Basketball on TV: Folly of riding the sports metaphor

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The Independent Online

The BBC's mawkish, Michael Jordan-linked, tribute to stricken New York last week has probably received enough hellish, and richly deserved, reviews, but in the early hours of yesterday morning we had another reminder of the folly of riding the metaphor of sport too hard.

The New York Yankees were supposed to win still another World Series but the Arizona Diamondbacks dramatically tampered with the script. For those who grow queasy whenever the emotions of real life are injected into the fantasy world of professional sports it was, you have to say, something of a deliverance.

What was so bad about the BBC show was the attempt to invest in the bizarre adulation of a once great sportsman. Michael Jordan was a sublime basketball player for many years, and his failed attempt to be a baseball star was a brave and interesting experiment, but building an entire programme around his time-expired shuffling at Madison Square Garden, trying to make him a symbol of a renascent New York – it might have been different if Chicago had been the wounded city – was gratuitous to say the least.

Jordan was once at the same time a consummate sportsman and a huge financial institution but now he is plainly living on shop-worn hype. Given the BBC's recent form, and most notably its appalling projection of Audley Harrison, we should perhaps not have been too surprised that it failed to make any such distinction.

The emotion of sport, we should know now, needs always to be kept in a proper context. The point was made wryly enough when a famous golfer sobbed over victory. "That's all very well," sniffed one observer, "but what does he do when his daddy dies?"