Sport on TV: Moustaches may bristle but let's get our ears twitching
Sunday 13 January 2008
It's the Balkan Tennis Open in Tulovnik. The mighty Vuk Ergovich is about to serve to little Jimmy Stojkovic. The commentator has taken charge of the PA address system. "Let us pray to the gods that his execution from this tournament will be swift and painful," he screams. "He has the most pathetic moustache I've ever seen." "Fairy Tales: Rapunzel" (BBC1, Thursday), the first of four old stories set in the modern world, chose pro tennis as its subject matter. Let's hope the Australian Open isn't like that.
Thank goodness the vituperative commentator was not referring to Merv Hughes or David Boon, legendary Aussie cricketers with fabulous facial growth. Or Dennis Lillee and Ian Chappell, true Ockers with handlebars who are known to like a 'sledge' or two.
It was Chappell who began the hardman culture that has been vehemently criticised by the Australian public in the wake of the Sydney Test against India and which may or may not continue in the Perth match which begins on Sky Sports on Tuesday.
The strange thing is that Chappell is now in the commentary box, alongside other like-minded souls, watching the game tear itself apart. There's Bill Lawry, former team-mate and the most one-eyed summariser in the history of sport. And there's Tony Greig, their opponent as the South African-born England captain three decades ago, now a boorish adopted Aussie who gets every decision wrong.
Stuck in the middle of it all in the Channel Nine box is Mark Nicholas, with his Billy Bunter exclamations and not a single Test cap to his name, having servedhis time in the genteel world of English county cricket where no one cares enough to get nasty. Surely he can sort out this mess in the middle: "Now listen here chaps... how about a nice cup of tea?" What the devil has got into these colonial types?
It was Shane Warne who was famously exposed by the stump microphones that are normally switched off after each delivery, abusing his own team-mate Scott Muller in a Test against Pakistan. Surely the simple solution is to leave them on, so the public can hear every word of whatis said in the middle. The banter can be very funny and it's part of the game, but it need not go too far.
As for the vilification of umpire Steve Bucknor, cricket is the sport where television technology is used most blatantly, indeed continuously, and the men in the middle need to be supported by it, not condemned by it. Let them use it whenever they want, which might give them the confidence to do so.
Incidentally, 'Rapunzel' was about a female English tennis player with very long hair who fell in love with the bumfluffed Stojkovic after he entered the British Open pretending to be a woman. The real fairytale would have been if an English tennis player had actually been any good. Or maybe Tim could make a comeback as 'Henwoman'.
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