Sport on TV: Patriot fervour lacking as little Britain lacks spirit of Nelson
Sunday 01 November 2009
When the giants of American sport come to town, you might think the British broadcasters would go to town too. But the BBC's highlights package of the American Football game between the Patriots and the Buccaneers (BBC2, Sunday) featured the perennially under- whelming Jake Humphreys and Mike Carlson, poached off Five, who once played college football at some place called Wesleyan University.
When the NBA came to the O2 Arena last month, the BBC's coverage with Mark Pougatch and Colin Murray was widely derided on the other side of the pond – it must have been bad for them to care – for its amateurish understanding of what is a global sport, not a peculiarly American one.
In the absence of any drama on the field at Wembley, there were the celebrities to fall back on. A real heavy-hitter, Joe Calzaghe, was "honorary captain" for the day and he was, well, "honoured". He was obviously at a loose end (as opposed to a tight end) after being voted off 'Strictly'. And there was veteran NFL coach Mike Holmgren, who had to shout over the noise of a band that made fusion jazz sound like the Shadows.
Fortunately the Radio One DJ Trevor Nelson was on hand to offer some meaningful comment. He liked the cheerleaders. Not only that, he said: "I'm a chess fan, so I love the strategy. There's a war out there." Incidentally it seems amazing, given the 1,000 digital channels out there, that no one thought to televise the chess-boxing in London last month. Nelson would have loved it: the venerable mind game interspersed with bouts of full-on pugilism.
Sky Sports have been showcasing another sport this week: Polocrosse (Sky Sports 1, Wednesday), which is lacrosse on horseback. It originated among ladies at the London Equitation Centre in 1935, using badminton rackets strapped to polo mallets with a netball hoop as the goal. It sounds fiendishly difficult, and these days they have nets on the end of their sticks and an eight-foot wide, infinitely high goal to aim at.
For some reason Australia, who developed the game after stealing it off the Brits, have banned overhead shooting, which leaves them at a huge disadvantage. The South Africans, for example, regard the overhead as their speciality. Perhaps it's a payback for Trevor Chappell's underarm bowling.
The close control is more like dressage than polo, with the horses selling dummies and spinning as well as any footballer to get a shot in – the resemblance to Ruud van Nistelrooy was striking. But it was as incomprehensible as American football can be. Even the expert summariser, Ian Heaton, didn't know what was going on. "It might be the end of the match, or it might be an infringement," he said. A case of foal play, perhaps.
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