For myself and others in the geekier sub-demographic of an already number-oriented, engineering-focussed geeky sport, there is another medium for first encounters with Murray Walker — gaming.
Televised sport wasn't a staple in the Kimberley household during my childhood, aside from the annual Tim Henman Wimbledon disappointments and England's biennial failures in international football competitions.
Jacques Villeneuve opted not to allow the game to use his name, causing Walker and publishers Psygnosis to navigate the IP issue by referring to him as 'Driverone Williams' in text and 'The Canadian' or 'Williams Numberone' in commentary.
Perhaps it was the lack of a real name and photograph in the in-game driver-selection screen as an obvious proxy for myself, or maybe I just found Williams to have the best car; Driverone Williams was always my go-to choice for Grand Prix mode, and I soon virtually embodied 'The Canadian', as Walker called me.
The soundbites, still stored in the annals of my memory, of Murray Walker narrating my PlayStation progression were the beginnings of my Formula 1 education:
"This young man had a fantastic first year last year, giving his teammate Damon Hill a real run for his money," explained Walker, letting me know about Villeneuve's real-life rookie 1996 season during a race's quieter points, which I had no idea of back then.
Some were more general, like: "This will mean all-important championship points!" exclaimed anytime I'd reach the top-six places, teaching me all about the point-scoring positions.
Murray in full flow!
At one time, I would've known all the intro lines to the Australian GP, with it being the season-opening race and my Max Verstappen-esque desire to restart career mode whenever I lost a race!
Walker would detail: "Welcome to Albert Park, here in Melbourne, for the Australian Grand Prix.
"The circuit itself is set in the middle of this beautiful park..." at which point, the loading time would've ended, and I could skip to the action!
Who would've guessed I'd visit that beautiful park some 23 years later, driving the real-life counterparts of those polygon streets, showing how life-changing this game still is.
School time with Murray
Murray Walker's "It's the penultimate lap!" line even taught me the meaning of penultimate, far before I encountered it outside this gaming world.
Even my mum couldn't escape the Walker wisdom, jokingly learning Gerhard Berger's name as "Geez a hard burger" when Walker sporadically read through the race order.
Many racing games came before Formula 1 97, but Murray Walker made it greater than the sum of its parts by turning his boundless energy into an experience unlike anything else available for anyone at the time.
Like many, I loved every lap of that game, each Murray Walker moment — and every instance of Martin Brundle's half-hearted "You're right there, Murray" line.
But I wasn't the target audience upon my purchase, although that soon changed.
Murray Walker's commentary teachings soon made me want more Formula 1, leading to me using VideoPlus to record the actual Grands Prix on VHS, where I had non-pre-recorded commentary to guide me through a race.
As I reflect back, what stands out to me now is how you couldn't tell the difference between Walker's enthusiasm when commentating on a real race or where I, Driverone Williams, competed — that's how amazing he was.
Murray Walker was and remains an icon of our sport and will always be the one who originally guided me, and no doubt others in my geeky peer group, to a lifelong obsession.
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