The shortlist of ten nominees for BBC Sports Personality of The Year were exclusively announced on the BBC’s The One Show shortly after 7.00pm last night.
They are as follows:
Justin Rose (golf)
Hannah Cockcroft (paralympic cycling)
Chris Froome (cycling)
Leigh Halfpenny (rugby union)
Christine Ohuruogu (athletics)
Sir Ben Ainslie (sailing)
Ian Bell (cricket)
Mo Farah (athletics)
A.P. McCoy (National Hunt racing)
Andy Murray (tennis)
As night follows day, the fundamentally addictive, yet eternally frustrating, aspects of this annual award are the specified terms or criteria by which the jury (the great British public) are supposed to be judging the winner.
Best ‘nearly outstanding’ performance of the year after a very long career indeed at, or close to, the top of your chosen sport?
Best performance in the most popular sport in the country?
Best ‘token female’ of the year?
… or, God forbid, British sportsman or woman with the most attractive personality who may have played some sport or another in the past twelve months?
Already the lobby groups, pundits and bookmakers are making hay. The Womens’ Sport and Fitness Foundation is complaining that only two women have been nominated. The bookies have installed Andy Murray at 1/40 to win, for being the first Brit to annexe the Wimbledon men’s singles crown in seventy-seven years.
Chaps, chaps, chaps!
It’s just a personality contest, okay – and do please ‘get a life’!
The Sports Personality of the Year was first awarded by the BBC in 1954, originally on the back of a sporting look-back over the past twelve months, with the first winner (Roger Bannister) supposedly decided by consideration of which sportsman or woman had achieved the most that year.
The public vote factor has, of course, complicated things. If ‘outstanding sporting achievement’ was the sole criteria, if might, of course, be better if the winner was determined by a committee of sporting administrator and/or pundit greats and simply announced during a December BBC sports review of the year programme. But that would remove the PR value of announcing a nominations list, several weeks of speculation as to which sporting personality might be victorious, and indeed the proportion of additional viewers who tune in just out of curiosity, to see who wins on the night (20%? 25%?), wouldn’t it?
Also, allowing the public to vote can create absurdities.
Who can remember – I cannot, because I had to look it up – the debacle of 1991, when angler Bob Nudd was the runaway winner based solely – as the competition supposedly was – upon the number of votes cast. The BBC stepped in and spoiled it all by deciding that the fact that Angling Times had run a dedicated campaign on his behalf was ‘against the rules’ – they then awarded that year’s award to athlete Liz McColgan.
Hey ho. Allow me to set out my reactions to the nominees:
Hannah Cockcroft and Chris Froome won’t win because we did cycling last year (Bradley Wiggins) and anyway there’s all this Lance Armstrong/drug-taking business, isn’t there?
Christine Ohuruogu shouldn’t be allowed to win because, no matter what ‘golden girl’ personality she possesses and/or what she achieved in 2013, let alone any other year, we all know she’s technically a drugs cheat.
Sir Ben Ainslie won’t win because he did jolly well last year and all he did in 2013 was win a few races for the Yanks, which we didn’t even notice until about two-thirds of the way through because it was such a lost cause.
Justin Rose, Leigh Halfpenny and Ian Bell won’t win because their achievements weren’t particularly outstanding and anyway none of them have a personality.
In other words, it’s actually between Mo Farah, A.P. McCoy and Andy Murray. Mo drops out of contention because he already had an epic 2012 and all he did this year was run around an athletics track in similar fashion – and what’s so special about that?
And so – McCoy versus Murray. Effectively, this is a ‘lifetime achievement’ award (McCoy) against giving the crown to someone who’s achieved the absolute pinnacle of his sport and will never match it again, however long his career continues (Murray).
The surly kid with attitude gets it, surely.
But, let’s look on the bright side.
If, against all the odds, by any chance Scotland votes to go independent next September, he’ll never actually win BBC Sports Personality of The Year award again, e.g. out of end-of-career ‘sporting longevity’ sympathy, because – no longer belonging to part of the United Kingdom – he won’t be eligible.