Sport on TV: BBC 4 fist among equals as commentariat excels
Saturday 12 July 2008
It was the biggest fashion statement in history: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gloved fists raised on the Olympic podium in Mexico in 1968. Now we all knew about civil rights.
But look at the picture and you will see it wasn't just about the gloves. The excellent Black Power Salute (BBC 4, Wednesday) explained the iconography. Smith and Carlos are shoeless, denoting the poverty of black people in America. They are wearing black socks. Note also Carlos's beads, signifying lynchings; and his jacket is undone, in defiance of Olympic protocol, in honour of blue-collar workers black and white.
The athletes were sent home, of course, while black team-mates who followed them on to the podium came up with varying sartorial responses. The long-jump bronze medallist Ralph Boston went barefoot; Lee Evans, the militant 400 metres winner, led a US 1-2-3 in which they all wore berets – but removed them for "The Star-Spangled Banner". Evans' standing in the black community never recovered.
Bob Beamon, he of the miracle long jump, hoisted his trouser legs to reveal his black socks. Ron Pickering, who later kicked off Private Eye's Colemanballs column with his famous observation regarding legs and class and the area between Alberto Juantorena's legs, had been on hand to deliver another of his best-loved lines. "Oh it's an enormous one! My goodness me, it's an enormous one!"
Simon Hughes has never quite hit such heights, at least not in my hearing, but while Kevin Pietersen was strutting his funky and so very, very English stuff during the first Test at Lord's on Thursday, Five's tactics-truck man had one of those moments commentators must dream about. "He's never a very good starter," he warned as Pietersen struggled briefly to get his eye in. "He usually tries to gallop off on a crazy single to get himself going."
Instantly, cue a rush of blood – "and there he goes for the mad single!" For that, Hughes was Mark Nicholas's man of the day – not an award any right-thinking person wants to be given.
Geoff Boycott, meanwhile, was busy being Geoff Boycott. Pietersen dealt summarily with a short ball. "It wanted swatting and it got it," said the man Yorkshire types used to refer to as "Sir Geoffrey".
I doubt any of them could match Eurosport's David Harmon in the polyglot department. During Tuesday's stage of the Tour de France the successor to the, er, legendary David Duffield performed the wondrous feat – for a Brit – of translating from the Spanish as Jose-Ivan Gutierrez was being interviewed. Nice to see, you thought.
A few minutes later, though, he was at it again, translating from the German with the day's winner, Stefan Schumacher – and then again, from the Italian with Damian Cunego. I defy the best of them – The Great Sid Waddell or even, whisper it, Lord Davies of Barryshire – to match that.
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