James Corrigan: Richardson's solo crusade to save us from radio gaga
View From The Sofa: Sportsweek, Radio 5 Live
Monday 08 March 2010
The day after England beat Egypt – the latest confirmation that a second World Cup victory is but a few months away – Radio 5 Live was boasting about landing "the first John Terry interview with the BBC since he was sacked as England captain". Nothing wrong there. It's what sports journalists call "a good get".
The problem was the rolling news network really didn't have an "interview" on their spools. Not in the proper sense. As Ian Dennis is an excellent journalist and didn't ask Terry about Wayne Bridge it is safe to presume Terry would only talk if he wasn't asked about Bridge. So out came the predictable sound-bytes, such as England "having the best fans in the world" and "we're all in this together". In truth, it wasn't worth the PR toilet roll it was smeared on and, in future, the corporation shouldn't agree to any conditions.
Garry Richardson would never have, that's for sure. When someone agrees to go on Sportsweek they do so uncomfortable in the knowledge the presenter will be asking whatever needs answering. Sure, Richardson might drop in an agreed question at the end about a charity or the like but that's as far as he is prepared to go. That's probably why Terry hasn't granted Richardson an interview recently. Or Tiger Woods. Or anyone with an ego larger than their courage.
It's also why Richardson has the finest sports programme in Britain. Not just on the radio, but any medium. It's the one show that attempts to get to the nitty-gritty through the quaint old technique of actually talking to people. Informed opinion, leading to intelligent debate. It'll never catch on. Not in dumbed-down sporting Britain.
Sitting there listening to Richardson yesterday morning (on the sofa, if anyone wants to quibble about this column's brief to be a television review) I was struck by how sad it is that Sportsweek is nowhere to be found in the BBC download chart. Believe it, the smart-arsed and the mealy-mouthed will very soon have complete and utter dominance over our sporting airwaves. And when they're off polishing their quips, the controllers will hand over to the phone-ins. God help our few brain cells that have yet to be pulped into mush.
Richardson is leading a one-man crusade to exercise our remaining neurons. He measures his show's success by the number of headlines it generates in the next day's papers. This particular morning a few might have leapt on Nigel Mansell predicting Lewis Hamilton "to have the edge" over Jenson Button in their forthcoming intra-team battle, or even Mansell's startling suggestion that at 56 he could "make a bit of history" with a return to Formula One. Personally, I was most intrigued by Ross Brawn's comments concerning the inevitable tensions between McLaren's two world champions. "Only one of them can win and how is the other going to cope with it?" said the wise team leader.
But then, as this is Britain and this is World Cup year, Sir Geoff Hurst's traitorous remarks will probably have attracted the most bold type. "How far can England go in South Africa?" probed Richardson. "I'd say the semi-finals because I think we are a tiny bit short up front," replied the treasonable Knight. He should have been whisked off to the tower there and then.
Perhaps he will be, if and when Gordon Brown heard his thoughts about the Terry affair. Said Sir Geoff: "If we removed everybody in seniority that committed adultery we wouldn't have anybody running the country." Er, does he know something we don't? Yet another revelation to chalk up for Sportsweek.
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