One of the ironies of the post-lockdown period – when proper live sports action is still so scarce – is that one tends to spend more time than ever seeking it out on the television.
For me it’s been something of a curate’s egg situation – “good in parts” – albeit that there have been a number of unexpected plusses along the way despite the ever-attendant in-stadium lack of crowd atmosphere.
I’ve enjoyed the three-match cricket Test series between England and the West Indies.
The empty ground aspect has been tempered by the fact that, if you’re a Number 9 batsman, I suspect that facing a fired-up paceman delivering balls at 90mph or above is pretty much the same experience, crowd or no crowd.
Furthermore, if I was a Test cricketer worth my salt, the fact that I was being watched by say a worldwide audience of a million or more would certainly not reduce my concentration and/or effort … whether real-life spectators were on hand or not.
After all, with one eye on the thought that a televised stellar performance with either bat or ball could easily prompt the arrival in the post of one of those highly-lucrative IPL contracts, you certainly wouldn’t find me coasting or holding back!
The other ever-present with cricket is that the quality of its broadcast presentation – in terms of on-field camerawork, official video-playbacks and technical gizmos, never mind the eternal joys of cricket commentary and punditry – is always consistently high. I’m by no stretch of the imagination a cricket fanatic but there’s little more satisfying than spending a day going about your normal business at home with televised coverage of a Test match on in the background.
In a similar fashion, I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday’s criss-crossing televised coverage of the final knockings of football’s Premier League season with the relevant matches all kicking off at 4.00pm.
All were being broadcast on different Sky Sports channels so the viewer had a choice. I watched Leicester City v Manchester United as my staple – not an all-time great spectacle by any means – and was equally entertained by the regular “breaking news” interruptions from elsewhere.
As it happened on Saturday night I also deliberately tuned in to the three-hour live coverage of Frank Warren’s professional boxing promotion, staged under sanitised conditions in a BT Sports studio.
This consisted of five bouts – none of them remotely surprising in outcome – culminating in a heavyweight clash between former Olympian and aspiring Brit contender Joe ’Juggernaut’ Joyce (now 11-and-Oh but with his 35th birthday not far off) and his German opponent Michael Wallisch which was short in duration and relatively brutal.
The best I can report is that it was certainly better fare than anything the other channels were offering in what in my day used to be called ‘peak time’.