Frank talking and the start of a Homer epic

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The Independent Online
"The press always build you up to knock you down," Frankie Dettori told Carol Smillie on Smillie's People (BBC1) last week. "It has always been the case. Things are going good now and they pump you up. But after the nice things have been out and everything, they are always going to try and find an angle to mess your life up." Perceptive chap, Frankie.

Last week, with this column in full-power pumping mode, it was suggested that further television appearances by the near-ubiquitous Dettori would be no bad thing. Indeed, the jockey was described as "an immensely engaging character, relaxed and entertaining". But enough is enough. The nice things, as Frankie might put it, have been out and everything, and his appearance on Smillie's show, and a further book-promotion episode with Sue Barker on Sportsnight, have driven levels of irritation dangerously high. Frankly, we're fed up with Frankie on several counts.

Item: his "peek-a-boo" around the doorway when making his entrance to a chat show. Cute on Clive Anderson's show last week, tedious when repeated for Smillie's benefit.

Item: telling the same anecdotes over and over, particularly the one about his boyhood ambition to be a petrol pump attendant. This must really get on the nerves of petrol pump attendants, especially those who are not millionaires.

Item: those ties. Frankie told Smillie that they represent his character, which is true enough in that they are loud and dedicated to horses, but they are still revolting.

Such a sudden volte face on our part may seem petty, vindictive, even gratuitous. But what the hell? You've got to get your kicks where you can, and you know what the press are like. If you don't, ask Frankie.

More build-'em-up and knock-'em-down stuff on The Simpsons (Sky), in which Homer, paterfamilias of the dysfunctional All-American cartoon family, was promoted as a contender for the world heavyweight crown. The programme was so funny that one can overlook Sky's attempt to promote it as a follow-up to "Judgement Night", about which they should now belt up unless they wish to suffer Dettori-like disparagement.

Belaboured by muggers - The Simpsons has never lacked social realism - Homer discovered that a unique abnormality in his skull made him virtually impossible to knock out. The less-than-scrupulous local bartender, Moe, who as a boxer had fought first as Kid Gorgeous, then as Kid Presentable, Kid Gruesome and finally, beyond description, as Kid Moe, decided to exploit his friend's resilient bonce, and put him in training.

Out jogging - on a Homer run, as it were - Moe took his man through his mantra. "Who's gonna knock you down?" "No one!" "When are you going to fight back?" "Never!" "What are you going to do?" "Nothing!"

So, taking the path of least resistance - indeed, the path of no resistance at all - Homer allowed a series of no-hopers to pummel themselves into exhaustion against his cranium before tipping them over. More social realism, this time in the manner of a favoured heavyweight's path to the title.

That title was the property of Drederick Tatum, given to wearing black trunks and black shoes, and with a neat little parting in his hair. Get the hints? Tatum had been imprisoned - for pushing his mother down the stairs, too much social realism being not only in bad taste but sometimes actionable.

This also applied to Tatum's manager, Lucius Sweet, a man of monstrous ego, magnificently bejewelled and preposterously behaired, in fact a dead ringer for ... No, better not spell it out.

"Homer v Tatum: Payback" was a manifest mismatch, a bout that on medical grounds alone should not have been allowed to take place, a cynical con- trick to play on the gullible boxing public - in short, the kind of thing that could never have happened in real life. And the result, which should remain a secret so as not to spoil what ought to be a quick repeat showing, was even more unpredictable than Tyson v Holyfield.

The delight was in the details: Sweet's simple demand for an opponent "who can sustain verticality for three rounds", the newspaper headline that proclaimed "Champ to whale on local man", the shabby credentials of the ringside "celebrities" at the title bout. Like all the best comedy, it was a well-judged blend of imagination and observation.

Homer's odyssey should have been comfortably the most bizarre sporting show on television last week, but it was pipped at the post by Lumberjacks OK! (Channel 4) in which assorted Canadian woodspersons competed at log- related events. As soon as David Jensen revealed at the top of the show that "the points winner of each group will compete in an axe-throw final", he guaranteed that his audience would stay with him. You know how it is: build 'em up, chop 'em down.

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