Sport on TV: Nolan brothers' neigh-sayers leave us feeling a little hoarse
Sunday 14 March 2010
You don't often hear it straight from the horse's mouth. Normally Clare Balding is in the way, getting it straight from a jockey's mouth even if there's barely a tooth on show. But she's busy with our other four-footed friends on More 4's Crufts coverage. On Race Horses (BBC4, Thursday) and Barbados at the Races (BBC4, Tuesday), both produced by Cutting Edge, it was a case of four legs better than two.
'Race Horses' was "the story of three horse athletes", which was lucky because the accents of the stable lads and jockeys at Paul Nolan's Toberona yard in Ireland were deemed to be so impenetrable that subtitles had to be used. This created a problem with all the swearing, which does not usually feature in subtitles. At one stage, Peter responded to a piece of bad news with a single expletive, which was translated by a lonely exclamation mark.
Even the interviewer's voice was barely audible, a muted droning that made perfect sense since that must be what we sound like to a horse. There were plenty of moody close-ups of horses, big eyes reflecting the world around them, big noses steaming. But it wasn't a case of long faces all round as Joncol romped home to win his first steeplechase.
Another good prospect was Ardalan, and Paul's brother James confided: "Apart from my wife, he's been my best friend for seven years." He fed him honey and garlic; later it was yoghurt. It wouldn't be long before they shared a candlelit dinner. The third nag, Cuan Na Grai, had to have a Vicks rub because he was "stressed out". Then Ardalan threw his rider off twice in a row. You got the impression he did it on purpose. Perhaps he was fed up with the food.
It is a weird world where humans, mostly small and undernourished, live under the sway of horse power.
* A League of Their Own (Sky One, Thursday), the new sports quiz show, has given Andrew Flintoff something to do as he goes out to pasture, although pitting his wits against Jamie Redknapp is not a particularly tough challenge for the likes of Fred.
When asked what was the best thing about being heavyweight champion of the world, David Haye said: no parking tickets; free drinks; and getting kisses off his fans' girlfriends when they asked for his autograph. You might expect the last one from a Premier League player, though he might not settle for just a kiss.
All of which shows just how shallow our sportsmen can be. So it was good to hear Freddie has higher ambitions. He denied that he urinated in the garden of No 10 during that infamous post-Ashes binge, but revealed that he had sat in the Cabinet Office, beer in hand, feet on the table, giving orders to imaginary ministers. What better way to dispel the mistrust of our politicians than to instal in No 10 someone as competitive, and yet with such a sense of fair play, as Flintoff?
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