Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Long post alert, but worth reading. A defence of Zara Phillips (sort of) BBC Sports Personality of the Year winner 2006

I have held back from blogging on this for some little time, but it has been the reaction to her winning of the title rather than her actually winning of the title itself, that has finally tipped me over the edge of indifference.
To start with may I categorically state that if I had the casting vote I would do away with the whole sorry programme. It has generally been agreed that this year's shortlist was not the strongest ever. In fact, it was recognised as the weakest. Yet, in other years when the star of British sport has been in the ascent there have been deserving sportspeople not to have won, Colin Jackson, Sally Gunnell, Matthew Pinsent, Steve Backley and Frank Bruno instantly come to mind.
Then comes the problem of what constitutes (a) a deserving sport and (b) a deserving winner. Personally, I must admit that equestrianism would not qualify as a deserving sport in my eyes, yet naturally this view is totally subjective and any number of people could disagree with my assertion and claim that, on the contrary, equestrianism is a worthy pursuit whereas football and cricket are not. Clearly, this person would be deluded, but such people exist.
To answer whether the winner was deserving is, of course, the $64,000 question. Well, in all fairness, she is the individual European and World Champion which would put her above the majority of the other contestants with the obvious exceptions of Ricky Hatton; Joe Calzaghe and Phil Taylor (13 times darts world champion). It is easy to see why Zara Phillips won over these three: Ricky Hatton's fights are broadcast on Sky; Joe Calzaghe's on ITV and Phil Taylor on Sky. I think it is only the dearth of class that saw Taylor make the shortlist in the first place. Here it should be noted that Darren Clarke, a man rightly lauded for his competitiveness and quality in the wake of his wife's death, has never won a major (one of the Open, the US Open, the US PGA or the US Masters) and Jensen Button finished sixth in the Formula 1 table.
So who else is left? Beth Tweddle; Andy Murray; Monty Panesar and Nicola Cooke. Too many Cooke's spoil the broth and in the case of Nicola Cooke I am sorry to say that cycling is so low-profile that I would be surprised if more than 5% of the audience had heard of her nevermind her sporting achievements. Sorry, but them the breaks. The cases of Murray and Monty are more intriguing: both I would hazard a guess are the right kind of person to be qualify under the personality requirement and also what they bring to their respective sports, yet what they have actually achieved is more open to question. Murray has had a great season but has he done enough this year to be judged our nation's greatest sportsman? I don't think so. And Monty? Well, he has the potential and if he was in the Ashes side and was doing his thing I think he would have won it. But he aint so he didn't. Encouragingly, I thought it was refreshing that this Monty doesn't have big tits like his Scottish namesake. And then there's Beth Tweddle. Gymnastics sucks, but she is an individual world champion. I thought her chance of winning was over before it started, honestly having to do that gymnastics routine. Sadly, she didn't fall off and she wore an outfit that was even dafter than normal, including what looked suspiciously like a bow-tie. That outfit was even worse than Fatima Whitbread's. Fatima, ever feminine, went for a sleeveless number that showed her guns off. Scary, scary.
So from these deductions, I cannot comprehend the consternation about Zara Phillips winning it. There appears to be three camps of thought: (1) equestrianism is crap; (2) she only won it because she is a royal and (3) equestrianism relies on a horse so it should be the horse rather than the jockey that wins the award.
Point 1 I find hard to argue against, I don't like horsey stuff, but as argued elsewhere one man's (horse) meat is another man's poison. And is it possible to argue that equestrianism is any crapper a sport than figure skating which produced two previous winners (John Curry in 1976 and Robin Cousins in 1980)? It is point 2 that has got my goat. "She's a royal, that's the only reason she won it" argues some greasy Republican or "Equestrianism is so elitist that only rich people can participate". So what if she accrued more votes because she is a Royal? Darren Clarke, I would argue, got far more votes for his off the course attitude than his actual play on the course (why, for instance, was he any more deserving than say Lee Westwood?) And to answer the point about equestrianism being elitist, well I would say it is elitist because it is so mind-numbingly dull, but a sport such as golf has also been accused of being elitist, a rich man's sport - but I do not recall any specific uproar when Nick Faldo won the Sports Personality.
And last but not the least, the old gem of the horse should win the award rather than the jockey. What a daft argument. Like you can put any old person on a horse and it will romp home. Can you imagine it? Hoist Andy Fordham on to the best horse in the world and I would wager it wouldn't win. The same would apply to Helen Keller. And if a horse is more deserving than the jockey, then surely the car would be more deserving than Nigel Mansell (twice), Damon Hill (twice), John Surtees or Jackie Stewart. Or what about Britain's greatest ever Olympian, Sir Steve Redgrave? Surely his victories were also dependent on first Andy Holmes and later Matthew Pinsent (and those other two...Foster and Cracknell, was it? Sorry but I cannot recall the 1984 foursome - interestingly enough for two reasons (1) rowing is sh*t and (2) I was only 5 at the time)?
So lay off Zara Phillips. Although, I would have plumped for Joe Calzaghe I have already pointed out that as he fights on ITV this was most unlikely from the start. Let's all be thankful that David Walliams wasn't shortlisted.

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Comments:
Put me in an F1 car and I could work miracles.
 
Joe Calzaghe should've won...

20 defences of his WORLD TITLE no less

there's an anti Welsh-Italian bias obviously

Zara did well considering she's from a single parent family living on state hand-outs
 
Very interesting and good piece, however, I have the horrible image of big Andy Fordham gently cantering round the stables on an elegant horse. Ugh.
 
but with all the calzaghe furore it is easy to forget how singularly unimpressive he was against sakio 'the scorpion' bika.

2darts - put a couple of pints down your neck and you occasionally work miracles at the oche, although i haven't seen you use all 3 darts. that would be miraculous
 
Excellent post Barry - will be printing it out and handing to anyone who slags Zara off - much more eloquant than me!
 
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