Sport on TV: Groovy sounds and fruits of the Vine

Click to follow
The Independent Online
LET'S hear it for the theme music to Ski Sunday (BBC 2). The Match of the Day tune may be the Sgt Pepper among sports themes (the trailblazer, the landmark, the point of reference for all future endeavours in the field) but Ski Sunday's opening music would have to rank right up there among the top sitting-room stompers.

Not to be confused with the jaunty but, in the end, less groovy Horse of the Year Show number, it sounds like Mozart produced by Phil Spector with a clearly panicked Ringo on timpanis. Along with cricket's snazzy concerto for organ and woodblock, this is as close as sports themes get to what DJs call 'a dance-floor smash'. They don't write them like that any more, they really don't. (And incidentally, this column's respect for Sky Sports will magnify one hundred-fold when that channel comes up with a theme tune which doesn't sound like it was designed by an advertising executive on a Psion Personal Organiser.)

With Ski Sunday, in a literal sense, it's all downhill from there. Last week, opening its 17th year in the business, the programme was in Tignes for the women's competition. As the music faded, the camera found David Vine standing at the bottom of a mountain, wearing what appeared to be a foam-filled Star Trek outfit and oddly pale-faced and frozen on this occasion. To be frank, he looked like he'd been on the piste all night. Only at the end was the true condition of things made clear. 'Fingers crossed and a little attention to the throat, I'll be with you next Sunday.' Before the first skier had come down the mountain, Vine had come down with the flu. For him, it could be a long season.

That left Julian Tutt doing the business in the commentary box. After Vine, Tutt is a calming presence, though he does have a rather unfortunate tendancy to . . . well, tut. 'Ooh] Mistake there]'; 'Oh, that's not very clever'; 'Ooh, dear' etc. Still, you could forgive him anything after the one act of heroic self-restraint he pulled off, midway through the competition.

This would turn out to be quite a week for Daft Names in Sport; Chad Clinton Lion-Cachet might have sounded like a merchant bank, but, as we learnt on Tuesday, he was in fact the captain of Oxford's Varsity rugby team. On Sunday, though, we met America's latest women's downhill discovery - Peek-a-boo Street. (It's not spelt like that, but I swear that's how it's pronounced.) A true professional, Tutt talked right through her descent without either laughing or making any distracting comment whatsoever - even when, just yards from the finish line, Street turned off the course. 'That will be one very unhappy American,' said Tutt evenly, as Peek- a-boo went walk-about.

We weren't to go away Vine-less. After Canada's Kate Pace had taken the competition by the usual millionth of a second, we got a preview of the upcoming men's event with a handful of clips from last year. 'Yes] Oh] And look at it] It's not a yes. Nearly a full second, and Heinzer, who is in a class of his own, is really making this mountain look easy and it's anything but]' This was vintage Vine: the long, arching sentence terminating, just when you think he must be running out of breath, in that entirely redundant additional clause, which you do not need.

It's hard not to envy skiers their standard-issue muscles and teeth, their shaming Euro- health. But console yourself by considering their taste in clothes. In the typical arrangement, the nuclear orange of the jumpsuit is nicely offset by the lime green of the skis. Amid all this man-made conformity (last week, even the snow was artificial), it can't be easy to dig out a human-interest angle, though Vine does his best with the terse biographies: 'the loner', 'the quiet man with the big smile'. But even Vine can't get around the fact that, basically, the entire cast here looks like Jason Donovan after an extensive body-building programme.

One minor complaint: outside the opening credits which are suitably strewn with skiers succesfully wedging their heads in snow-drifts or attempting to come down backwards on their elbows, last Sunday's edition offered us precisely no accidents. Yes, none. It may be that the Ski Sunday production team believes that, these days, You've Been Framed more than supplies the public appetite for pictures of people on one ski sliding into clumps of trees. If so, they could not be more wrong. At home, we need all the indulgence we can get. For the competitors, apres ski was doubtless a tub of mulled wine and a candle-lit cheese fondue in the local tavern. For the viewer, Apres Ski Sunday was Rugby Special followed by One Man and his Dog, which was not quite the same thing.

It's just as well Norwich went out of the Uefa Cup this week, because one dreads to think what the BBC sports department would have come up with by way of a trailer for the next round. Trying to press- gang viewers for Wednesday afternoon's tie with Inter Milan, the channel put out a spoof movie preview complete with cod American voice-over - 'Mike Walker's Excellent Adventure . . . In CanaryVision'. It would have been amusing if it hadn't been so patronising about Norwich City FC (you can't imagine them trying to work this gag with the more fashionable Aston Villa). Anyway, in the event, the trailer was a good deal more pacey than the main feature. Just like the movies, really.