Sport on TV: Empty feeling for the Saturday night fevered
Sunday 08 August 1999
The line had been cut by the following night, but the ghost of Des will not be exorcised nearly so easily. For many viewers, in fact, the Saturday service will never seem entirely normal again. Tourists tuning into the news or reading the press coverage must have found all the hysteria bemusing. On the face of it, the headline on the story could have been: "Man, 56, quits job to take very similar job". Had 300 people in India not been killed a few hours earlier, however, the departure of Des would have led every bulletin until Tuesday morning at least. The only cause for relief is that no one started quoting that poem from Four Weddings and a Funeral, but it was probably a close-run thing.
The reason for the fuss, of course, is that Des is a National Treasure, a bit like the Queen Mum, yet even further beyond reproach. Not that his move to ITV is a cause for criticism, this being a free country after all. The reaction, though, did highlight an interesting case of double standards among the public.
On the radio this week, for instance, John Inverdale hosted Any Sporting Questions (Radio 5 Live), which is a little like Question Time on the telly, the main differences being that the panel is interesting and the chairman is 100 per cent less pompous. A long series of speakers from the audience slated the greed of modern footballers, the consensus being that pounds 20,000 a week was a disgraceful sum to pay people simply for playing football.
What no one seemed to consider, though, was that Des, on a reported pounds 5m over four years, will be getting approximately pounds 24,000 per week merely for talking about people who are simply playing football. When Manchester United - salary cap rumoured to be around pounds 28,000 - play in the Champions' League, he will probably be getting more than at least half the players on the pitch, and actually working for rather less than a third as much time. Five minutes before the match, five minutes afterwards, and a few more at half-time between two commercial breaks is ITV's usual routine, so Des's mots will have to be not only bons, but tres petits too.
Of course, he will earn every penny, particularly if ITV persist with some of their ropier pundits. The point, though, is that Des will be getting his fat cheques for exactly the same reason that the Premiership's star players are getting theirs, which is that the market thinks they are worth it.
The race to replace Lynam's bottom on the BBC leather started immediately, with Inverdale himself among the obvious front- runners, thanks in part to the timely return of Onside (BBC1). And his was an impressive pitch for the job, if the ability to be chummy and banter for Britain is what they look for in an anchorman.
Patrick Vieira and Harry and Jamie Redknapp were among the guests swatting dolly-drops over short leg, with Harry in particular enjoying the experience and delivering a stream of droll anecdotes in his deadpan Cockney way. His wife, on the other hand, might not have been too impressed by his unreconstructed views on the role of women in football (there isn't one, it seems, except when it comes to getting grass stains out of shirts). Then again, Harry probably doesn't allow her to watch the telly anyway, in case it gives her ideas.
There was a far more robust approach to interviewing later in the week, when Martin Bashir attempted to play a round of golf while talking to Robbie Fowler on Tonight (ITV). Since Bashir had never touched a club in his life, it was not a surprise when his first tee-shot moved five yards at a 90-degree angle to the fairway. His questions, though, were straight down the middle.
"It was just one of those things, the heat of the moment," Fowler said of his notorious gesture in Graeme Le Saux's direction. "That, if I may say so," Bashir responded, "is quite a cheap excuse." Fowler, rather more used to the "why are you so wonderful?" school of journalism, did not know where to turn. He stammered lamely that it was all the other guy's fault for taking so long over his free-kick. Perhaps he should have tried the only explanation which is likely to convince anybody: that Le Saux had asked him to point at his brain.
Latest in Sport
England vs Japan: Watch the moment Laura Bassett's own goal saw England knocked out of the 2015 Women's World Cup
Bastian Schweinsteiger to Manchester United: Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola hints midfielder will be leaving the club this summer
Morgan Schneiderlin to Manchester United: Transfer news live - Robin van Persie to leave, Saints and Tottenham battle for Toby Alderweireld
Wojciech Szczesny was 'lied to' by Arsene Wenger over future after £11m transfer of Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech
Football kits 2015/16: The good, the bad and the downright worst new shirts from around the world for next season
- 2 David Cameron refers to 83-year-old Labour MP Dennis Skinner as 'Jurassic Park'
- 3 Alton Towers Air breaks down: 80 people stuck on broken down Monorail during heatwave
- 4 'Help me I'm trapped in a factory' messages keep being found on bottles of vitamin water
- 5 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...
£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...
£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...