Viewers of the Wimbledon women’s final on Saturday will have noticed Dr Walter Bartoli’s restraint.
His refusal to hint at a smile when daughter Marion won the title made the Henman Parents, those leading pioneers of living cryogenics, look like Judy Murray overdosing on nitrous oxide. One cool Corsican he obviously is – yet can it be true, as John Inverdale, posited, that Walter launched the infant Marion on the path to glory by advising her to concentrate on the tennis because “you’re never going to be a looker”?
Even by the standards of the tennis-coach father, this seems harsh. Yet who can doubt the wisdom of this most insightful sporting sage? There are those who see Invers as a minor public school Richard Keys, a hybrid between the archetypal rugger bugger and an über-narcissist who takes tranquillisers whenever he finds himself more than 2.9 seconds from the nearest mirror. This cruelly overlooks the depth and versatility of a man who may on no account be caricatured as a dim and preening, neo-Partridgean paean to arrogant smugness.
Three years ago on Radio Five Live, during the police operation to capture Raoul Moat, he gazed at the feed from the paradoxically tranquil Northumbrian village on his monitor, and brilliantly ad-libbed: “It’s almost like watching an episode of Midsomer Murders.” After refusing to speculate that his father told the five-year-old Moat to concentrate on the shooting since he’d never grow up to be Brad Pitt, why he wasn’t rewarded with a Newsnight berth is beyond me. Please God the Beeb has the wit to cling on to Invers’ services now. From this ridiculously talented broadcaster, the best is surely yet to come.
Masterclass in sports interviewing
Invers was not the only luminous star of the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage. On Five Live, tennis correspondent Jonathan Overend’s doughty resistance to giving the score during games lent a seductive air of mystery to the listening experience. But pride of place goes to Garry Richardson for a robust interview with Andy Murray, who submitted that he didn’t feel he deserved a telling-off from coach Grinner Lendl after recovering from two sets down to beat Fernando Verdasco. Precisely how Garry concluded that he is the Woodward and Bernstein of sport is unclear, but his commitment to bringing the spirit of Frost-Nixon to the post-match chat illuminated the event like nothing else.
The BBC’s next big signing, perhaps?
As for Irvine Welsh, once again we thank the novelist for his hilarious and sensationally obscene tweets during Murray’s matches. Perhaps the BBC will consider hiring him as a summariser next year, and pairing him with Simon Reed, Oliver’s younger brother, whose superb commentary felt so out of place among the avalanche of dross.
Take pity on poor old Rupert
I am distressed to find Rupert Murdoch under fire over his pep talk to Sun journalists. As this column has regretfully mentioned before, the infirm old boy no longer knows whether he is Arthur or Martha, and it demeans us to taunt him for being unsure, on waking, whether any given day will be the humblest or cockiest of his life. His shareholders’ retention of his services shows a commitment to occupational therapy unseen since Mr Tony Blair recalled David Blunkett to the Cabinet in the hope that this would help him sort his head out.
Strange coyness from the Mouth of Humber
Mr T’s leading useful idiot of old takes another principled stand. John Prescott has resigned from the Privy Council in protest at its “highly political role” in degrading post-Leveson press regulation, and no one doubts the sincerity of John’s feelings as expressed yesterday in his lucrative Sunday Mirror column. By the way, we still await his response to the arrest of four Mirror executives, including a former editor of his own title, in March. There were fears that outspoken John would have something to say about that, and might even resign. But on this the Mouth of Humber prefers keeps his counsel most privy.
Never again, says Esther – twice
On the Mirror website, meanwhile, Esther Rantzen has benefited from a droll juxtaposition of headlines. “‘Never say never again’ – Esther Rantzen reveals she has a new man after 13 years alone,” read one. “This must never happen again: Esther Rantzen says lessons need to be learned over Jimmy Savile,” read the one directly beneath it. Mixed messages from Neverland, perhaps, but a joy to find Esther shaking off the shackles of self-effacement that had blighted her for so long.