Monday, August 18, 2008

Giving My Sport A Bad Name

This blogger very rarely comments on anything that another TV reviewer have had to say. For some fairly obvious reasons; accusations of professional jealousy are easy things to sling around like so many javelins. And, you can have someone's eye out with one of them if you're not careful. However, every once in a while I stumble across a piece which makes my blood boil and which my sense of natural justice simply will not allow to pass without me saying something.

Kevin O'Sullivan in one of the Daily Mirror's TV reviewers. On most days, his bitchy paragraph-and-a-half comments on whatever brain-sludge it is that passes for 'entertainment' on ITV these days fly straight by me without so much as threatening to invade my consciousness. He's no Charlie Brooker or Caitlin Moran though, to be fair, he's not even a Gary Bushell, Ian Hyland or Alison Graham either. In fact, I'm actually struggling to think of something he's ever said in a previous review which I can even pass comment upon, such is the total lack of impact that his no doubt delicately conceived atom-bombs of incisive wit have on me. His is, frankly, wallpaper TV critique. That is, until this little gem appeared: 'While the BBC's vast army of anonymous commentators bubble with breathless excitement, the battle back in Britain is to stay conscious. Sure, Team sensation Tom Daley and his petulant partner Blake Aldridge came "eighth" in the synchronised diving. Translation: LAST. What's the most boring Olympic GB have won a few medals. But mostly we endure the traditionally tedious celebration of mediocrity. "That is absolutely the greatest British relay swim I have ever seen," screamed some overheated idiot. We were fourth. According to the insanely patriotic TV cheerleaders, teen sport? Canoeing, clay-pigeon shooting, cycling, archery... you decide. Face it, these dullsville minority events are about as gripping as a dead snail race.'

What a really funny man. That's a certain gold medal for Advanced Sarcasm (With Pike) for you there, Kevin. Incidentally kids, this is what Kevin looks like just in case you were wondering: Cor, he's a good looking lad isn't he, ladies? I'll bet you all think he's drop dead sexy. So, anyway Kevin, could you run this one by me again please because I'm a little bit confused? Tom Daley is fourteen years old. Fourteen. And he has already appeared in an Olympic final. So what the fuck, exactly, is your great contribution to society then? Apart, of course, from encouraging the country's youth to refrain from getting off their increasingly obese arses and joining their local athletics, swimming, cycling, or rowing clubs and, perhaps, becoming the next Rebecca Romero, Becky Adlington or Phillips Idowu, but to, instead, stay in their gaffs and watch The X-Factor. You steaming shower of hypocritical diarrhoea.

Lewis Smith is just eighteen. Yesterday, he won a bronze medal in gymnastics, Britain's first for one hundred  years. What, I have to wonder, were you doing when you were eighteen, Kevin? Sitting on the sofa stuffing bags full of crisps into your face, perhaps? That's what I was doing, I'll freely admit. Pure dead easy, wasn't it? No effort required whatsoever. The hardest thing you had to do all day was to walk to the fridge, or to pick up the remote control. You're a God damned inspiration to all of us fat, dead-before-our-time fortysomethings. You Da Man, Kev. I'm just wondering but, do you happen to kiss your own reflection before you go to bed? Just a wild stab in the dark there...

Of course, in some ways what made this thoroughly wretched and worthless louse of an individual's comments far funnier than they should have been under normal circumstances was the fact that his 'review' appeared in the newspaper on the very weekend that lots of young people (and lots of older people, for that matter) in Great Britain woke up, switched on their TV sets and discovered, hey whaddya know, there is stuff that goes on in this country which we're actually quite good at. That must have been a hell of a shock to them having spent most of their lives being convinced by wankers like this odious excuse for an onion that sport is far too much like hard work when you've got TV instead. But there you go - that's the emphatic nature of the Twenty First Century, I guess. Want, want, want. Want it all, want it now, heaven forbid I have to get out of my seat to get it.

The irony (which, Kevin, I can assure you isn't something your mum does with your shirts after she's washed them) was that O'Sullivan's own newspaper (if you can actually call the Mirror such a thing these days - which is probably pushing it) was busy giving a thorough brown-tongued rimming to Britain's Olympians. To Adlington, Romero, Smith, Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Ben Ainslie et al. Most of whom they'd probably never heard of ten days ago and, even if they had, frankly couldn't have cared less about because they're not former shit-for-brains members of Atomic Kitten, or people who've recently been kicked out of The Big Brother House. More than that they were busy devoting whole chunks of their pages which would normally be given over to tittle-tattle and 'celebrity' instead to 'our brave - and successful - Olympian boys and girls.' Does it feel good to be so out of step with the rest of the country - not to mention your own editors - Kev? Do you feel like A Man? Still, I'm sure that Simon Cowell continues to love you and tabloid scum reviewers like you. And we all know what a fantastic judge of a person's true and genuine worth in the great scheme of things HE is, don't we? A much more interesting - and far better written - article on a similar subject can be found in the Independent by James Lawton. Check it out, it's well worth a few minutes of your time. Although, beware - it's not from a tabloid for it includes some words of longer than two syllables.

I love television and I always will - I've spent most of my life watching it and half of my adult career commenting on it. I do so for magazines and for local radio but, even if I didn't, I'd still write about TV on this blog or in fanzines because I enjoy sharing the enthusiasm that I have for a medium which I consider to be a genuine artform with others of a similar mindset. But there are days, and today is one of them, when I feel fucking ashamed to be in the same business as crass, narrow-minded, done-nothing, celebrity-by-non-entity indviduals such as this one.

It's not just Kev that got my rag up today either. Check out, for instance, some of the comments on Matt Slater's BBCi blog which would, perhaps, give Mister O'Sullivan a good run for his money in the 2012 Advanced Cynicism Olympic final. I know cynicism is something we've always done so well in this country but, lads, we're actually better at cycling these days. So, can we please leave one of the old national sports behind us just for a few weeks and concentrate on what's happening in the Velodrome? That's not asking too much, is it? A couple of days later the O'Sullivan disease even seemed to have spread to one of his Mirror colleague, the sports writer Oliver Holt (somebody for whose work, I must say, I normally have quite a bit of time for). In this, ostensibly celebratory, article about Britain's cycling success Oliver writes: 'It would have been nice if Bradley Wiggins and some of the others had shown a little more humility in the wake of their successes instead of bragging about how they had "pissed over the rest of the world."' Why? Why is it that we have to show humility if we win something, Ollie? Bradley Wiggins is one of the best cyclists in the world, why the hell shouldn't he be shouting that from the rooftops? He's won three Olympic gold medals - two in these games - he deserves nothing less than a moment of Usain Bolt-style breast-beating if that's what he wants, he's earned that right. Why is it that this country expects our sportsmen and women to be not only winners but, simultaneously, to be monks and nuns, to be politically neutral, to avoid any controversy like the plague and to - and this of course is a hangover from the bloody Nineteenth Century - "know their place"? Sod that, Ollie. Gone are the days where we tug forlocks and abase our Working Class asses before The Management, all that nonsense went out with Douglas Jardine and Harold Larwood. Why should the British be almost-apologetic about winning stuff as people like you seem to want us to be? No other country is. Can you imagine the reaction in, say, Australia to a suggestion by a genuinely respected sports journalist in a national newspaper that their cricketers, just for example, should 'show some humility' if they win the Ashes next year? He'd be put on a plane and be out of there faster than they got Gary Glitter out of Vietnam. Oliver, I'm sorry mate I really do like your football reportage a great deal and I think you're very engaging on Soccer Supplement but you, like your scum pal at the Mirror O'Sullivan, are absolutely symptomatic of everything that is wrong with this country's attitude to sport and, indeed, to life in general. We'll never produce winners if we shuffle about like losers and hide our achievements with false modesty. We deserve our moment in the sun.