Sport on TV: No big cheeses in Eurosport's studios to grate on the senses
Sunday 27 January 2008
Eurosport had all the fun this week. So they missed out on the cheese-rolling championships covered by Transworld Sport – why did one male competitor insist on taking part wearing only a thong, surely it's weird enough already? – but they've had a good slice of the action, presiding over remarkable upsets in the Australian Open tennis and spectacular goals at the African Nations Cup. The only ingredient lacking was the Leicester Reds against the Gloucester Doubles.
In the tennis studio, Henri Leconte has been in full Gallic mode with his slicked-back hair and three-day beard, pursing his lips at the ever-fragrant English rose Annabel Croft as hiscompatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga blasted his way into the final. Meanwhile in Ghana, there has been an average of three goals a game, many of them spectacular. Skill is allied to phenomenal athleticism, and there's an extremely cool match ball, splashed in yellow, red and green.
Eurosport's coverage is fronted by the estimable Gary Imlach, but who is Alan Sharif Duncan, who is pontificating on so many of the matches? He is strange, pale and hairless, and in a pundits' team that seems to feature no black faces at all, he wears all-white suits and at times is as transparent as his comments are obscure.
Imlach is one of a dying breed of presenters who are not former players, so no big cheesy grins here à la Lineker. His father, Stewart, played for Scotland at the 1958 World Cup and Imlach's 'My Father and Other Working-Class Heroes' was Sports Book of the Year in 2005. Gary was the pioneering face of American football and the Tour de France on British TV, first with Channel 4 then ITV, who showed the Super Bowl last year. Surprisingly the Super Bowl, said to be the most-watched single sporting event in the world (surely the World Cup final has a wider audience?), will be on BBC2 next Sunday.
It is the first time that the Beeb will have shown live American football – their first-ever gridiron coverage was highlights of the Giants against the Dolphins at Wembley last October. The rest of the season will be wrapped into a half-hour 'Road to the Super Bowl' late on Thursday night.
Imlach would be an ideal anchorman, but instead the job has gone to Jake Humphrey, the youngest- ever host of 'Football Focus' and 'Match of the Day' who, coincidentally, is presenting BBC3's nightly highlights package from the African Nations Cup with Garth Crooks.
Hopefully Crooks won't also be trying to explain the complexities of American football to any virgin viewers. Simple sentences about English football he struggles with already, and it's hard enough to stay awake into the small hours.
After their bitter NFC Championship defeat by the Giants, it's a shame that the Cheeseheads, legendary cheese-hat-wearing fans of the Green Bay Packers, won't be in Arizona. The BBC could have warmed up for the big one with a few cheese-rolling contests.
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