Hello Gary and who knows what he means?

Sport on TV
Click to follow
The Independent Online
So we have seen the last of Frank Bruno in a boxing ring. Let us hope, though, that we have not heard the last of him. For if his contests in the ring occasionally lacked excitement, there is nothing more fulfilling than an honest scrap between Frank and the English language.

His valedictory press conference, broadcast live at considerable length on the cable station Channel One on Friday, was a virtuoso performance. Time and again, subject, verb and object had Frank on the ropes: on every occasion he pummelled them into submission.

Here was Frank on his future career: "I don't want to commit myself or pin myself against a wall or nothing or commit myself now or say what I'm going to do now whatever, I don't know what I'm going to do as yet you know? I just try to show you some respect, you show me some respect by showing up to interview me live or whatever so I'm just trying to I don't know what I'm going to you know?"

Um. Moving swiftly on, Frank, how about making a movie about your career? "I'll tell you if I did make a film of my life it would be very interesting, you know what I mean? Because all the way through it hasn't been easy, it's been very tough, you know, not too many people in history have had four chances of a world title and winning after all and being written off here, there and heaven knows what."

Rejecting - politely - an ill- informed and presumably colour-blind hack's suggestion of Sylvester Stallone for the role, Frank thought it might be fun to play himself. This would be a good idea only if he gets to write his own dialogue.

He remains a master of evasion. A reporter asked a question he disliked. "Where are you from?" Frank enquired. "ITN." "ITN?" A long, thoughtful nod. "Nice suit." If only he had learned to sidestep a punch the same way he would be champion still.

Unless some kind of cunning simultaneous translation device can be devised, a career as a television presenter is not a likely route for Bruno. But the thought occurs that he would make a damn fine Gladiator, if a suitable name could be found for him. The titles of the current crew - Hunter, Wolf, Saracen and so on - seem rather on the effete side. Grunter, maybe. Or an acronym of his favourite phrase: Kwim. Know what I mean?

One who has made the transition to presenter without the need of a leotard or a name change is Gary Lineker, back from his Olympic stint and newly installed as the host of Football Focus on Grandstand (BBC1).

At least, it is called Football Focus, but this is not the cosy studio chat of old. In a fit of jealousy inspired by the cocktail-bar-cum-mission- control set-up of Andy Gray on Sky, the BBC's designers have created for Gary a virtual reality lair worthy of the arch-criminal in a James Bond film.

Silver girders, arches and columns surround a gigantic circular table, bare apart from a glass of water and with what appear to be a pair of fish-tanks set into the surface. On occasion, giant blue lozenges loom out of the walls bearing logos and faces. It is all most disquieting.

The stark lighting lends a sinister cast to Lineker's features, and something rather unpleasant has happened to his hair. Perhaps it is to do with the fixative on his schoolgirl wig in the crisp advert, but the effect is as if a gigantic bird with a troublesome tummy has used his head for target practice.

Dodgy barnet aside, Lineker has become a polished performer, and Trevor Brooking is a fine foil, even though his geometric tie clashed badly with the apocalyptic studio background. But all the flash graphics and portentous scenery give what ought to be a straightforward chin-wag about football the trappings of an intergalactic peace conference. It seems somehow dated, too: you keep expecting Jon Pertwee to burst in pursued by a clutch of Daleks.

It is rather sad that the BBC feel that they have to try so hard to compete with Sky. The fact is that the satellite channel now sets the agenda for football coverage in Britain, and the massive self-confidence of their latest advertising campaign underlines their dominance.

Their plugs feature clips of goals, saves and stunts with the breathless exclamations of Martin Tyler. Intercut into the frenzy are calm statements from players, managers and pundits. Eric Cantona, philosophe, intones the existential poser: "What is it all about?"

The cast provide the answers. George Best suggests that it is about being the best, Alex Ferguson that it is about being United, Messrs Ferdinand and Keegan that it is about being black and white, while Gareth Southgate rather paranoically suggests that it is all about penalties. Then up pops Eric again to conclude: "It is all about football." Slick, entertaining stuff.

But there is something else that it is all about that must have slipped everyone's mind. Now, if they had asked George Graham . . .