Sit Down And Cheer, by Martin Kelner

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The Independent Culture

The 1936 Berlin Olympics marked the first live television broadcast of a sporting event, so perhaps it's appropriate that the sofa on which Martin Kelner spends much of his time is called a Mitford, as two of the famous sisters, Unity and Diana, were big fans of Hitler.

Britons had to wait until Wimbledon the following year, the historic experience slightly marred by the fact that it was impossible for the 2,000 viewers to see the ball.

Kelner marries wit with style, solid research and some good jokes as he tells the story of how we got from there to today's 24-hour, multi-channel, 3-D, high-definition screen world. Presenters, many of whom Kelner interviewed, loom large in the narrative, though today's sheer weight of programming means few, if any, of the current crop will achieve the national status that the likes of the Dark Lord, David Coleman, enjoyed in his heyday. And it seems a long time ago that the competition between John Motson and Barry Davies to commentate on the FA Cup was a matter of national debate.

It seems a shame not to have found room for a mention, however fleeting, of Sid Waddell and the rise of TV darts, but the bard of the oche sadly is no longer with us to tell his tale, and having found the bull's-eye so often in his entertaining book, Kelner is allowed to miss the board once.

Published in hardback by Wisden Sports Writing, £18.99