Interview transcript: Charles Dagnall, Test Match Special commentator, former quarterback, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan

Liz: Welcome to the show, Charles, how are you? 

Charles: I’m very well. Thank you for having me on. I feel like I’ve got big shoes to fill after Reynolds of last week. So I should do my absolute best, but it is lovely to be on. Thank you for asking.

Liz: Oh, thank you so much for joining. Now your background is very much cricket, but I know that your Tampa Bay Bucks fan. So let’s start with what got you into NFL in the first place and what made them your team?

Charles: Well, it’s a fairly sort of traditional story if you like. We were very lucky to have the family holiday over to Florida as many families do and mum and dad were really keen for us to go and watch and sample a game of American football. Now I would have been nine, ten at the time and we were staying in Tampa, so we went down to see the Bucks. Now, little did I know at the time, it was a preseason game and they were playing against Atlanta, the old Houlahan stadium. We all got the orange shirts and stuff and went down the way that can be used to have their shirts. Which I still love. But anyway, we went down and honest to God, I’d never seen sport like it. I was a sporty kid, loved football looked cricket, rugby, you name it. But I’d never seen or had an experience like this. 

I was from Bolton, so that the biggest stadium I’d seen was Burnden Park at the time. Now then, and that held probably, I don’t know, 20,000 or something like that. Now you go to Houlahan stadium and the shape of it where it was almost like the velodrome in Marseille where it rose and fell in sort of crests and troughs. And I’d never seen something as enormous as that. So that blew my mind. 76,000 seat stadium and it was all open. There were no covers. I’ve never been to an uncovered stadium before, apart from Creaky Grounds. So it was mind boggling the size of this and then what it all started, didn’t know what was going on. There were some helpful locals who sort of gave us an idea. But the classic sort of razzmatazz the cheerleaders, the helmets, the logos on the side, the music that was playing and all of that. I’d never seen sport done in that way and I was hooked, absolutely hooked. And like any kid of that era you watched sport on telly whether it was sneaker or bowls or dance or football or whatever it was. 

Then it started coming on channel four, Nikki Hall and everybody will remember who are of a certain age watching the American football on channel four and I was gripped, absolutely gripped. So that is why the Bucks are my team for better or worse. Goodness me, I wish mom and dad had taken a holiday to Green Bay but yeah that is how it all started and it was only something small but it grabbed me and I’ve never ever let go since. It’s been fantastic watching it, covering it and being sort of part of it as a fanboy. That’s all I am just a massive fan boy of the game. And that was the moment that it sort of got its hooks stuck into me and that’s from there on in.

Liz: On a Tampa Bay Bucks front, is there a quarterback you would not want at the Buccaneers?

Charles: Sorry. Is there a quarterback I wouldn’t want?

Liz: Yes.

Charles: God yes.Go away, go away. 37 touchdowns people keep telling me, well, 30 touchdowns and seven pick sixes. So is there a quarterback I wouldn’t want? Well, look, I’m a terrible fan. I love them but I hate them at the same time, I’m so pessimistic. It’s unusual. I love us because of their the underdog and they’ve not got a great deal of cash and that punching above their weights and you still get behind that and no one likes us and we don’t play attractive football. Now the Bucks, I believe have got a hugely talented roster. I would take a Joe Flacco or a Derek Carr or even as far as Fitzpatrick over Jamies personally because the blood pressure that rises when watching the books, people say, oh, they’re brilliant to watch. They’re really entertaining. Yeah. Well, if you’re a fan, I draw there was winning 24, 12, than lose 53, 46. As talented as they go. I believe they’ve got the best receiving goal in the entire league. I really do. We’ve got Godwin on one side. You got Ebens on the other, you got OJ Howard, you’ve got Cameron, I think that is a serious arsenal of weapons. Any quarterback, it’s just the quarterback can’t find them or when they do find them, fine, fantastic but he’s thrown three picks at the stage. 

Look, Jamis is young still, but after five years you would have expected much, much more and much more progression and not for him to be making the mistakes he does. I could be hugely wrong, but I think there is or there are better options for that particular system and who would I want, some of the drafted, a couple of mock drafts have got us taking one of the youngsters coming out of college. They could try that route or find themselves. A few us talked about Phillip Rivers coming over from Los Angeles. Goodness man, I’d have him in a heartbeat, I really would. Especially with the Bruce Arians there as well who worked wonders with Coulson Palmer went over in Arizona. So you know what, a lot of Buck fans may disagree, I’m sure quite a lot do agree. But the amount of roller coaster that you go through being a Bucks fan at this moment is one that needs to be calmed down a little bit and we need a proper leader on the center, I believe.

Liz: So to you it’s anyone but Jameis?

Charles: Yes, it really is. I’ll have a go if they want, I’ve got a funny feeling I might find our rather than theirs a bit marvelling but yeah that is our biggest cause of concern. It really is. Yes, we need 4,000 quarterbacks because our secondary is awful. But yeah, I think you’ve got to address who is going to lead the side next year. And if you’re going to go with Jameis, I would franchise him see if he does progress for the next year or draft a youngster and maybe get a veteran free agent. But with a talented roster and I genuinely believe that they do have one. I would be looking at the quarterback position first and foremost.

Liz: Now for as long as you’ve been watching the game, do you think that the standard of quarterback in the NFL has ever been higher than it is now?

Charles: No, I really don’t. You look at the stats, you go back to some of the old quarterbacks who won multiple Super bowls and you look at the Terry Bradshaw’s and all of that. You look at that stance in comparison to those of today and they are chalk and cheese. They really are in completion presented years and the ratings that they’ve got; there are a lot of quarterbacks in the hall of fame. We’ve got sort of average numbers when you compare them to today. I agree with you, I don’t think it has been any higher. When you see the excitement that we’ve seen from some of the youngsters. I even throw in people like Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Jimmy Garappolo, Patrick Mahomes is the one. You look at him and Lamar Jackson and all of these youngsters who are just fantastic to watch and then you still got your experience of Brady and Rivers and Aaron Rogers. I mean, I would pay money just to watch Aaron Rogers. I think he is the complete player. 

Drew Brees, another one but Rogers for me is the ultimate player at that position, everyone has got their different opinions, but I think the excitement levels of what these guys can produce, their athleticism, their arm strength they are dynamic players, which is great for the league. It really is, it captures people’s imaginations. I especially think this year with Maholmes and Lamar Jackson. I used to hate watching Baltimore, god they were boring and you churning out the run and it’s all very good, but Joe Flacco throwing 70 odd outs. It wasn’t my idea of sensational, sexy American football. Lamar has given them a different dimension. When they’re on the telly I can’t wait to watch them and that’s the feeling you kind of want to get. I’m not saying that I’m offense only I do love the defensive tussle but there are these players that are on the telly this weekend, brilliant, can’t wait to watch. 

I agree with you, I think the standard is so high at the moment and it’s brilliant for everybody, for those coming ins again and we get our information now, I’m probably going off course a little bit, but we get our information so immediately and through social media, which is the way now and a variety of different channels that you can get your information. Someone does something brilliant and mind-blowing and it’s already out there in a 15, 20 second clip. If you’re a kid watching that, all sports are doing it. But if you’re a kid watching that and go, wow, look at what this guy has just done, I’m going to watch that and it grabs your attention and it grabs a potential new fan from somewhere. So I think that is the way that these guys are playing. I think that is good for the game.

Liz: Yeah, definitely. I guess when you look at things from like a commentating point of view, how different is it commentating on an NFL game to a cricket game?

Charles: That’s a really good question and people might think that it’s night and day, the difference and it’s really not. The reason is the rhythm of the game in that I give you an example. So in cricket bowler comes up, bowls his ball and something happens and then there’s 30 seconds of nothing until he bowls his next ball. Well, in American football, the rhythm is not too dissimilar apart from if you’re in a two minute, four minute drill; you’ve got seven seconds of action and then you’ve got 30 seconds until the next play. So the rhythm of it is actually quite similar. The length of games, if I’m doing a 20/20 game, it last three hours, if I’m doing a NFL game it last three hours. So there are obvious differences, terminology is one.

I remember doing a game and it was just after cricket season. I had done some cricket quite recently and I went and did a Wembley game and I called the sideline, the boundary. I was tiptoeing along the boundary, no it’s not it’s a sideline. The terminology, of course, with the amount of cricket that I do you can get sort of caught in between, that does happen. But the rhythm of the game is not too dissimilar. I’ve not done huge amount of NFL commentary, if someone could wave a magic wand that’s what I would be doing because I love the game. Cricket is my job, I adore cricket but everyone’s got sort of dreams and goals and it was a dream to play professional cricket. I did that and dreamed to be on TMS and Sky Ride. I’ve done that and what’s the next thing and kind of thing? So, commentate day in day out on American football, wouldn’t that be brilliant? That would be amazing. Whether you’re good enough to do it, who knows? But the difference is our terminology and obviously the amount of players around the ball, it’s a lot more distanced when doing cricket, but the rhythm of the game is actually pretty similar. 

Liz: I see you watch a lot of NFL; do you have any favourite commentators over in the US?

Charles: Oh yeah, lots. I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to commentary and I study commentators to try and improve myself basically, I listened to how they do things, how they explain things, little bits of detail that they give you without you realising it, their techniques and styles and see if I can actually adapt it to my own. I think as a commentator I think everyone should do this and that’s trying to make yourself better. You’re always striving to improve and no one ever, I believe you, has got it. You can strive to continue to improve. I’ll give you an example, on test match special this is an iconic program and similarly with sky sports cricket, which has become over the last 20, 25 years, there are big shoes that you’ve got to fill. You’re never good enough. You’re never good enough after the guys that are gone and the ghosts of their voices continue to sort of not haunt you as such, but it’s the standard that you try and strive to hit. So by listening to other people, I think you get better and better.

They are good for a reason and to steal techniques that they use and to add those bits to your commentary, I think is something that all commentators should do. I don’t just listen to the sports I like. No, I listen to football commentators, one of the best commentators in the country I believe, this guy called John Hunt. Now he commentates on horse racing for Five Live. He’s an absolutely staggering commentator. He’s fabulous. I’m no horse racing fan but watching or listening to him it just shows you what can be done given that particular circumstance. So listening to NFL, I genuinely believe, I mean, I listened to a lot of Pat Summerall and I saw a lot of, weirdly, I saw a lot of Richard Banno in Pat Summerall where his motto of only say something when you can answer the pictures I think was very much something that Pat Summerall actually used.

Obviously he was with John Madden for so many years, and they were a partnership, which worked fantastically well. I still believe the best commentator in the NFL is Al Michaels by an absolute stretch. The partners that he’s worked with in the past, I think he has a lovely way about him. It’s relaxed and he’s obviously well-researched and knowledgeable. There is humor there. He talks to you. He doesn’t shout at you and that’s another key thing. He does use his voice fantastically well. I think Marv Albert’s a brilliant commentator. I’ll tell you who I do think he’s great as well, Ion Eagle. He’s an excellent commentator and underrated. He doesn’t get the huge games but him and Dan Fouts do a lot of stuff together, I think I’m right in saying, and I love those two as a partnership. I think they are brilliant and they really add to the commentators. 

Look, there is someone who I don’t think is as good and I don’t think it’s fair to say on that, I don’t like speaking ill of anybody, but everybody has their favourites. Look when I’m commentating people don’t like what I do. Hopefully the majority of people think, but that’s just the nature of it. That’s the nature of the business. But Al Michaels, Ion Eagle, obviously Jim Nance I think and Tony Romo have invigorated a partnership with Romo coming in. So yeah, I think they’re very good but I think Al Michael’s really, you’re talking and I think he is the ultimate NFL commentator. Just really listen to how he describes the game and moreover when he doesn’t speak as to when he does and I think he’s fabulous.

Liz: You’ve covered NFL and you previously hosted alongside Neil Reynolds on the Inside the Hall podcast. Would you be up for doing something like that again? Like your own podcast or something or do you prefer more just enjoying NFL from like a fan perspective?

Charles: Oh, it’s a really good question. I loved doing the NFL with Neil, we had such a giggle and we got on really, really well. I heard what it said on your podcast and he is an absolute beauty. I don’t think there are many nicer blokes and I listen to what he said about getting grief from NFL fans as though everything’s his fault. I read the same things that you read on social media and you’re like, come on, give the guy or break but because he is the focal point for most people in the UK, that sort of comes with the territory. I adore the bloke. I loved it when we did it for about a year. We had a good giggle. I remember actually doing one; we had to record one and he was in the studio and I was actually working on local radio as well as doing CMS at the time. I was in a studio in Lester and he was in London or wherever. But I remember when the summer hit and we did some, I was all over the show, so I did; I remember doing one John Paul Getty’s state in Buckinghamshire and we managed to get broadcast line. I think I was doing, yeah, I was doing some game, I can’t remember what it was, but this opulent, beautiful part of the country. There were red kites flying in the forest and this was where the Vicar of Dibley was filmed and this great game was going on and me and Neil are shooting the breeze about NFL.

He’s in the studio and I am in this country estate, Land rovers are high and all that sort of stuff. It was really, really funny, but I loved it and I really enjoyed working with him and I heard that can I just state for the record, the question that you asked last week off him was not planted by me whatsoever. I will say if that would ever come to pass, I would be hugely delighted. That would be a dream to go and do NFL with him on a Sunday sky. Because it would be fun and we all love the game. I think anyone would be remiss if they didn’t get an opportunity like that, not to take it. But I don’t foresee it. I did get to go on Five Live for a season and a half I think it was. Loved doing that had some great guests. It was but we made it sound bigger than it was and I really enjoyed it. But weirdly, because I was presenting it I didn’t actually get to see a lot of the games because other things where we’re going on at the time.

We had to make sure that there were no adverts and going out to him on the BBC and so we had to back time things a lot and that meant keeping an eye on what was going on from that regard, the radio side of it. And actually I was missing a lot of the game that was going on, all the games that were going on. So as enjoyable as it was to broadcast it, I didn’t feel like that season I actually got my fill weirdly of American football. So yeah, look I’m a commentator. I love being at the games. I look describing them to people. That’s what I do and that’s what I love doing. But teaming up with Neil again that  would be a good giggle. I think we got on well and have a good laugh and I think that’s what people want. They want to enjoy the NFL to see that we’re enjoying it too and to be entertained. 

Liz: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s one of the things that everyone loves about the BBC show with a Osi, Jason and Mark they are just really good light comradely effortlessly. 

Charles: They do. It’s such a good program because, and Chappers, I believe is one of the top three sports presenters in the country. He asks; he never fails to ask the question that the majority of people are thinking about it. It expands also such a diverse population of the NFL fan. I think the expert can enjoy the show as well as the rookie. 

Liz: Yeah. 

Charles: And they pitched it absolutely perfectly; two great personalities are Osi and Jason alongside a superb presenter in Chappers. So I think that has done a lot to the game in the UK, just that program itself. 

Liz: Yeah, definitely and the perfect timing as well, is it straight on after the match of the day?

Charles: I think so. Yeah. Absolutely. But also with high players and catch up and all of that, you can get fix and your fill of it whenever you like. 

Liz: Which is perfect isn’t it? 

Charles: Yeah, totally brings it to a much wider audience as well. 

Liz: Yeah. Now, after last year’s Super Bowl, I remember that you were eagerly anticipate in the new season kicking off again in September,  this time around do you plan on filling the gap by looking at other leagues such as like the XFL or CFL when that starts?

Charles: No, I’m afraid and I’ll tell you for why, I’m busy in the summer. The summer is where I reap what I sow basically and it’s a crazy season and I’m lucky that as soon as that crazy season finishes NFL season starts. A lot of people try and sort of give off the impression that they know more than they do. I hope I never do that. In that I know a decent amount. I’m not an expert, I’m a fan. There are people; my role in the NFL in that respect from a broadcasting capacity is to find out what the experts know. I know a certain amount. I know more than some and less than others and when it comes to the draft and I’m glued to the draw for all three days, am I glued to the combine? No, I get little bits, then I’ll see it on social media and that sort of thing and I make a note to sort of keep an eye and always find out who the quarterbacks are. 

Probably the first round, I’ll know three quarters of the names and what they’ve probably done, but when it comes to round two and three I don’t know what they’ve done in their college careers and so I like learning about them. That’s why the draft is such good coverage because it gives you an opinion, it gives you statistics, when someone gets selected, it gives me everything I need to know for where they’re going and how are they going to fit and the roles that they’re going to play. I’m not going to say that I know about college ball. I like watching it when it’s on and I’ve got a night where I’ve got free remote control, that’s amazing when that’s on. I don’t really go in for the XFL or the CFL and maybe I should but time is of the essence really because the great season is a long season, there’s a long winter of cricket that I’ve got to keep across anyway. So I do what I can but I’ve only got so much capacity and some would say I’ve got very limited one at that. 

So not really but my contact will start at free agency signings and then onto the draft and then I’ll watch a teeny tiny bit of pre-season. But really I’ll keep across things, listen to the old podcast here and there when I’m driving up the roads way from cricket ground to cricket ground I don’t know if that. There’s quite often I’ll download podcasts and listen. But but yeah the cricket season starts and I’m pretty busy.

Liz: Yup, that’s fair enough. Before I let you go, I understand you’re organising a charity concert at the moment, why don’t you tell our listeners all about that.

Charles: Right. Well, first off they should come because we’re going to rock their world if they do. Look, this is; thank you for asking me about this. So again, I didn’t plant it. So say this is your question. Basically, I come from a family of musicians. My brother is a session drummer and my other brother is a bass player. My sister is a pianist and I was the odd one out. I was sport boy and so it’s taken a little while for me to sort of get on the horse of playing an instrument and now I’ve started. I’m doing it actually with targets, doing my grades and all of that number and I play bass. The family doesn’t need another bass player because of my two brothers.

So my brother who’s a session musician, John he’s a session drummer, but there’s also a ridiculous bass player, guitarist and keyboard player. It’s one of those blokes that you hate, he can basically walk into a room and can entertain people and I can’t so that makes me insanely jealous. My eldest brother is a bass player and he’s played in a variety of different rock bands here, there, and everywhere throughout his life. My brother John’s brother-in-law is actually the bass player for queen now and he is one of the best in the world, he is absolutely insane. So I thought, do you know what, I’m going to get off my backside and learn an instrument. So I’m up to; I’ll be giving my grade four later on this summer. But me and fellow commentator Henry Miranda from test match special. He’s a very, very talented guitarist. He’s a proper shredder. And we thought, why don’t we get on stage? Why don’t we just do it? Instead of looking around in hotel rooms around the country, taking our little guitars with us and jamming, why don’t we get on stage? And so he went oh alright well let’s do it. 

Anyway, it was going to be sort of like, oh, let’s do it in a pub. And then we thought, well, no, we can’t do that because we want to go all in. We want to go pure spinal tap and westbound acts and play rock. So it spiralled into this enormous thing that we’re doing. The hundred club in Oxford Street in London and this is the venue that’s hosted like some of the greatest acts of all time from the Stones to Alice Cooper to Jack Leopard to Louis Armstrong and for some unforeseen reason, God forsaken reason, they’ve let us play. I don’t know if they know what they’ve let themselves in for. So what we said is we just want to get on stage and have a great night of entertaining people rocking, playing some proper eighties hair rock. A bit of Van Halen, a bit of Kiss, a bit of Rainbow, that sort of stuff. But we also thought we don’t want to make any money but we could make some money for charity. So we’ve decided that the tickets, every single penny of the ticket sales will go to teenage cancer which is of course, very close to us and we wanted to raise some money for them. 

Look some people run marathons. I’ve got an arthritic left knee and I can’t do that. So we’ve got to go and rock to raise money instead, but no one’s making any money out of it whatsoever. We’ve got a sponsor under the posts and events company who are putting the money up. So that’s brilliant and every penny from ticket sales, they are 30 pounds a ticket, it all goes, every single penny goes to teenage cancer and we’ve luckily got, thanks to my brother, he’s coming down to drum for us, so we’ve got someone ridiculous on drums. He is also bringing a keyboard player and then another guitarist. So our backing band who we’ve named the Flying Love Leopards they are seriously good. So we’re going to sound pretty good, I think. We’ve got to sing. That’s one little hurdle that we’ve got to get over. But we’ve also got some guests coming. We can’t tell you who they are, but we’ve got some guests coming to play with us as well and we’re going to have a great night. It’s going to be a brilliant night. 

There are 300 tickets available. We’ve sold about a third of them. It’s on July the 31st. So the Friday of the Lord’s Test. We’re going to be rocking in London and if anybody wants to come, we’d love them to come because you’ll have a really good time that I will guarantee you if you can survive one or two bum notes here and there then I think you’ll be all right. But we’re going all in. I’m having some boots especially made it will be spandex and proper. Yeah, we’re doing it properly. Lights and all of that and we’re going to have a good giggle. So it’ll be worthwhile even if it’s to see two cricket commentators make fools of themselves on stage. It should be good fun. So if you want tickets go to a site called,, look for daggers. If you put daggers in there you’ll find our link and if you want to buy some tickets, then A, it’d be great to see you and B, you’re raising money for brilliant cause. So it should be a good laugh. But suffice to say that we are properly nervous about it and we’re still six months away. 

Liz: Oh, it sounds amazing though. 

Charles: It’s good fun. You’ve got your tickets?

Liz: I need to buy one. I am definitely available so I will go buy them.

Charles: Go buy them. This isfor me coming on your podcast and in return you’ve got to buy two tickets and bring someone along. 

Liz: That’s pretty fair. That’s fair. I’ll bring the husband that’s fine. 

Charles: There you go. I hope you let him know what he’s letting himself in for though. 

Liz: I will do don’t worry. Charles, it’s been great having you on the show. Thank you so much for joining us. 

Charles: Absolute pleasure. Anytime. 

Liz: Thank you. Take care.

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