Sport on TV: Marriage of sweet music and the sweet science
Saturday 23 February 2008
Charlie, studying fine art at Oxford, has led a charmed existence. "Charlie has drawn a royal flush in the poker hand of life," his mum says, contentedly. "The good fairy was there at his baptism."
He's not so sure. "I've never really liked this golden-boy tag," he says. "I feel like I've taken the easiest, the scenic path through life." That was about to change when a BBC camera crew turned up to film his painful entry into the Oxford University Amateur Boxing Club. The excellent Storyville: Blue Blood (BBC 2, Sunday) followed Charlie and other aspirants trying to make the team for the annual match against Cambridge, won for the last two years by the other lot.
Charlie is the unlikeliest boxer imaginable. He's a classical singer. He looks as if he's just left Eton. And when he starts sparring under the slightly concerned eye of Des the coach, he gets knocked about. He keeps waking in the night with blood in his mouth. He goes to the doctor. The doctor tells him to stop what he's doing, now. Funny, that.
He does for a while, but only for a while. When he returns, Des is unsure but a good showing in the fight-off gets him the middleweight slot.
On a highly raucous fight night at Oxford Town Hall, Charlie's team-mates come up short. The pattern becomes familiar: a pasting in the first round, rallying in the second and third to lose on points.
For Charlie's fight, there's a wonderful opera on the soundtrack, and the brilliant device of giving Des's last instructions in subtitles under the music. "Hey, look!" He slaps him on the chest. "Look as if you want it! Get some anger going!"
Charlie starts cold, but a lyrical passage from the opera kicks in and he takes over. There's silence as the referee holds their hands at the end, then a triumphant chord as he raises Charlie's. Beautifully done.
Having got his Blue, Charlie retired from the ring and was last seen captaining the University ballroom dancing team.
The Iranian racing driver Laleh Seddigh (Angelina Jolie channelling Michael Schumacher) has also battled manfully against the odds – being a woman and all that – and in This World: Girl Racer (BBC 2, Tuesday) she had her own solution to getting ahead of the boys.
She had two cars, one blue, one yellow. Just before a big race, the camera crew visited her workshop, where the more powerful yellow car had disappeared and the "blue" car had had a new paint job. It didn't help, and she retired from the race with engine failure. And somebody noticed the switch, so she's banned for a year. With such resourcefulness, I think she'll be back.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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