Sport on TV: Why can't Monty and Co just lighten up? It's a bit of a choker

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The Independent Online

A list published this week claims to identify sport's 40 biggest chokers of all time (the 1999 All Blacks come top, though I wouldn't suggest telling them to their faces). On Tuesday night's Inside Sport offering (BBC1), Is Professionalism Killing Sport?, Ed Smith suggested that caring too much actually inhibits competitors rather than inspiring them.

Now Ed's a serious brainbox – his CV includes a double first in history, a job as a Times leader writer and authorship of a book entitled What Sport Tells Us About Life. He also has a bit of previous himself as a failure at the top level, having played three Tests for England as a batsman before being discarded.

Going back to the playground, Ed posited that children have two urges for playing games: they want to compete, and also want to have fun. He feels too many sportsmen and women have lost that latter quality, to the detriment of their performance.

Step forward witness No 1, Mark Ramprakash, fresh at 40 from another prolific county season with the bat. "I didn't enjoy playing for England," he ruminated, which was hardly news to anyone who watched his tortured Test career. In Smith's view his downfall was wanting it too much, taking it too seriously.

Next in the confessional was Colin Montgomerie, who admitted that he might have won a major or two if he hadn't been so burdened by a self-imposed weight of expectation. Contrast that with his shining Ryder Cup record – which, surprisingly, Smith didn't do in any great depth, allowing Monty to say he enjoyed playing in the Ryder Cup more than any other event without pinning him down as to why exactly this was.

Ryan Giggs claimed his talent was "instinctive", Usain Bolt said, "I just relax and get it down", but Smith struggled to pull the strands together and answer the question posed by the programme's title. Sixty rather than 30 minutes might have helped.

* A tip of the cap to the scheduler who chose the film The Greatest Game Ever Played to follow Inside Sport. It dramatised the story of how a 20-year-old amateur from the wrong side of the tracks, Francis Ouimet, beat the world's leading golfers of the day, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, in a play-off to win the 1913 US Open.

When it came to the crunch, Ouimet's pint-sized schoolboy caddie whispered to him: "Don't think so much." Ed Smith would have agreed.

* If only more thinking had gone into Sports Mash – Taking The Mic (ITV4, Wednesday). Using the sports archive material hanging around as a springboard for a series of skits is a fair enough idea. But it takes a special talent to produce something as banal, derivative and just plain awful as this.

In a blatant rip-off of the Harry Enfield/Paul Whitehouse snooker sketches, two commentators covered a gay wrestling contest featuring Ben Doon and Phil McAvity. My, how we laughed. Women's log-rolling followed; sample rib-tickler: "She's wet but happy."

When it came to a clip of Willie Woods indoor bowling – "They're all big Willie fans, he just needs to find a good length" – it was time to switch off, while pondering the difference between post-ironic and post-moronic. No danger of anyone accusing the perpetrators of this programme of being too professional.

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