Sport on TV: The surreal world of the tone-deaf celebrity

JUST AS cricketing sages assert that bowlers win matches, so any bacca-chewing old feller will tell you that pitchers are the key to America's national pastime. The venerable Philadelphia Athletics owner, Connie Mack, once said famously, "Pitching is 70 per cent of baseball". And the chuckers themselves are a breed apart.

The fourth game of the World Series (Channel 5, Thursday morning), presented a couple of prime specimens, in the New York Yankees' Andy Pettitte and San Diego Padres' Kevin Brown. With the Padres 3-0 down in the best-of- seven series, they had to win on their own patch to keep the season alive. As history now records, though, the Yankees took the game 3-0 for their 24th championship and the unofficial title of Quite Possibly The Best Team Ever.

Unfortunately, the whitewash meant that we were deprived of seeing David Wells, the Yankees pitcher who had started the first game and was due back for the fifth in his home town. The son of "Attitude Annie", who rode with the San Diego Hell's Angels and looks like it, is somewhat incongruously a Babe Ruth freak who recently spent $100,000 (pounds 58,000) on memorabilia, including $30,000 on the great one's cap. He planned to wear it to the plate for the World Series until his manager, Joe Torre, told him to think again. And looking at Torre, who combines the build of Sylvester Stallone and the physiognomy of Joe Pesci, it's impossible to imagine there was much dissent from Wells.

Before we got down to the real business, though, there was the surreal business. One deeply distasteful feature of major American sporting events is the insane need the nation seems to have to wheel on some tone-deaf celebrity to murder their national anthem. On Thursday morning it was a case of Star-Mangled Banner courtesy of some actress from the nauseatingly cute TV comedy, Ally McBeal. It was a brave performance, admittedly, owing something to Ornette Coleman, or possibly intended as a cover version of Jimi Hendrix's legendary rendition at Woodstock, all random pauses and bum notes, littered with odd little discordant flights and swoops reminiscent of the electronic gull shrieks from The Birds. It lasted about three weeks, and every second was purgatory.

Still, once the game got underway (after an opening pitch from the record- breaking king of the homer, Mark McGwire, who hit 70 of them this season), the pitchers bore out the Mack dictum and ran the show.

Brown was first up, and immediately one of the features of baseball on TV that Channel 4 would do well to use freely in their cricket coverage next year, the close-up, came into its own. As Brown stared from the mound down at the batter, his eyes were paradoxically utterly expressionless and dead-looking yet throwing out what could be interpreted as beams of pure hate. In fact, what we were seeing was saddhu-like concentration, the face drawn and grimly focused yet immobile and in a strange kind of repose. You just don't get that kind of shot in cricket.

Pettitte has an extraordinary face, like a religious icon depicting one of the apostles. His eyes are huge, heavy-lidded and brooding, laden with menace, his nose Roman and imposing, his lips fleshy and full. Just to stand at the plate and have him stare down at you would be a brown-trouser job, much less have him hurl his bombs in your direction. Even when he was sat in the dug-out he looked a menace to society.

Unlike most C5 studio anchor teams, Jonathan Gould and Todd Macklin - Englishman and Canadian respectively - were a genuinely useful addition to the experience, with Macklin's expertise vital for an ignoramuses like me. The best line of the week from a pundit, though, came from Barry Venison on ITV's Champions' League highlights programme on Wednesday. Digital gremlins got into the works and the round-up of the non-domestic games was mangled almost beyond recognition (and the promised film of Real Madrid's six-goal victory, promised before the break, failed to materialise at all).

The voice-over was handled manfully by Max Headroom, while the stop-start, wildly pixillating visuals were a stoner's treat. Straight after, Jim Rosenthal asked Venison about Arsenal's performance, to which he replied, "At least they're not the only team stuttering in Europe." Boom-boom.

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst/ Project Manager - Financial Services

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client in the Financial...

Year 3 Teacher - Winsford

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Year 3 Teachers needed in Winsford We ...

Behaviour support worker

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Behavioural support worker Pupil r...

Year 5/6 Teacher - Winsford

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Year 5/6 Teachers needed in WinsfordWe...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits