Sports

The man who made soccer scores sound like music dies at 78

Every Saturday for forty years you could hear James Alexander Gordon — nicknamed JAG by his fans  — reciting scores over the British airwaves. On Monday, the man known as the immortal voice of British soccer died yesterday at 78.

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Gordon began reading the scores in 1973 on a whim.

“I just read the news at 4 o'clock," Gordon said, "and the presentation editor came in and said, 'James, limp over the sports room and read the classified football results.' Was I nervous? Not really nervous, I was excited at the prospect of being privileged to do this."

Nevertheless, JAG wasn't a great soccer fan. In fact, other than a little bit of golf, he wasn't much of a sports fan at all. What he did know was music, and that made him think about the musicality of reading the scores.

“The first game was Arsenal vs. Manchester United, I will always remember that," Gordon said. "And I thought, 'I wonder if I could do that differently than what everybody else had done.' And being musical, I thought I’d get a rhythm with it. It was as simple as that, really.”

From that point forward, reading the football scores became something like his own weekly symphony.

“He knew when to go up with the voice, down with the voice, and he just seemed to pitch it just right," says Jimmy Armfield, a former England captain who's now a BBC pundit. "He did it all with perfect enunciation."

JAG was indeed famous for his perfect enunciation. He didn’t even mess up when tongue twisting teams like East Fife and Forfar Athletic played one another. In fact, he always dreamed of being able to read out an especially rhythmic result: Forfar Athletic 5, East Fife 4

Sadly, Gordon never got to read out that score. He finally retired last year after being diagnosed with cancer and had to get surgery to remove his larynx. 

But for many Brits, both football and non-football fans alike, his voice will go down in history. In the words of soccer poet Crispin Thomas:

“I'm a fan of the man with the deep intonation

Radio Five is the home and the station.

Every single Saturday right across the nation,

not just a legend, he's a living sensation, 

James Alexander Gordon.”