Matt Butler: There's nothing Wimpy about slow-burning indoor bowls

View From The Sofa: World Indoor Bowls, 247.tv

When Britain tries to do American, you end up with Wimpy. Sports that make perfect sense to those on the other side of the pond can jar here worse than Michael Vaughan hosting golf.

So it was when the NBA show rolled into London last week, when the Knicks and the Pistons – two giants of the game but who have not tasted glory for a good while – arrived for a game which meant little to most people here. A bit like if Aston Villa and Newcastle happened to pop over to Philadelphia for a Premier League fixture.

And boy, as far as razzmatazz went, it was laid on thicker than a layer of greasy mayonnaise on a quarter-pounder. There was a courtside announcer with mangled, elongated vowels (Noooo Yoooork Kniiiicks!), a clutch of waning stars that would have brought a "blimey, he's there" from viewers if it were 2007 – yes, you, Mark Ronson – and a pre-match build-up and bling-tastic half-time entertainment segment that took longer than most people's commutes.

Yes, it is the third year the NBA has schlepped over here, so we should be getting used to it. But the transplanted flag-waving and hoopla is still grating. Like someone from Shoreditch calling their flat a "duplex", or David Cameron high-fiving someone.

It is a good job the World Indoor Bowls Championships started this week to provide some British yang to the Yankee ying. Because there is nothing more British than slow-burning sport on TV. Look at how popular snooker is – or Test cricket, for that matter.

The indoor bowls crowd have gone some way to sexing their sport up, with flash uniforms reminiscent of 1990s one-day cricket kits, and 30-second shot clocks – similar to those in basketball – to put added tension on the players. And in the early rounds, you have to sign up to watch online via 247.tv, giving the tournament that frisson of excitement usually reserved for illegal downloading and porn.

But scratch the surface and it is just how egalitarian sport on TV should be. Low-key, played by people who wouldn't look out of place at a British Legion club or country pub – and mesmerising.

Yesterday's first-round match, between Welshman Robert Weale (left), the 2000 champion, and the portly Australian Ray Pearse (intriguingly nicknamed "Wang wang" according to an old newsletter from his local bowling club), was riveting from the off. Weale raced into an early lead before Pearse came back with some inch-perfect shots to take both sets. And it only took until the second end, 12 minutes into the game, before Weale unleashed the casual viewer's favourite shot: the drive, where the player hurls the bowl seemingly as hard as he can with the aim of smashing the group at the other end to smithereens.

The shot clocks, which are making their World Championship debut, are a winner. Not all the players like them (Robert Maddison, the world bowls chief executive said "a few felt there was a strain added to them"), but you can't help but whisper "come on, come on" under your breath as the player wanders up the rink to check the layout of the bowls while the clock ticks down past 10 seconds.

There is no commentary – although that will surely change today when the BBC begins coverage – but that makes the spectacle even tenser. The only thing that breaks the silence is the referee saying how far the jack is, or whose bowls are closer, in an authoritative tone suited to a missile launch control bunker.

It wasn't cool, but then again it wasn't trying to be. Which means Mark Ronson wouldn't be seen dead watching it. And that can only be a good thing.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Diego Costa, Ross Barkley, Arsene Wenger, Brendan Rodgers, Alan Pardew and Christian Eriksen
footballRodgers is right to be looking over his shoulder, while something must be done about diving
News
The illusionist believes hypnotism helped him to deal with the lack of control he felt growing up
people'It’s not that people react badly to it – they really don't care'
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
gaming
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Network / Systems Administrator (LAN, WAN, Windows)

£38000 - £42000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Netw...

Investigo: Group Financial Controller

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Investigo: A growing group of top end restaurants l...

Ashdown Group: HR Generalist - 2 week contract - £200pd - Immediate start

£200 per day: Ashdown Group: Working within a business that has a high number ...

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible