Sport on TV: Sex on the brain as netball goes on a roll
Saturday 02 December 2006
Apart from swimming for Great Britain juniors in the 1980s, Ingrid Hagemann has two claims to fame. One was being fined a few years ago by her then employers, Radio Aire in Leeds, after she phoned in sick in order to do a lads' mag photoshoot in London which featured her naked in a bubble bath. And a couple of years before that a scandal kicked off in Durham when a 100-foot image of her sporting a low-cut top and angel's wings was projected on to the side of the Cathedral to publicise her show on Radio Metro.
I'm positive, however, that the raciness of her resumé has nothing to do with her new gig as presenter of Netball Superleague (Sky Sports 2, Thursday) - even if there is a campaign afoot to sex up a sport more associated with backlines than necklines.
Though fans seem mostly to be female, the weekly highlights that Hagemann is fronting are being marketed with the boys in mind - witness the sultry pix of pouting players I received at work in an email which I was almost afraid to open in case I was sacked for downloading soft porn on company time.
Using sex to sell sport is an entirely pointless manoeuvre. Men do not watch sport to get their rocks off (that's what broadband's for, I'm told). If sport was about lust, topless darts would be an Olympic discipline and Anna Kournikova would still be playing tennis.
If the PR blitz works and netball takes off, it will be down to skill, not sex appeal. So is it any good? I enjoyed it - even if, as in basketball, you pretty well knew from the start who was going to win.
Thursday's opener, in which the reigning champions, Team Bath, beat Loughborough, was fast and exciting, with rapid-fire moves almost Arsenal-like in their fluency. "Virtually end-to-end", as summariser Gilly Salter put it.
It will come as no surprise that out of 11 world netball championships, seven have been won outright by Australia. But no matter how many times they beat us in the Ashes, they'll never possess the famous urn, because we won't let 'em (quite right too).
The urn is, though, visiting the country, and during lunch on the first day of the second Test on Thursday night, it enjoyed a brief stay in the Test Match Special commentary box along with its guardian, the Lord's curator, Adam Chadwick.
He came up with a novel use for the terracotta pot. Because it's so fragile it doesn't have to be X-rayed at airports. "So if you've got a stash that's the place to keep it."
Definitely not on drugs is Mark Ramprakash, who put himself back on track with a polished waltz after a dodgy couple of weeks in Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1, Saturday).
"The England cricketer could have a bigger score than all his team-mates put together," as Bruce Forsyth put it. Or, as he could have said, "Nice to win the Ashes, to win the Ashes, nice."
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