Sport on TV: Three jeers for the players who dodge the Bullettes
Sunday 11 August 2013
Greatest Little Britons (Sky One, Thursday) has had some excellent subject matter, including the not particularly British-sounding gymkhana. But even more alien was last week's concluding study of cheerleading, the huge American phenomenon which has not exactly star-jumped its way into the national consciousness over here.
In fact the Bradford Bulls' rugby league dancing troupe, the Bullettes, were a typically British version of the all-too perfect Barbie-world in the US. They come in all shapes and sizes, they do shots, get sick and fall over – though not while they're performing. More bulldog spirit, less bullshit, you might say.
And yet they are trained by the Australian Robyn Morrison, who certainly knows her Poms from her pom-poms. "In Australia, we're so competitive and we really want it," she says, harking back to a golden age when the Aussies were any good at sport so that people actually wanted to cheer them on. Her husband Glenn, a former Bull himself, says of his wife: "She'd cheat the kids in a card game." Competitive mum has her daughter Halle Blu (oh yes, and her son's called Beau) dancing ballroom-style very strictly for 10 hours a week and says: "Halle's dream starts here, just off the M62." There's glamour to go with the glitter.
The Bullettes can high-kick pretty well but this is not exactly the high life. They are ordered not to fraternise with the players and in fact, rather sadly, the Bulls run round the outside of the girls' guard of honour as they come on to the field, snubbing them utterly. But there's still the thrill of performing in front of crowds of 27,000 at Odsal Stadium, and then there are the guest appearances in drafty community centres and old people's homes.
It's not mentioned – amazingly, given her promotional acumen – but Robyn has dabbled in the world of celebrity herself, having had parts in Neighbours and Home and Away before coming to England, and this month she is competing in the States for the title of "world's perfect woman" having won the European title in March. But her steely determination may stem from her eight years with the drugs squad in the Australian police force.
So it's no surprise to hear her sum up the nitty gritty Yorkshire version of the cheerleader's American dream thus. "We went to one event in quite a rough neighbourhood and there had just been a stabbing," says Robyn matter-of-factly. "All the police were trying to comb the area looking for the suspect and I've got cheerleaders dancing in the middle of it."
Not so much "give us a B", then, as "give us a clue". Even one of those endless American cop shows couldn't dream up a storyline like that. No doubt the criminal was leading the police a merry dance.
* For a long time Eurosport have provided the broadest landscape of sports broadcasting imaginable. Last week was no exception, with the World Fencing Championships vying for attention with the cycling's Arctic Race of Norway. But surely even this estimable channel is pushing back the boundaries by showing the Table Football World Championships in Salzburg.
You can kind of guess that it isn't real sport by the fact that one of the doubles finalists, Austria's Markus Schützenhofer, was wearing earphones during the match and had to keep taking them out when his partner Markus Rosicky wanted to talk tactics. Oh, and one of his Hungarian opponents was called Geza Kiss, pronunced Gissa Kiss.
"It's easy to underestimate how hard these players have to work," gushed the commentator. Their arms were getting tired, bless 'em. "Was that a dummy or did he just miss it?" Dummies in table football? Is that on the pitch or off it?
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