Sport on TV: Left behind the times, but we'll always have Allis
Saturday 12 April 2008
Imagine only ever getting to see the last 15 minutes of football matches. Or sitting down to watch Hamlet with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern already pushing up daisies, Polonius behind the arras with his fatal sword wound and Ophelia having taken her early bath. That's what watching the Masters is like.
The first day's coverage (BBC2 and BBC1, Thursday) began at 9pm, by which time Justin Rose's six birdies in eight holes and Ian Poulter's hole-in-one were both very old news. It underlined – as every year – how much we're at the whim of the Augusta National politburo and their insistence on keeping those infernal televisual recording devices as far away from the action as is humanly possible.
In one sense, the curmudgeonly unreconstructed socialist that still lurks inside me, like the Japanese soldier hiding in the jungle 50 years after VJ day, is with them all the way: whenever there's a chance to have a pop at the forces of commercialism, I'm there breaking up the paving stones.
But it's all of a piece with the "sacred" Olympic flame – another example of the idiots who run sport fondly imagining themselves to be statesmen and visionaries rather than jobsworths in blazers. On Thursday, Ken Brown spoke warmly of the fact that kids are being admitted free this year.
"They're always trying to move things on," he gushed – just as they were in the vanguard of the struggle for civil rights, admitting their first black member way back in 1990 (note to dimmer readers: that was sarcasm).
Still, we'll always have Allis (Peter, that is). Thursday's opening shot, two turtles basking gloriously in one of the water hazards, was perfect. That's how you feel as you sink deeper into the sofa, cossetted by the lush visuals and Allis's homely, folksy, comfy, chintzy, cheery commentary. When Sandy Lyle went three under he even reprised his refrain from decades ago at the Volvo PGA in Wentworth aeons ago – "Sandy, Sandy, he's our man, if he can't do it, no one can."
And when someone's ball spun round the lip a bit before going down, "it higgled and piggled on its way in" was his verdict. Contrast that, though, with his judgement on Lyle's closing holes, when he fell back to par: "a sad, scruffy little ending". And at the end there was even a bit of irreverence, with Gary Player last on the leaderboard: "And there's the old queen mother propping up the list..." It's like shinto, golf, with its veneration of elders, so it was nice to see the eminence grise of the small screen having a bit of fun with it.
The last word goes to Gary Lineker, however, after Poulter's hole-in-one. The Sartorially Challenged One recently spoke of himself and Tiger Woods in the same breath. "Any more of that," Lineker remarked after he'd sunk his ace, "and they'll be saying he's the second best player in the world..."
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