What does someone who makes a living in the world of professional sports do when sporting events are suspended due to a pandemic? If you’re BBC sports commentator Andrew Cotter, reach out to your dog labs Olive and Mabel to distract yourself, make short videos telling your everyday life, and then share the videos online … and see what you do thought was a slightly amusing “bit of fun” blowing up the internet.
You’re also writing a book, Olive, Mabel & Me: Life and Adventure With Two Very Good Dogs, which has just been published. So we wanted to learn more from the “I” Andrew Cotter.
Bark: How did you get into sports broadcasting? And do you tell other events in your or your wife’s daily life?
Andrew Cotter: I fell into the job of sports broadcasting more like many people just fall into their job. I can’t say that from a young age I dreamed of being a sports broadcaster. But since my university degree didn’t qualify me for absolutely anything, it seemed like the best option available. I love language and sports, so it was a natural combination. And no, I can safely say that I don’t go around telling everyday occurrences as it would be extraordinarily strange. But then I talk to my dogs, so maybe I’ll fall into this camp.
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B: Dogs seem a given for your type of narrative. Why do you think this is?
AC: Because they are such ignorant victims. They don’t know I am adding comments – they just act naturally and do normal canine things. When we add our human situations to their innocence, the coexistence is just plain funny. Plus, dogs just make you laugh, even without additional comment.
B: How do you choose the tone you want to record your commentary in?
AC: I think the first, “The Dog’s Breakfast”, would be more like rugby or athletics [track and field] … Fast-paced action that requires a certain type of commentary. But the second, Game of Bones, was definitely inspired by golf commentary, the soft, whispered drama.
B: Were some episodes harder to tie than others?
AC: The first three videos were dogs that were dogs and it was great fun then taking them to a Zoom meeting or letting Mabel fall victim to an internet scam or Olive doing online dating. I really enjoyed them all, but if you just leave the dogs behind as dogs, filming gets a lot harder, and it’s harder to come up with ideas too. Sometimes dogs that are just dogs offer far better choreography than anything else.
B: Why do you think your work has become such an internet sensation?
AC: I think it was certainly the very strange situation we all had this year. At the time of the first videos, we were online and trapped on social media, wondering what on earth was going on. There was a collective feeling that we were all together just looking for something to laugh about when there wasn’t much else that was funny. People will always find something to laugh about, even in the darkest of times – I think it’s our greatest defense mechanism. On top of that, dogs have been involved and you have all the ingredients for viral success.
But yes, the response has been overwhelming and absolutely positive, which was both wonderful and remarkable. All of the comments were nice, but some really stood out: a woman emailed me that her sister had just started cancer treatment and that the videos had made a real difference for her in a terrible time. That’s why we sent her a special message. In fact, there has been any number of messages along these lines, and I realized that even something so stupid and trivial can make a real difference. All of a sudden, I was shown the positive side of social media.
B: I love your phrase “people of dogs”. How do you think we are different from the set without dogs?
AC: I often think that adults who don’t have or don’t like dogs just weren’t introduced to them as teenagers, but that may not always be the case. But I am sure that everyone who loves dogs has something good and friendly about them because we want to take care of a creature, love it, and let it love us for it.
B: Here in the US there has been a real surge in housing adoption during the pandemic. Was it the same in Great Britain?
AC: Yes, or at least there appear to have been large numbers of people who have had dogs. I hope many have been adopted instead of just being bought by a breeder because if something good could come out this year it would be nice to believe that a homeless dog has found a family to belong to.
B: Why do you think some dog people insist on thinking about (and talking to) their dogs like they are small, furry people? Do you think this is doing a disservice to dogs?
AC: I get it because I really want to bond with the dogs, but it’s not really for me. Perhaps they think seeing dogs this way increases them in terms of camaraderie and some may really need it based on the situation they are in. However, we need to remember that dogs are essentially still wolves and behave and behave accordingly. and need a little discipline and training every now and then. But when people treat their dogs well and keep them healthy, I think that’s the most important thing. You can talk to them however you want (just don’t dress them is my only request).
B: Any advice on treating dogs?
AC: As mentioned earlier, all dogs will occasionally do what they want when the ancient wolf overtakes them. As long as they are listening to you most of the time, the occasional misstep is fine. While I’m exaggerating my frustration with the videos a little, I get really angry with them on occasion – usually when it comes to eating enormous amounts of weed. It drives me crazy because I have to deal with the consequences.
B: What does the future of Cotter & Co. look like?
AC: There have been many offers to endorse all kinds of dog products, but – while Olive would have loved to join me with a few interested pet food companies – it’s just not my thing. There were also lots of deals on merchandise like calendars, mugs, t-shirts and so on. But it’s not for me I never wanted to be seen, Olive and Mabel treated as goods, so we’re not going to adhere to that line.
There was an offer for a theater tour; We were booked to show up at the London Palladium in November until restrictions meant it had to be canceled. And in the summer there was certainly interest from some producers for projects on TV, but I think if you don’t react quickly, the appetite will wane and I’ve been too busy with the book. But we will see.
B: You mentioned that you might consider getting a third dog in the near future. Is there something special you would look for in a new dog?
AC: Olive and Mabel have such different personalities that anywhere in between would be great. I just hope the newbie knows how to properly follow direction and learn lines. I can’t work with amateurs …