Robin Scott-Elliot: BBC is badly out of kilter with its endless Scottish stereotyping
View From The Sofa: Six Nations, BBC
Having got up and wolfed down three bowls of salted porridge, fastened my kilt – it saves a fortune in pants if you do it the way god intended – deep fried a stack of confectionery and carefully counted out a stack of pennies to buy the woad necessary to paint my face to terrify any passing Sassenach, it had me choking on my shortbread that the BBC did not mention Bannockburn until, oohh, seven seconds into their build-up to Scotland's Six Nations stramash against the b'stard English.
That may actually be longer than the meeting to decide how best to begin the programme lasted. It was a lazy, blinkered start to an occasion that has more history than most sporting encounters. There is no need to delve outside sport to conjure drama and intensity for a fixture that has been played since long before John Logie Baird decided he needed to find something better to do in the evenings. An attempt to link the 1979 referendum with Bill Beaumont's Grand Slam at Murrayfield a year later was historical gerrymandering to a level that would have shamed a Stalinist.
The Six Nations is an event presented in stereotype, which often those involved are all too happy to play along with. Yes French fans go to games wearing berets and Breton shirts, and the Welsh are jolly good singers. It is part of what a great tournament it is, a winter warmer that is about the occasion as much as the rugby itself, which, especially when Scotland are involved, is often rubbish. But why this tiresome, cliché-draped BBC obsession with the Scots and war?
The build-up to England v Wales is not littered with references to the Battle of Llandeilo, nor England's visit to Dublin peppered by nods to the Easter rising. Both countries have a similarly healthy dislike of those wearing the red rose – in a sporting context, that's the key element; it's about sport. The list could go on because the English have fought with all the countries in the Six Nations, and plenty more beyond.
That apart, he says smoothing the hairy sporran back into place and checking the tam o'shanter is set at a jaunty enough angle to catch the ladies' eyes at the kirk, the BBC does the Six Nations pretty well even if it sometimes resembles a former players' benevolence society. There was an expert in every nook and cranny of the Stade de France and Murrayfield, but they know their stuff and know how to say it, a skill not always apparent among players turned pundits.
The commentary is well judged. Eddie Butler is impossible to dislike and has a deliciously melodious voice befitting, to throw myself into the spirit of the occasion, a people who cannot resist singing a hymn about mining while preparing posh cheese on toast. Andrew Cotter too has a warming voice and rhythm and welcome resistance to hyperbole. And then there's Brian Moore. Moore tends to begin the tournament on best behaviour as if he's come straight from the director-general's office with a stern warning not to upset people. Expect him to be into his enjoyably forthright stride – a furious verbal version of the Ministry of Silly Walks – in the coming weeks. His main irritation on Saturday was the haplessness of the Scots whenever the English tryline came into sight. He should try being Scottish.
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