted the NDR talk show, he also had his own personality show “Dellings Woche“, he even helped out as a presenter with the daily topics, his horizon has always been wider, but he never made the leap out of sport. Fever Slots also offers bingo which is named Fever bingo.
He wrote his biography six years ago. Gerhard Delling reviewed 50 years of the Bundesliga in 2012, “and how I experienced them”. When the league started in 1963, he was just four years old and played HSV victories on the street in Rendsburg, Schleswig-Holstein. The league is now 56 years old, Delling 59. His motivation, “which has driven me all these years”, he describes in the book “Die Begeisterung für den Sport und die Menschen, die mit tun tun.” (The enthusiasm for sport and the people involved). He had the enthusiasm, he has, but he has not allowed himself to be overwhelmed by it.