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If you watched the BBC's self-congratulatory promotion event, otherwise known as Sports Personality Of The Year, you might have noticed a lack of footballers. Well, Michael Owen was there, sitting on the bench (or front row as it's called in a theatre) presumably hoping to come on for the last three minutes. And naturally, there was The Sainted Becky. Apparently, before He ascended to Heaven in a fiery chariot, He used to play football. He made a visitation from His palace in the sky, but actual genuine footballers were thin on the ground.
This is not unusual. Footballers rarely win this television wonkathon unless they have been seen crying in public - crying shows you are human and not a robot, or if you are a robot you're a very advanced one and should be celebrated.
We have to admit to finding the whole SPOTY thing a bunch of crapola, dude and we've been watching them since we were small. What are we voting for again? Personality? So you can win it if you have a great personality then? That's the qualification, is it? No, it's bloody not. Personality has nothing to do with it; we know this because Damon Hill and Michael Owen and Princess bloody Anne have won it in the past.
That being said, at least these people were the choices of the lumpen masses. Such freedom is no longer available. Now the final 12 upon which the filthy public are allowed to vote is determined by a panel of media and journo types. Up yours, Joe Public.
Personally, unless the BBC's Head Of Sport (Philip Bernie, in case you're having trouble remembering) had an input, we wouldn't trust them to get it right, would you? And the fact that The Sun and the Daily Mail sports editors had a hand in the final list of 12 really gives the whole thing a sense of moral authority, doesn't it? So much better than giving the public a free vote.
The BBC couldn't let that happen. We don't know why. They won't tell us. We assume it's a default stateist mentality which forever wants to play at nanny and which mistrusts the public, especially if they're working class and wear sports clothing in the house and drink Carlsberg Special; good god Tim, have they never heard of linen or the pleasure of a fine Hungarian Tokaji?
The programme itself stretches back to 1954 when it was won by A Chap (Christopher Chattaway) and was held at The Savoy. The audience could smoke and drink. This sounds much more classy than packing people into a faceless enormodone.
Back in the 70s you could actually vote for who the feck you wanted. There'd be a little form in the Radio Times you could fill out. Obviously, only people lacking in social stimulation or without any fluff to pick from their navels bothered to fill it out and send it in. Because, really, who cares? And that's the problem, isn't it?
The BBC have invented a show and so they trumpet it loudly, as though it matters, but it doesn't and it never has. Now they spend a lot more money on it so they have to pretend it matters even more, but it still doesn't. No athlete is thinking as they cross the finishing line, 'oh great, I can talk to Gary Lineker for 30 seconds about this moment in December'.
One basic problem is, ironically enough, most sports people often don't have personalities, especially in the modern era where so-called professionalism has ironed out anyone who doesn't walk the line. Indeed, to be a world champ at anything, you have to be so focused, so single-minded and dedicated that it precludes anyone with a restless mind or a breadth of interests in life. This isn't a bad thing. We don't wish to decry sports people for this quality but neither do we want to build a TV extravaganza at public expense around them, especially not one based on a predetermined list of people.
As a television event, all too often it is clunky and awkward. This year, the winner Bradley Wiggins, fortunately does have a some semblance of a personality and was dressed as though he was in the The Small Faces in 1966, which we like a lot. But surely, El Wiggo had already been feted by the public this year, especially at the Olympics. He rang that bloody big bell and was cheered to the rafters through the streets of London. While we are sure you can never be told too many times how great people think you are, we're not convinced that the BBC should really paying out our money to hire the ExCel Centre to blow more smoke up his (admittedly muscular and well-defined) arse.
The only real attraction of this event is the sporting clips. Brilliant stuff. And expertly delivered by the BBC too, though their slow-motion action while someone reads poetry thing - once new and interesting - is starting to grate. A sports clips TV show is great. They don't need to hang some spurious vote around it and trumpet it as though this is THE BIGGEST THING EVER. It's not. It's just some puffed-up TV fluff.
If there was a downside to this great year of sport, it was the raft of opinions from people who didn't like football in the first place unfavourably comparing your Suarezs and your JTS to lovely Jess, Mo and Brad. The mood of public opinion certainly turned away from the practitioners of our national sport in 2012, and this was reflected by the almost complete absence of footballers in the SPOTY back-slap. It will be most interesting to see if this distaste for muddy ball-kicking and lapdancer-molesting oiks continues into 2013, or whether the British sporting mood of 2012 was merely an Olympic bubble.
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
Give the gift of Tyers this Christmas - especially to people you don't like.
Read Johnny's book, 'The Meat Fix' here