Hit & Run: Playing for glory (because the trophy's so lousy)
Wednesday 08 July 2009
You reach the pinnacle of your sport, entering the pantheon of greats. As you ascend the steps to pick up the ultimate prize, the weight of a lifetime's sacrifice and suffering is on your shoulders. Your legion of supporters are primed to erupt as you prepare to thrust the trophy into the air, and – oh, it's a pepper grinder.
The Ashes urn – a six-inch vessel containing the charred remains of cricket bails – may be the puniest prize in sport but triumphant cricketers aren't the only greats to envy the winners of the true classics in the global trophy cabinet. Because for every World Cup or Claret Jug, there's a titchy urn to disappoint.
The Tour de France is the toughest sporting event on the planet yet victorious riders receive a shiny blue trophy that, while reasonably tasteful, looks like something your granny might store pot pourri in. OK, so you also get the yellow jersey but there's nothing nice for the mantelpiece.
Sometimes good trophies go bad. The Davis Cup, a beautiful silver chalice, now sits, like a baby heron lost at sea, atop an enormous plinth that resembles a Dalek as envisioned by Fabergé. Others are irredeemably bad – witness most Formula 1 trophies, some of which imagine they are modern art. Last year's Singapore Grand Prix trophy was a pewter steering-wheel base below what looks like an exploding desk tidy.
Still, at least you're not Christie Kerr, a pro American golfer who became an internet sensation when photos of her kissing the 2002 Longs Drugs Challenge trophy went viral. The crystal creation, swiftly renamed the "Long Dong", bore an unfortunate resemblance to a giant glass penis. Suddenly a pepper grinder sounds quite appealing. Simon Usborne
Stars who would be king
There's a new vacancy in the music world: King of Pop. The criteria for this position? To be a best-selling artist and endure decades of success. No mean feat.
And it's not necessarily an auspicious role. As the editor of NME, Conor McNicholas, says, "I'm not sure I'd want to curse anyone as King of Pop. It seems like it's a title that'll drag you to disaster". As for a successor to the throne, he says there simply isn't one. "If we're really looking for the new King of Pop, then it's probably every kid in every bedroom with a PC – they're more in control of the music industry than most record executives."
Matt Cook, director of music and artist relations at MTV, agrees. "Jackson was crowned the King of Pop in an age when fans connected with and had a much deeper relationship with artists and their music. Rather than a Sony Walkman and half a dozen cassettes, music fans now have instant access to thousands upon thousands of songs. Their music experience and relationships with artists, although infinitely broader, is far more shallow."
That hasn't stopped some industry types trying to spot an heir. A little prematurely, in 2003, Rolling Stone hailed Justin Timberlake the new King on their cover, and the discussion resurfaced in 2007. After all, he's had the hit album (Justified has sold more than 8 million copies), the superstar girlfriend (Britney Spears), and what's more, he can dance. McNicholas doesn't think he's ready. "I'd give Timberlake Prince Of Pop. He hasn't gone to the next level yet."
The editor of Q, Paul Rees, tips an even younger star. "The best pop song that I've heard in a long time is Mika's forthcoming single "We Are Golden". Given that pop royalty are, by the very nature of the role, supposed to be entirely over the top and divide people strictly into love and hate camps, Mika will do the job as well as anyone."
Stuart Williams, managing director of Bauer Media Music and Film, who has brought back the magazine Smash Hits as a one-off tribute to Jackson, says no-one can take his place, but offers an alternative. "Pop these days is very knowing and manufactured; you have to share every minutiae of your life. For the time being, we'll have to make do with the Queen of Pop – Madonna."
She's got the longevity, the success, the fame – and although, at 50 years of age, her 30-year career is somewhat lagging behind Jackson's, she has years ahead. She has 200 million in sales under her belt (to Jackson's 750 million). She has also been releasing albums consistently – her last was Hard Candy in 2008 compared to Jackson's 2001 Invincible. All hail! Elisa Bray
Security tags on cheese are the thin end of the wedge
When a branch of Tesco in Gloucester announced this week that it was going to be putting security tags on its wedges of Cheddar, you'd be forgiven for thinking its managers' actions were slightly paranoid. But maybe they knew something we didn't – that cheese snaffling, both in Britain and abroad, has a rich, nay, mature history. Various cheese thefts have struck terror into the hearts of dairy lovers over the years – from the spate of thefts in Cannock, Staffordshire earlier this year that were fuelling a ne'er-do-well's drug habit, to the ambitious theft of a £20,000 lorry-load of mozzarella in Sunderland two years back. If you think that's bad, in the US State of New Hampshire a teen is on $10,000 bail for nabbing a can of spray-on. And last year, in the otherwise-idyllic Swedish town of Jönköping, a truck carrying 10 tonnes of "red-hot" cheese was stopped by police after they laid a strip of spikes in its path. So who is the grand fromage orchestrating this epidemic? Is it, as some suspect, a heavily-armed, 6ft mouse with a grudge? Whatever the answer, proceed with grate caution. Rob Sharp
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