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When sport disappoints

Sport is a life-enhancing part of life, or it ought to be. We spectators come to it every time expecting or hoping to be lifted out of our mundane existences and transported to a world in which magical things happens and we can marvel at the athletic skills of people more talented than ourselves.


There’s a well-worn pattern in life whereby, (sometimes after a long while without one) once we have formed a view upon a given subject, everything that happens thereafter tends to reinforce it.

Maybe I’m a particularly weak individual, but I have noted in my own case – where, for example, hitherto I haven’t yet decided (or even addressed) whether soccer player A is the right pick for England as a defender, somebody whose opinion I respect then tells me “No he isn’t – he’s hopeless dealing with the high ball …” I tend to adopt that view as my own … and only then begin noticing whether he is (or indeed isn’t).

Yesterday – quite by chance, after having lunch in the nearby park with my daughter and friends – I found myself dipping in and out television coverage of three sporting events: the track and field Sainsbury’s Diamond League Grand Prix meeting at Birmingham broadcast on BBC2; the second half of the Ireland v England friendly soccer match played in Dublin broadcast on ITV; and the first 20 laps of the Montreal Formula One Grand Prix broadcast by Sky Sports (in preference to watching it on BBC1).

Subsequently I then went to bed at my usual stupidly early hour … and then inevitably woke up again at an equally stupid early time, just after 0100 hours.

Whereupon these opinions rapidly came to me:

Although I know and accept that track and field is broadly supported by an honest, principled, well-meaning body of people of both genders and all ages who love the sport and give of their time willingly, such is my disgust at the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs by athletes around the world (and I exempt from this damning view all those who compete ‘clean’) that I didn’t remain watching the Diamond League meeting for longer than two brief visits to the coverage of less than five minutes each.

I just don’t believe in track and field anymore. I don’t believe that what is being presented to me as – for example – eight finalists supposedly running a 400 metres race which is to be decided exclusively by their individual efforts (measured ‘on a level playing field’) in seeking to be the first to  breast the finishing line, is actually that at all.

The second and third of my sports viewing early evening yesterday were both troubled by a similar affliction.

England’s friendly against Ireland stank the place (Dublin’s Aviva Stadium) out, as even ITV and its pundits were openly acknowledging by its end.

I’m old enough to have watched the 1966 World Cup Final ‘live’ on television, although from this distance I cannot recall a great deal about it, but – my lasting general impression of having watched innumerable England matches … whether friendly or competitive, whether one-offs or in European or World Cup tournaments … is of beholding highly-expensive English footballers tediously and endlessly passing the ball sideways and/or backwards amongst themselves and ‘walking’ through games, irrespective of whether they were/are playing the World Cup champions of the moment or San Marino, or indeed the Faroe Islands.

Personally I’m not a great fan of football, but it does seem to me that, whatever (club proven) dynamic qualities and creative brilliance causes them to be selected for their country in the first place, far too many players immediately morph into dull robots when they get picked for England. It has reached the stage where I would far rather watch a Premier League match than an England one. With the latter, you know that you’ll be watching 75 minutes minimum of possession walk-ball. In fact you’d be wasting precious amounts of your life …

The highly-contrived concoction that is Formula One motor racing – perhaps one of the most prestigious and biggest revenue-generating sports in the world – has been tinkering with its rules incessantly in an effort to maintain/improve its popular appeal ever since it was ‘invented’ by Bernie E.

Yesterday I had reason to telephone my brother shortly before the ‘build up’ coverage to the start of the Grand Prix was about to begin. In passing, after we had concluded the main business of the call – for no reason in particular, but given that he was once a fanatical fan of Formula One – I asked him whether he generally opted for the BBC’s live coverage or that of Sky Sports because I was about to make that choice myself.

To my surprise he responded that these days he never watched ‘live’ coverage of Formula One races – they were just too predictable and boring, essentially processions, thanks to the (okay, occasionally evolving) dominance of the biggest and wealthiest four teams. All elements of chance, strategy and tactics in the sport are deliberately injected to give the illusion that the competition between the drivers and teams to reach the finishing line first is genuine and real … when in fact quite the opposite is the case.

Having listened to my brother’s regretful logic, I then opted to watch the Sky Sports coverage of the Montreal Grand Prix – at least, until about lap 20 … when I switched elsewhere, made myself some supper and went to bed with a clear conscience.

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About Douglas Heath

Douglas Heath began his lifelong love affair with cricket as an 8 year-old schoolboy playing OWZAT? Whilst listening to a 160s Ashes series on the radio. He later became half-decent at doing John Arlott impressions and is a member of Middlesex County Cricket Club. He holds no truck at all with the T20 version on the game. More Posts