Sport on TV: Kay's opinion of himself is so high that he can't touch down
Sunday 20 February 2011
Vernon Kay reckons that if he had gone to high school in the States, he might have played American football in the NFL. "I feel like I missed an opportunity," he said on Vernon Kay – Under Pressure (ITV2, Wednesday). The Americans probably don't share that notion, but they ended up being lumped with him anyway as host of Skating With The Stars. At least a professional sportsman's career only lasts 10 to 15 years. The Yanks have a few decades of Family Fortunes to look forward to yet.
The first episode of this new series sees the presenter trying to revive the Manchester All-Stars American football team, who last played in 1988. His old buddies are largely on the portly side now, so they might be more suited to the game than they were as mere slips of lads. It wouldn't be difficult; they only ever won one match in two years, whereas their opponents, a student side called Birmingham Lions, are on a 25-game winning streak and have lost only once in three and a half years. They are also half the age of the All Stars. The old boys have a lot of catching up to do but given their fitness levels, they couldn't catch a train, let alone a funny-shaped football.
Their second training session is "full contact" and starts to resemble a train crash with bodies everywhere. "I've got another one," yells veteran NFL coach Tony Allen. "It's looking like a triage over there." Kay leaves training early, prompting a team-mate to remark: "That's an arsehole move, that." It doesn't sound like a well-known tactic in the playbook.
He was off to the US for some one-to-one tuition with former NFL cornerback Jason Bell. Kay says he was attracted to the sport during the Eighties, the "glitz and glamour" contrasting to the "scum and villainy" on the streets of Bolton. But he was always aware of how small he was, "the key ingredient that's turned him out to be the person he is," according to his brother Stephen, who practised with him in the street every night. Perhaps a few more ingredients might have helped to build him up. He took his revenge on the big wide world by grinning inanely out of our TV screens at every opportunity.
They lose to the Lions, of course. This isn't Hollywood, and there's a very un-American ending as they celebrate merely having made the students concede their first points of the season. So they made their point, whatever that was, but Kay's ego seems to have been the biggest obstacle they kept crunching into.
An American football team run by another, much larger-than-life son of Bolton, Peter Kay, might have worked better, although if he had these big boys splitting their sides, it could have got very messy indeed.
* The Keys and Gray Show kicked off on TalkSport, fittingly enough, on Valentine's Day. At least it got them out of the house. Would they manage to avoid disparaging remarks about the opposite sex? They did.
In fact, when Richard Keys talked himself up for spotting Darren Fletcher's talent and Andy Gray said, "Don't blow your own trumpet just yet, son", it seemed a poignant moment: perhaps no one blows his trumpet these days, so he has to do it himself. Then it was time to advertise ceramic tiles.
If Mrs Keys and Gray's girl were looking forward to going out for a night on the tiles, they probably didn't think it would be a case of "Get down to Wickes".
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