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Colemanballs is a term coined by Private Eye magazine to describe verbal gaffes perpetrated by (usually British) sports commentators.[1] It is derived from the surname of the now retired BBC broadcaster David Coleman and the suffix -balls, as in "to balls up",[1][2] and has since spawned derivative terms in unrelated fields such as "Warballs" (spurious references to the September 11, 2001 attacks) and "Dianaballs" (sentimental references to Diana, Princess of Wales). Any other subject can be covered, as long as it is appropriately suffixed by -balls.[1] The all-encompassing term "mediaballs" has since been used by Private Eye as their coverage of gaffes has expanded.[3]



The term "balls" was first associated with Coleman in 1957 when he was at BBC Midlands, Sutton Coldfield, presenting a Saturday night 15-minute roundup of the day's football in the Midlands. A technical hitch occurred and there was a black-out, but Coleman could be heard calling out to the technician in the studio, "Trust you to make a balls of that." Coleman's association with these verbal slips is so strong that he is often given erroneous credit for the earliest example specifically referenced as a Colemanball;[1] in fact the broadcaster responsible was fellow BBC commentator Ron Pickering.[4][5] At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal Pickering commentated on a race involving Cuban double-gold medallist Alberto Juantorena, whose muscular build and nine-foot stride contributed to his nickname El Caballo (the horse).[6] Pickering said "and there goes Juantorena down the back straight, opening his legs and showing his class."[4]

Another regular contributor to the section until his retirement was motor racing commentator Murray Walker. His excitable delivery led to so many mistakes that they began to be labelled "Murrayisms".[1] Examples include "We've had cars going off left, right and centre", "do my eyes deceive me, or is Senna's Lotus sounding rough?", and "with half of the race gone, there is half of the race still to go." However, only Walker himself could utter a Murrayism, while Colemanballs remained the more generic term attributable to any commentator.

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