TELEVISION REVIEW / Cometh the hour, cometh not the man

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The Independent Culture
'IF YOU like to keep a record of these things that was the 224th yellow card of this World Cup,' said Barry Davies early in the final, a little nod to the man whose still-warm cushion he was occupying. Motty would have banged a statistic like that in without the apologetic preamble, but Barry was showing a trace of big- match jitters. Shortly afterwards he dumped the maths in favour of grand literary hullabaloo. 'Football's play of passion. Is underway,' he said, 'For whom the joy. For whom. The despair?'

The match took its toll, frankly. He'd used up his resources of Kipling early into extra time and by the end was beginning to flick rather frantically through the Oxford Book of Posh Bits, the scoreboard staring him in the face like a double-barrelled shotgun. 'Cometh the hour . . . but still not cometh the man,' he ventured desperately as extra time ran out. Cometh not the right occasion for that quotation, either.

He should just have made something up and claimed it was from The Anatomy of Melancholy or The Faerie Queen. That, at least, would have appealed to Derek Hatton, who presented a sprightly and amoral celebration of cheating in On the Line (BBC 2). 'It's something I've been accused of one or two times,' said Derek, with what he clearly thought was a disarming twinkle. In fact the latest accusation (still sub-judice) is of a conspiracy to defraud the Norwich Union of pounds 20,324 - not quite the same as nudging your golf ball from the rough on to the fairway.

Hatton's ostensible argument was that cheating is inseparably linked to the passion and drama of sport and that the tabloid treatment of sporting transgressors was simply hypocritical. To this end we were shown Andoni Goikoetxea (the Butcher of Bilbao) listening to classical music. Goikoetxea was the man who put Maradona out of the game for three months with a tackle so late it had brought a note from its mum. He professed contrition at injuring a fellow footballer, which sat rather oddly with the fact that he had specially framed the boots that did the deed.

'Not quite the pantomime villain we've been sold,' concluded Hatton optimistically. At which point I remembered that the last time I saw Derek Hatton on television (apart from news bulletins, that is) was when he was preparing for the role of King Rat in regional pantomime. It became clear that he had obtained possession of a harmless sports programme and used it to make a case for himself as a net contributor to the nation's gaiety, whatever the accountants might have to say about the matter.

Some of the cheekiness hit home. Hatton recounted the case of the Swedish golf pro Johan Tumba, who suffered ignominy when it was discovered that he had doctored his golf score in a PGA competition. At the same time, Hatton pointed out, 'the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad were getting promotions for this sort of handiwork'. But Hatton's main argument, that dodging the rules is somehow admirable, even heroic, will only have fooled the more gullible observers. It was a good week for suggesting that everyone is at it really ('Anglers can make even politicians look honest,' he noted), a bad week for suggesting that nobody really cares.

Students of international affairs may like to note that Peter Arnett, who broadcast for CNN on the first night of the Gulf War and became a star, is now reporting from Haiti. Ted Turner, the network's owner, is expected to give President Clinton permission to go ahead with the invasion any day now. They just need to do some last minute checks on the satellite connections and get the mini-bar stocked up.

World Cup television, page 34