Here’s a brief fly-by of my pick of the sporting issues and stories that caught my eye over the weekend:
Multi-gold medallist James Cracknell undoubtedly ranks as one of the all-time great British rowers, not only resembling a purpose-built Greek god but also possessing every champion’s additional necessary attribute (an unquenchable competitive spirit).
Since moving beyond his “sell-by” date as an Olympic athlete he’s struggled somewhat to find a purpose in post-sporting career life. He’s rowed the Atlantic with Ben Fogle; nearly got himself killed in a road accident attempting to cycle across America which left him with long-term mental issues that eventually caused the break-up of his marriage; took up with a lady nearly two decades younger than himself; went to Cambridge University and became the oldest (or nearly the oldest) man ever to win a blue in the Boat Race …
And has now joined the cast of Strictly Come Dancing as a celebrity guest.
I’m not a habitual view of the programme and frankly – apart from Anneka Rice – was not at all familiar with any of the supposed ‘celebrities’ involved, well except that funny podgy little chap who does sports reporting on the morning BBC’s Breakfast show.
And, of course, James Cracknell.
Sadly, Cracknell’s first ‘public’ outing on the Strictly dance floor stood out. It was a car-crash. From the very beginning of the show, whenever he featured, he looked like the proverbial fish out of water – not unlike a condemned man waiting to be interviewed by the chaplain before being take out to the execution yard. Or someone wishing he was somewhere – anywhere – but where he was right now.
His grisly fixed smile and uncomfortableness radiated over the airwaves. In the style of Eric Morecambe he somehow managed “to do all the right moves [well, to be honest, only some of them], but not necessarily in the right order”.
You know the expression “painting by numbers”?
This was dancing by numbers and – on a scale of 1 to 10 embarrassing – at least 12.
His professional partner flung herself about, seeking to disguise the obvious, viz. that Cracknell was sleep-walking through his routine like a shop window dummy … and only half-succeeding.
Someone, please get him out of there – for his own peace of mind, if not health and safety …
In the Premier League once again results coming from North-West teams are making the headlines. Liverpool are marching on; it seems that the only remarkable aspect of Manchester City’s eight-goal thrashing of Watford was that they didn’t notch double-figures; and – as for United – the alarm bells are now beginning to peal as their dismal run of results continues. Could it be that their board’s “eyebrow-raising” somewhat hasty decision to make Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s appointment permanent towards the end of last term is coming home to bite them?
Elsewhere, FIFA is currently trumpeting the recent statistical information supporting the contention that women’s football is making great strides – see here for a report by Suzanne Wrack that appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN
Although impressed by both the general quality of the games at the business end of this year’s Women’s World Cup – and indeed the general technical and conditioning developments that have also occurred in women’s rugby union and boxing over the past two decades – I’m afraid that in my personal (and perhaps un-PC) view all these improvements have served to achieve is to underscore the fact that male sport is “the ultimate” and that – simply from a viewing perspective – half the former attraction of watching female versions of traditional “male” sports was how different they were.
“Now that elite female sport is becoming little more than male sport played slightly less well, is it not becoming less interesting to watch? Discuss.”
With the Rugby World Cup at last off and running – it’s been a labour of Hercules on its own simply to leaf through the 16-page newspaper supplements of players, prospects and predictions – I shall leave it to our special correspondents to separate the wheat from the chaff.
For me, reviewing the ‘first games” so far played (Wales make their debut today) it’s almost impossible to which contenders have set out to “make a statement”, which ones are deploying deliberate “kidology” in efforts to wrong-foot their rivals and which are simply taking one game at a time “on the hoof” (and hoping). Fingers crossed there will be an “against the odds” surprise result soon because it’s the kind of thing that really sets a major tournament alight.
In a wider context, it seems the host nation has undoubtedly rolled out the welcome mat with aplomb and – as usual – those rugby fans making the trip have already turned the tournament into a festival of fun.