Sport on TV: Gazza's dislocated idea of a romantic evening

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The Independent Online
OSCAR WILDE remarked that it is a shallow person who does not judge by first impressions. He didn't say you had to be right, though.

No one ever accused Geoff Boycott of shallowness, and on Thursday morning, at around 10.30am South African time, the Sky commentator was confident. "I've not seen much to trouble the England batsmen," he said. About 10 minutes later, four of those batsmen had departed for two whole runs. It was enough to give you the runs.

Similarly, when she met that nice Paul Gascoigne, Sheryl Kyle must have taken Wilde's words to heart, if her account to Martin Bashir on Tonight (ITV, Wednesday) is anything to go by.

"He was charming, he was funny, he was a gentleman... literally, he was an angel," she said, raising some interesting theological questions in the process.

She followed the angel to Italy, where things went quickly sour. They were on their way home from an evening out. "Something must have upset him in the evening, and there was a song on in the car and I'd gone quiet," she said. "He said: `Why've you gone quiet?' We pulled off the motorway... he said: `We're not getting out of this car till you tell me why you've gone quiet.' We must have sat there for an hour." You'd have thought the idea of having to spend an hour with Gazza would have been a big enough incentive for her to have stayed at home in England.

Eventually they got home, where the swearing started. "[He called me] an effing slut, and effing slag - one of his favourites was `busy bitch'. I was always `busy' if I talked to anyone."

"Busy". The very blandness of the word sets your teeth on edge. It's like "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" from The Shining.

After more ranting and raving, he threw a metal sofa through the villa wall, while Sheryl hid in the garden: "I didn't want to breathe, I didn't want to move." He found her, though. "He'd been pulling and shoving me around the whole time, and I was crying, and he was saying: `Go on, yeah, cry, just cry - what are you crying for?' "

So naturally, dear reader, she married him. And more of his exceeding strangeness rose to the surface like a body in a lake. They were enjoying a romantic weekend at Gleneagles, when "something triggered him off... I was called all the names under the sun, and he dragged up all kinds of things from my past, which he loved to do."

And of all the things that might bother an unhinged woman-beater about his partner's past - previous romantic associations, perhaps - what was Gascoigne's chosen object of ire? "I used to push a pushchair - that was one of his favourites." This man is clearly dangerous.

Back in their room, he knocked her about and threw her on the floor until two of her fingers dislocated. So what did the old romantic do? "He snapped them back into place." Sweet.

A strange thing has happened on They Think It's All Over (BBC1, Thursday). Either common sense has prevailed or someone's had a word, because they seem to have decided to put out a programme that doesn't depend on bad language for laughs.

And even weirder, Nick Hancock was actually funny. Alan Shearer is the Premiership's most-fouled player, apparently (can't think why). "Every week," Hancock said, "he has to endure a flood of players assaulting his elbow with their faces."

There's still the requisite layer of laddishness, of course - and scatology works better used sparingly, anyway. Andrei Medvedev's girlfriend is fellow tennis professional Anke Huber, and the programme quoted him: "She inspires me. I write her music. I write her poems."

"Still," Hancock said, "You have to be careful writing poems to a girlfriend called Anke."

The one other outbreak of foul mouths was there to serve a story. Gary Lineker was describing the experience of eating octopus not long after he had arrived in Japan. It was brought to the table still conscious - well, at least as conscious as Manchester United looked on Tuesday night. "Right," Lineker thought, "They'll take it off and cook it now." Instead, they hacked off a tentacle and stuck it in front of him. He described how it wriggled in his mouth as he tried to force it down.

"And as you were walking out of the restaurant," said Jonathan Ross, "they were saying: `That'll get rid of the boring bastard.' "