Sport on TV: The Twee Musketeer exposes the icy sliver in his heart
Saturday 22 July 2006
I really can't have a go at poor old Peter Alliss again. How many years is it now? I think my biannual kickings, during the Open and the Masters, have been going on since Bobby Jones was winning the Junior Plate. It feels like mugging the Queen.
I always mentally associate the old duffer with his near namesake Peter Sallis, the voice of Wallace (as in Gromit). With a delivery as comfy as a feather cushion and turns of phrase seemingly scriptwritten by Enid Blyton, Alliss has no rival as the Twee Musketeer.
During Thursday's first round of the Open on BBC2, however, he flashed a hitherto rarely glimpsed pair of claws with one tiny remark that you could easily have missed. It was during the last couple of holes of the Woods and Faldo show.
"It's been a fascinating duel, when you think that Faldo's almost 20 years older than Woods," Alliss said, though describing it as a "duel" suggests a meeting of equals as opposed to a kick-boxer assaulting an OAP. "I'm not too sure he should have been paired with Woods. I don't know whether it was cunning or clever or cruel, but I think he should have played with someone else. He has not been competitive for a number of years, and to put him in the heat of battle with this fellow didn't do him any favours. But serve him right."
Serve him right? Where did that come from? Have they got previous? I guess it tells us most of what we need to know about Faldo's standing among his fellow pros, which brings to mind David Frost's famous question to Peter Cook about why people tended to take an instant dislike to him. "It saves time later on," Cook replied.
Julian Tutt (sounding disconcertingly like Monty Don of Gardeners' World) weighed in. "He's been complaining this week that it wasn't what he needed," he said of Faldo.
"Has he? Oh..." said Alliss in the tones of someone raising their eyes to heaven. "Well, I agree with him, really. But he's won six major championships, and he's here and he's playing. He can't just go out with two promising young assistants, one from Rochdale and the other one from Budleigh Salterton."
You could almost hear the perennially dry Mark James raising an eyebrow. "Well, if it has put Nick off I think it'll be the first time in his career that playing with the wrong sort of person's put him off." The way he said it, you got the impression he feels it's mostly been the other way round.
"Putain de fainéant de nègre". Any idea what that means? Ron Atkinson should be able to tell you by the end of the new series he's involved in, Excuse My French (BBC2, Tuesday). He's one of les pigs de guinea, along with Esther Rantzen and the comedian Marcus Brigstocke, who've agreed to do an immersion course for a month in a Provence villa before doing their day job in French. Big Ron'll be working with the Gallic equivalent of the CRE, I imagine.
He's unlikely to get a job as an interpreter. He's giving it a go but he looks lost and useless. "I'm staying deliberately silent so I don't say anything that'll sound stupid later," he said. And at the end, in the trailer for next week, his teacher was shown storming out of their lesson. "I want to run away," she said. "I want to get in a car, and run away."
The most excitable commentary of the week came in the Tour de France, at the end of Floyd Landis's astonishing Alpine victory on Thursday (ITV4). This was a man, a man with one good hip, who'd spent most of the stage out on his own, and Phil Liggett was beside himself in the commentary box as the American crossed the line: "And he gets off the bike like he's just delivered the papers!" God knows what Landis will do when he's got two hips.
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