Robin Scott-Elliot: Poetry? check. Cliché? check. Must be a big game on the Beeb
View From The Sofa: Six Nations, BBC1
Monday 21 March 2011
Whether this is a golden age of sport is probably best left to the more venerable to establish but over the past few months it has seemed like one if you have been watching events through the small screen, or 104in wall-mounted flat screen if you're a Premier League footballer. TV sport at the moment is a succession of lofty peaks, like a Crouch family wedding, with English teams playing a laudable role, although it mostly ends with them getting beaten. By Ireland.
Fabio Capello must be relieved to be stopping this side of the Irish Sea, although the longer journey would allow some valuable extra thinking time over who should, or shouldn't, or should be his captain.
The Six Nations has done its bit to entertain, although Saturday's elongated finale meant sitting through more crouch, touch, engage than is natural, unless you are Abbey Clancy. The strength of the tournament is that the rules can remain a mystery – it is comforting that the players don't really seem to know either – yet the rousing atmosphere that accompanies any England trip to be roundly abused by Celts or Gauls make it an event. To BBC Sport it is a Big Event so on Saturday they did what they always do to mark these occasions; poetry and cliché. Because it was a Really Big Event they combined the two. With Des Lynan having never returned the BBC library copy of Kipling, they came up with The Victor by CW Longenecker, who may not actually exist according to extensive research, or 10 minutes on Google. It consists of lines like "If you think you are beaten, you are", and was portentously delivered by a succession of Beeb pundits with serious faces and current players. Then it was into the build-up proper. "Now is the hour," said someone. "Big day for big men," suggested someone else. "Treat it like any other game," warned another.
Brian O'Driscoll had delivered his line with a barely disguised smirk, as if he knew what was afoot. Ireland's approach come kick off, or when the talking stopped to fit in with the mood of the day, brought to mind a rather more cerebral saying, attributed to a Scot, who instructed his men as they attacked against England to "kick ahead, kick ahead, kick any effing head." It was, remarked Eddie Butler, like the old days at the old Lansdowne Road with Ireland romping rumbustiously forward at every opportunity. The new Lansdowne Road provides a rather plusher backdrop, although its lack of an end makes it look as if the builders had run out of seats but found a job lot of glass panels out the back of the warehouse.
Alongside Butler, Brian Moore was unusually muted, but he did register the first recorded use of "hitherto" in a sporting commentary. Moore has had a downbeat tournament by his angry standards and there was a lack of fury at what was unfolding down below him. As the referee whistled up another offence, Moore remarked "Umm, can't explain that." Which is probably rather how Martin Johnson felt come Saturday evening.
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