I had an intro I'd prepared earlier, as I sat down to watch England in the new format: something along the lines of, "You too can watch England disappoint in pin-sharp HD." Even given the current renaissance, fans of the national side still fear the worst. But it turns out Fabio Capello doesn't do false dawns (unless we're still in one, of course).
The satellite service Freesat, thanks to whom I've been lured into the 21st century, are showing England games, the FA Cup and the Champions League in HD. And Wednesday night was all in the detail (they lent me a posh telly so I could appreciate it): the billowing folds of David James' shiny sky-blue shirt, the beads of manly sweat on John Terry's brow, the graceful arc of a diving German, the urgent downward trajectory of snot expelled from nostrils... Appropriately, England were playing in high definition too, everyone on-message, knocking it about like they meant business.
As David Pleat observed 15 minutes in, it didn't feel like a friendly at all, England's second XI demonstrating that the Capello creed has permeated the entire set-up. "It's all going swimmingly for England," said Clive Tyldesley, and although he meant the match, he could have been talking more generally. The players have a spring in their step and a clear sense of purpose, after decades of their predecessors playing as if they'd got bags on their heads. My son Tom, seven, had a different perspective. "The dwarf's not singing," he said during the anthems. He was referring to Piotr Trochowski, the Hamburg midfielder, who at 5ft 61/2in is a mere half an inch shorter than what I've always felt is the optimum height for a man.
"He's not a dwarf. He's a footballer – he's probably about the same size as me." "Well, you're a dwarf then."
"I'm taller than you." "I'm seven," he pointed out. "You're 50."
Afterwards, Andy Townsend and Graeme Le Saux were the usual brains' trust – punditry in low definition. It almost makes you pine for Alan Shearer (who'd get a knighthood for services to football on TV if he were to make himself unavailable to the BBC in order to take the Newcastle job). But the England revival has happened on ITV's watch, and if in some cosmic, karmic way, Townsend and Le Saux are the price we have to pay for half-decent performances, then we must let them whitter on. As Pleat said, "Stay optimistic."
Elsewhere – sorry, I've had to outsource my links department – what's going on with Inside Sport? The new series (BBC 1, Monday) is down to 30 minutes from 40, and still marooned in an unforgiving late-night slot, which often slides even later down the schedule. Last Monday's edition – bumped to after 11pm by a repeat of the previous Friday's A Question of Sport – featured an interview with Nick Faldo ... and, er, that's it. It was a perfectly decent chat, if oddly timed – too long after the Ryder Cup – but the whole programme? Could they not have made a cut-down version the centrepiece of a regular show and put the whole interview online?
Is the BBC shaping up to dump it? If not, why not have a bit of faith in it? Put it on at 10.35pm after the news and give it an hour. Have more of The Indy's Steve Bunce, who always perks it up. Have more hard-edged, investigative reports; heated debates; get Russell Brand on (that was a joke). One thing's sure: you have to invest in these things, not strip them down.
Navratilova unsuited to the jungle racket
Eighteen Grand Slam singles titles; 31 doubles; 10 mixed doubles. What on earth is Martina Navratilova doing in the jungle? A woman who's carried herself through a long and glorious career with dignity and composure is now, presumably, swallowing cockroaches and pulling leeches off her legs. You're more than a celebrity, Martina, get out of there!Reuse content