It's all about Woganisation - giving the viewers a warm glow like porridge ads in winter


FOR some reason - I choose not to delve too deeply - I have a fly-paper mind for facts. Useless facts, that is. And as an armchair sports fan, I invariably end up with a reference book of some kind on my knee - Rothmans, Soccer Who's Who, Sportspages Almanac, the Manchester United Complete Record. Sometimes, when provoked into bouts of nostalgia, I even find myself reaching for one of my childhood books like the International Soccer Yearbook (Nos 18 through to 25) or my (sadly incomplete) set of the George Best Annual, but usually it's a quest for hard facts that gets me going.

There's probably some deep explanation for why information for its own sake can be so important to some people. A precocious brat, I was told off by Miss Swainson in the third year of primary school for whispering to a class-mate. I was saying to him (and I cringe to think of it), "You know what my favourite word is? Information." I'll just get my anorak.

Watching Arsenal win the FA Cup (ITV) last Saturday, had me checking whether it was in 1888 or 1889 that Preston became the first club to do the Double. Then, as my eyes strayed over the pages of statistics, that led on to such curiosities as the fact that in the first year of the Cup, 1871-2, Queen's Park couldn't arrange a date with Donington for their first-round tie, so both advanced to the second round. Or that two years later, because it was difficult for the poor things to travel down from Glasgow, they were given byes until the semi-final against Oxford University - which they also couldn't be bothered turning up for. Why is this interesting to me? I haven't a clue, really.

Sometimes, I have to confess, I miss great swathes of action while I attempt to fix the fielding positions in my head once and for all or look up the goal difference between Italy and England in their qualifying group for the 1978 World Cup. None of this serves any purpose, I think. It must be something to do with facts providing some sort of bedrock in a godless age. Or something.

While watching the highlights of England's first one-day international against South Africa (BBC2), a remark by one of the commentators about Test averages led me to look up stuff on Don Bradman. I knew his Test average was about 99 (99.94 in fact), and that the three joint-second batsmen, Pollock, Headley and Sutcliffe, were all on 60, but what I'd never been aware of (sorry if I'm telling you something you know) was the fact that in his last ever Test innings, the great man, needing four to secure an average of 100, was out for a duck. I also hadn't realised how prolific he was in the 1930 series against England, with 974 runs at an average of 139.14. Now I know, and I bet if you ask me in a year's time, I'll still be able to tell you.

It's not as if the hour-long highlights programme wasn't interesting in itself, with England not quite managing to contain a South African side who come on like ersatz Aussies. Gower's Cricket Monthly (BBC2), returning for the summer, examined the tourists in its amiable but anodyne way. It was interesting to hear echoes of old attitudes, albeit in the blandest, most inoffensive of fashions. The captain, Hansie Cronje, talked of the fast bowler Makhaya Ntini: "He and Lance Klusener speak Zulu together, so it's irritating to hear them yapping away in the changing- room." No offence meant, I'm sure, but you wonder how irritated Ntini would be allowed to be with Afrikaans bouncing off the walls.

Mornantau Hayward, on the other hand, is "a very Afrikaner boy. He's nuts. He's as rough as they come, as rough as they come. He's a lovely boy." And what a great name.

Hayward would seem to have his English counterpart in Ed Giddins, back in the fold after 20 months out for cocaine abuse. The lad sounds like a posher version of Nigel Kennedy, all "excellents" and sentences that finish with "...OK?". The cuddly profile set the tone of Cricket Monthly - a look in the bachelor boy's fridge (there was a bottle of water, some salad dressing and a tub of cottage cheese), plus a cosy chat in which all references to the offence that put him out of the game were smothered in wry euphemisms. If you didn't know his history, you would hardly have guessed it from this. Still, as with most BBC sports magazine programmes, it's not about discussion of issues or analysis of themes. It's all about Woganisation - giving the viewer a warm glow, like those porridge ads in the winter. It's not that the programme wasn't interesting. It's just that I'm fed up with being left feeling nice and warm and swaddled by the BBC. I want more.

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teaching Assistant required in ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments