Sport on TV: Cards on the table – time for Poll to be shown red
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Saturday 19 April 2008
Bring back the poll tax. It will always be an unfair levy, especially at a time when the credit crunch is biting and gas bills can match an Indian cricketer's pay packet, but something has to be done to rid our screens of the ubiquitous Graham Poll. Who would not willingly pay to ensure he stays off air? At the very least it would give Garth Crooks those vital extra minutes to complete his chains of thought.
There appears no escaping Poll on the BBC and the nadir came last Sunday. Watching the London Marathon remains a humbling experience and one that the BBC largely delivers well, finding the balance between the professional event and the thousands of foot sloggers who trudge round in their wake. It is to some extent an open goal as there is never a shortage of moving tales and real achievement by what I suppose we must call ordinary people. Because we also have the celebrities, and it is against the BBC charter to show anything that does not involve a celebrity.
A select number from the praetorian guard of our celebrity marathon army were chosen to be tracked around the course so viewers would always know how Jonny Lee Miller, an actor, Ben Fogle, a bloke off the telly, and Gordon Ramsay, a cook, were getting on. And Graham Poll, a former football match official.
When not running marathons – with his yellow card – Poll can be found on the Football Focus or Match of the Day 2 sofa. Why? Was the wretched fellow who messed up the start of the National ever asked to cosy up with Clare Balding and pass on his musings on the world of racing? Have you seen Darrell Hair talk David Gower through the intricacies of the lbw law? What happens when, as Alan Hansen likes to demand, the pundits put their medals on the table? After Hansen and Lawrenson's truckful, Dixon's hatful, Crooks' Cup medals, does Poll disdainfully chuck his cards in along with a complimentary copy of his autobiography?
Back at the Marathon, James Cracknell – a drawer full of Olympic medals – was beaming at the sheer spirit of the event, and in the commentary box Steve Cram and Brendan Foster, an enjoyable double act in a north-eastern Steptoe & Son way, tiptoed around the edge of the cliché traps that threaten such an event. Out on the course, the reporters often leapt straight in, but it was easy to get lost in the occasion at the end of the day. See?
If the Marathon was about taking part, then the Old Firm was all about winning. And fighting. It must have rolled back the years for Terry Butcher, watching from the Setanta studio.
In his day an Old Firm game wasn't up to scratch unless the procurator fiscal was required, and, after some comparatively tame affairs, this one was back to its anarchic, fulminating best culminating in a post-match scrap between Scotland team-mates.
With the IPL and the Calzaghe fight, as well as plenty of football – there's another Old Form game to come – these are heady days for Setanta and, what's more, they are a Poll-free zone.
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