A month ago I took a decision of principle that, whilst acknowledging that it was inevitable I would be exposed to occasional media coverage of the Commonwealth Games from Glasgow, I would make a point of neither seeking it out nor setting my schedule by it.
In practice, of course, that laudable opening stand has been diluted … I would deny it has crumbled … as, day to day, the Beeb’s coverage on the BBC1, BBC2 and BBC3 channels has dominated the airwaves during the past week or so.
Against my high-minded aloofness, I have watched far more of the coverage than I planned and greatly enjoyed aspects of it – e.g. some of the ‘background’ profiles of Glasgow and specific athletes, some games and performances and indeed some post-event interviews – I have also fallen prey to some ‘gut instinct’ reactions which, on the face of it, fly in the face of 21st Century political correctness and which have left me feeling slightly uncomfortable with myself.
For example – in an intellectual sense – I can understand and accept the motivations behind including para-sport events in the overall able-bodied track and field extravaganza. It gives the para-sportsmen and women the laudable opportunity to perform in front of larger crowds, who indeed have proved noisy and encouraging in their support. It also presumably saves money, in the sense that doing so removes the need to mount, and/or incur the costs, of a para-sport version of the Games a week or so after the main one.
That said, simply as an onlooker and (if you like) prospective paying customer, para-sport does little to attract me – well, beyond the positive fact that it exists and that it has participants. For me it has echoes of Samuel Johnson’s comment in likening the spectacle of a woman preaching to that of a dog walking upon its hind legs – viz. it isn’t so much the fact it is done well, but that it is done at all.
I’m sorry, but I like watching sport at the highest possible elite level on my television, not any old version of any old sport.
They’d have about similar appeal to the average viewer, I’d venture to suggest …
For example, yesterday by chance I happened to watch the men’s and women’s heats in the wheelchair 1500 metres. The trouble is, once you’ve seen one lap of wheelchair contestants propelling themselves around a 400 metre athletics track, you’ve seen them all.
At the risk of incurring the wrath of do-gooders and those involved in promoting para-sport, I’m afraid that I just don’t want to watch it.
The BBC regularly announces that its viewers can watch coverage of other sports either on its website or via its ‘red button’. If they offered a ‘red button’ choice featured coverage without any para-sport included, I’d probably take it (not that I know how to get to ‘red button’ coverage via my cable system).
By the same token, I’ve come to some equally radical and potentially unpopular – some might say chauvinistic – opinions regarding female sport.
Dismiss me as a Neanderthal if you must but, generally-speaking, I don’t like to watch female sporting contests in which the development of male characteristics (e.g. physique and aggression) is the key to victory and success.
To go to the extremes in order to make my point, on a scale of 1 to 10, my appreciation and enjoyment of women’s rugby has an in-built ceiling of 5 … simply because I’d rather watch men playing rugby.
This view has got nothing to do with any historically-ingrained prejudice in favour of male rugby. It’s just that, in playing rugby, women are trying to imitate the speed, strength, power and physicality of the male version, which inherently they are never going to be able to match. It’s the Samuel Johnson (female preacher) syndrome again.
From my observations, the best female sprinters tend to have fewest curves and most resemble male sprinters in their body shapes. This is also why I generally don’t like watching female exponents of field sports like the discus, hammer and shot putt.
However, there are female sports that I thoroughly enjoy.
Mock me if you wish, but I am a big fan of netball and I always stop to marvel whenever I see female gymnasts doing any of the floor exercises, or working with large balls, hoola-hoops or those batons with lengths of ribbon attached. These activities come with a feminine sense of grace and sensitivity which the men just cannot match.
In my view, these are examples of female sport at its best.
[I am now going away in order to don my protective clothing, the better to prepare for the reaction of National Rust readers …]