Robin Scott-Elliot: A bunch of hairy mammals on the telly? It must be Christmas
View From The Sofa: Olympia Horse Show, Eurosport Today; World Darts, Sky Sports 1
Monday 22 December 2008
Darts players may believe that a Shetland pony is dodgy currency, but there is something that makes these two rotund, hairy mammals unlikely bedfellows. They have come to perform, with no little aplomb, a key supporting role in the British Christmas experience. You know Christmas is just around the corner when the Shetland Pony Grand National gallops on to our screens. You know it's the festive season when the Power, the Artist, the Menace and several thousand merry fans wearing Santa hats or elf outfits invade your personal viewing space.
London is barely big enough to cope with an invasion of the like not seen since Boudicca galloped her chariots through the capital, although she presumably didn't have the problems that dogged the horsey types flocking to Olympia. "Getting your horse into London is a logistical nightmare," pointed out Andy Austin, Eurosport's otherwise jolly studio pundit. "You have to struggle through traffic just to get here." Imagine that, traffic in a city. There are post offices too.
Over on Sky they preferred a more direct approach to getting to Alexandra Palace. A meteor swept across London's skyline and crashed into the Pally. "London will never be the same again," intoned the sort of voiceover artist who normally introduces Hollywood trailers.
The darts has a surprisingly international line-up. Austria, China, Japan, the Philippines, Guyana, Russia and, whatever next, women are represented at the World Championships – baseball it ain't. But it will still be English-dominated, with the Dutch the only threat to home rule. The Dutch and their Total Darts represent a lonely mainland Europe outpost, although it's a mystery why the sport has never caught on in neighbouring Belgium. A country that embraced It's A Knockout and is best known for a little boy having a wee should surely take to it like Bobby George to bling.
The darts establishment is quick to take offence should anyone dare point out the elephant in the room. John Gwynne, a commentator made for this event, spent a chunk of Saturday afternoon lambasting a "cynical" journalist who had dared to raise doubts over the competitors' fitness.
"There's players in every sport who are overweight," went the line for the defence. Er, yes, but you wouldn't back the darts player in Superstars, would you? They are not athletes, nor is Phil Taylor the "finest sportsman in the world", but this is quality entertainment with an atmosphere that puts a number of Premier League grounds to shame.
The atmosphere down the road at Olympia was equally excitable, but there the similarities end. There was no royalty at the Palace, more's the pity, while Camilla turned up to watch the horses. "Great to have royalty here," schmoozed Austin, although he seemed even happier the following day when Katie Price turned up to flog her new range of (largely pink) riding gear. "I'd like to see a bit more bling," Katie informed a bemused Jill Douglas before heading off to "chillax" over Christmas.
It is hard to imagine two more contrasting audiences (memo to Channel 4 – programme idea: Crowd Swap, switch the darts with the horsey lot and film the ensuing hilarity and cultural misunderstandings). But the darters come across as a relentlessly happy lot – a state of mind which may not be entirely naturally achieved – and would relish the Shetland Pony Grand National. Who wouldn't? They are the John Sergeant of the equine world, feisty, podgy and enduringly popular but essentially not designed for athletic grace – which might equally apply to darts.
Hansen helps the BBC regain its Focus
Football Focus comes across as a programme whose heyday is long gone, but occasionally it can still produce a gem. On Saturday, Alan Hansen talked through Liverpool's title challenge while pacing the streets around Anfield. A simple idea, well executed and with Hansen at his best. Great viewing.
Latest in Sport
Ireland v England Six Nations match preview: What time does it start and where can I watch it?
Chelsea vs Tottenham combined XI: Hugo Lloris or Thibaut Courtois? Willian or Christian Eriksen? Who makes the final cut?
Manchester United vs Sunderland match report: Wayne Rooney scores twice but referee Roger East sends off Wes Brown instead of John O'Shea
Manchester United player ratings: Just how bad was Angel Di Maria to be withdrawn at half-time?
Brock Lesnar fuels speculation over his WWE future with appearance at UFC event
- 1 Michelle Rodriguez: Fast & Furious actor apologises after telling 'minorities' to stop taking on 'white' roles
- 2 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face the death penalty
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 Robert Mugabe eats a zoo for 'obscene' 91st birthday party
- 5 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'
£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...
£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...
£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...
£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...