Sport on TV: Underachieving, underwhelming and undereducated

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The Independent Online

From one underachieving England side to another... Or is that unfair on Andrew Strauss's brave boys? During the World Cup I'd forgotten that cricket existed. But then I'd forgotten that almost everything else existed as well. And in the conceptual slippage that became inevitable when the football refused to die thanks to Zizou, I found myself watching the cricket, as Paul Collingwood and Alastair Cook did their best Owen Hargreaves v Portugal impersonations, while imagining Geoff Boycott summarising in Berlin last Sunday rather than St John's Wood.

"No, no, you don't do it like that! That's no good! Not in the chest! You need blood. You want to go for the bridge of the nose. I tell the all the young lads I coach that you have to hear the sound of nasal cartilage splintering."

The World Cup did continue - at least, the Football & Poker Legends World Cup (Five, Wednesday), in which each team is composed of two poker pros and one wrinkled old footballer. It was the semi-finals, Germany against the Netherlands. The Dutch old lag was Glenn Helder, the former Arsenal man, who confessed a few years ago that he'd tried to kill himself because of his compulsive gambling.

The German old boy also rang a bell. Uli Stein, a man with big, sad, troubled eyes, was sent home in disgrace from the 1986 World Cup, where he was Toni Schumacher's deputy. A Google translation of his German Wikipedia entry tells you all you need to know: "Thus it was sent with the WM in Mexico von Teamchef Franz basin farmer, after it had called these 'Suppenkasper' and the crew as 'a cucumber troop', what the end of its career in the national soccer team ment." Later that year he was sent off in the German Cup. "He said goodbye to Augsburger the fans with the stinking finger."

Not a man to be trifled with, then. Unless you're a poker nut, all that's more interesting than the game itself - in which both footballers played well in an eventual German victory.

Helder and Stein might have exceeded expectations, but it was still a week for the underachiever. Take the Charlton Athletic fan for whom Mastermind (BBC2, Wednesday) was a game of two halves. Brilliant with his own questions and second after the first round, he was rubbish on general knowledge, slipping to last through scoring only two points, with more passes than England managed in five games in Germany.

Another underachiever, Juan Pablo Montoya, is decamping from Formula One to Nascar, which has its origins in stock-car racing. All I know is that at Kirby Stadium in the Seventies stock cars fought to the death. Which would suit Formula One's very own Mr Pile-Up, whose most recent jape was taking out eight cars at the US Grand Prix. In fact, on further investigation - late-night Five on Thursday - it's not like that at all. It's that awful oval thing, and I dipped in on lap 146 of a 267-lap race. Ridiculous. Even worse than basketball. The only sport that should be permitted to go into three figures is cricket. The next time I looked up they'd cut to lap 238. But I don't know who won. I'm sorry, there were still 20 minutes left. Crash Boy's welcome to it.

I wrote during the World Cup that I was fed up of hearing about 1966. But even I felt for Sir Geoff Hurst on Love Island (ITV1, Thursday). No, Hat-trick Man hasn't sunk quite so far. He was one of the questions in a picture quiz for the programme's thonged and bikinied imbeciles. Sir Geoff came up for Lady Victoria Hervey, who didn't have a clue who he was, even when his name was revealed. This is the gods' punishment for the modern Prometheus, the man who dared score three goals in a World Cup final: condemned to go for ever unrecognised by a D-list celebrity on Love Island.

And finally, there was naturally talk of Juventus et al on Sky Sports News yesterday, with my subtitling facility accidentally turned on: "...and tear and Tina could also go down..."

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