Blinded by the sleight and slight of camera

Sport on Video
I would be the first to admit that getting paid to watch sport on television is a pretty cushy number, on a par with quality control work at Maison Krug or a post in the road- testing department at Mates. But just as bubbles no doubt get up the nose of the champagne tester, and the smell of burning rubber must irritate the Mates operative, so there is the occasional drawback to writing this column. For instance, the annual avalanche of sports videos from kindly acquaintances who seem to think them the ideal gift. Presumably they are the same people who leave milk out for the milkman at this time of year, and post their electrician a fuse.

They are cluttering up the sports desk and providing a constant temptation to misguided pilferers, so the only decent thing to do is to review the things and get them out of the way until next year's consignment arrives.

Top of the pile in every sense was One Foot in the Groin (Astrion), presented by Angus Deayton, a man who has built an entire career on his ability to raise only one eyebrow. The video is dedicated to, in Deayton's words: "The heroic few who make the effort to plot, scheme, cheat, lie or bung their way to victory," and what a shower they are.

The usual suspects are on display: Ben Johnson and Diego Maradona, John McEnroe and Zola Budd. There's a wonderfully inventive South African marathon runner (he got on a bus), and an elegant sequence of great diving footballers intercut with a synchronised swimming display. The Foul of the Century competition features as front runners two goalkeeping greats, Harald Schumacher's aerial assault on Patrick Battiston, and Mark Bosnich's attempt to decapitate Jurgen Klinsmann. But the winner by a long way, with the gonad-mangling challenge that gives the video its title, is dear old Graeme Souness.

Deayton supplies suitably cynical links while calmly demonstrating yet uncharted methods of cheating, mostly involving sleight of camera. These prompted the shameful notion that if the new English Cricket Board really want to give England a chance of winning the Ashes next summer they should even now be working on a way of inserting a crack video editor into the line of evidence between reality and the third umpire's screen. It's amazing what you can do with a bit of fade and wipe.

Only An Excuse - Out of Its Box (PNE Video) is a football comedy sketch compilation that received only the skimpiest of showings on national television, being otherwise confined to BBC Scotland. One or two impenetrably tartan gags apart, it is fine stuff. The drivelling McIlvanney twins hit an authentic note: "There can be no place in football for players who commit the unacceptable, then cannot accept the inevitable when it arrives on their doorstep like an inevitable thing." Alistair McGowan's Trevor Brooking is even funnier than the real thing, but to English viewers the Ossie Ardiles sketch will always remain a mystery. English into Scots into Argentine is an accent too far.

Football fans south of the border can tuck into Unseen Fantasy Football (PNE Video). The central premise here is people making complete fools of themselves, and that applies not only to Messrs Baddiel, Skinner and Statto, but plenty of their guest stars as well. Basil Brush features in a wonderfully nonsensical exchange which suggests that he would be better named Basil Lush, and a similarly well- lubricated Jimmy Hill gives one of the more obstreporous interviews of modern times. At one stage he looks ready to chin whoever asks the next question, and there would be no getting up from such an assault. Another lowlight is Jurgen Klinsmann's rendition of "Three Lions", but even that is more easily comprehensible than Jeff Astle's version, even though the latter is supposed to be in English.

Ultimate Cricket '96 (Twentieth Century Fox) is a trundle through the cricket season at military medium pace courtesy of Sky. It's not a bad memento of the season, but it is marred by a relentlessly self- promoting introduction. Sky are so mad keen on telling their viewers how good they are that you sometimes wonder whether, deep down, they really believe it themselves. In this case it is a thoroughly pointless exercise since anyone who gets to see the plug will already have bought the video. The best fun you can have with this tape is fast-forwarding through Charles Colvile's bits.

Finally, two turkeys. One hesitates to criticise someone as forthright as Mick "The Munch" Skinner, but his Out to Munch (PNE Video), which concerns "The hardest hits, the toughest tackles and the biggest boshes from league and union" would have benefited considerably from a script that wasn't by Mick "The Munch" Skinner. That is, it would have benefited from a script. Bosh? It's tosh.

Eric Hall's Monster Hits (PNE Video, yet again) is a ham-fisted and cynical exercise in self-promotion that is about as funny as a road accident. If you received it for Christmas, you need some new friends.