Joe Rogan: Commentating King or Court Jester?

Levi NileContributor IIIApril 17, 2012

When it comes to watching a televised sporting event, what you hear is just as important as what you see.

If you’re not there, then you’re only getting half the action without commentary from someone that is either on the scene or acknowledged to be an authority.

Good commentary goes beyond simply regurgitating what is seen by the common eye. Good commentary is insightful, entertaining and educational all at the same time.

If a commentator is good at his job, he makes you feel he is every bit as excited to be there as you are and he’ll educate you without you really knowing its happening.

In short, he’s your man on the inside; the guy you know who knows more than most.

Listening to a good commentator is like listening to good music. It all fits together and it all compliments the song.

Of course, many is the fan that is not happy unless he is saying something negative about everything he observes. That is naturally true on the subject of commentators as well.

Joe Rogan knows this just about as well as anyone.

Everything he says during every one of his commentaries is scrutinized and picked over with a fine-toothed comb, and all those critical ears seem to be listening for anything they can label as a mistake.

The truth is, Joe Rogan does an excellent job as commentator, and the UFC, not to mention the fans, are lucky to have him.

Many fans think he’s either too vocal in his advocacy of certain schools of thought (when to stand the fighters up, etc.) or his appreciation for certain fighters. None of those things take away from the job he does as commentator, and that is what needs to be remembered.

Joe Rogan is a human being who just happens to love MMA. Those two points are what make him so great at his job, and if the side effect to that is the occasional display of natural, healthy bias toward certain fighters or fighting philosophies, then so be it.

Just because he’s paid for his commentary doesn’t mean he stops being a fan, and thank God for that.

One virtue of having someone like Rogan as commentator is that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. This is something that even veteran commentators like Larry Merchant can’t do all the time.

Had Merchant possessed that quality, he wouldn’t have allowed Mayweather Jr. to get him so hot under the collar during the post-fight interview of Mayweather-Ortiz. Now, as a result of their confrontation, Mayweather is saying he will give no post-fight interview to Merchant.

That kind of thing doesn’t happen with Rogan.

There are a lot of people watching MMA these days and many of them are new to the sport. By the time they have heard Rogan's commentary for one pay-per-view or television event, they seem much more aware of what the sport is about and what makes it compelling.

Rogan has a way with words that educates as well as amuses, and he calls them like he sees them. After years spent on stage and in front of a camera, Joe Rogan is a natural salesman who just so happens to be smart enough to know that MMA is one thing he doesn’t need to sell, because MMA sells itself.

And that’s one point that’s easy to forget, and that is unfortunate, because it’s the most important point of all.

When Rogan is in the booth, you know the interests of the sport are being served because the fans are being served by one of their own. He never gets in the way of a good fight and he can find the good in every fight he commentates. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

I lied. It get’s better when you consider who his broadcast partner is.

Mike Goldberg is the perfect foil for Rogan. Goldie often tries to lob harmless yet heavy-handed observations when the opportunity seems natural, and it’s good to know that Rogan can put it all into context with authority and humor while never losing focus on the fight in front of him.

Lastly, Rogan is insightful in his commentary.

He asks the relevant questions, and then seeks out the answers before he ever sits down in front of the microphone. The fight game is all about answering questions, and Rogan goes about the business of answering those questions that the fighters cannot through their honest work in the cage.

He can do all of this because he has deep access in the MMA community, and he makes the best use of that by passing on what he learns to us, the viewing public.

This isn’t the Joe Rogan show, and he doesn’t want it to be, which is why he is so happy and willingly transparent.  

That’s an important fact to note because it explains why, when Rogan is commentating, he is not in the service of any kind of intellectual vanity. He doesn’t worry about making himself sound smarter than he is (and he is very intelligent) because this is about a fight sport, and all interests in that regard he can handle with a workmanlike prose that almost everyone loves, and more importantly understands.

In the end, Joe Rogan is far more “Commentary King” than “Court Jester,” but we should be thankful he is both, because there is humor in the fight game and the joke is almost always on the teller.

Thirty years from now, I hope I am still alive and watching the fights, and I hope I’m lucky enough to hear Rogan and Goldberg having the last laugh.