WITH work for his university assessment suspended for the Christmas holidays, Ben Palmer takes a critical look at the BBC Television’s blue riband event – and sees it falling short of standards
Forget Simon Cowell and his low-cut shirts, forget Bruce Forsyth and his ancestral bearing, last Sunday was all about glitz, glamour and Gary Lineker with a nasal narrative of proceedings.
Yes, the aged host Forsyth on Strictly Come Dancing has hung up his tap shoes to watch the z-list celebrities waltz around the ballroom from his couch, but you get the image being portrayed: SPOTY is nothing more than a vanity-orientated portrayal of sport.
Peculiarly, Lewis Hamilton picked up the eponymous main prize for driving a car. Admittedly, the F1 drivers of today are, in a fitness sense, as competent as the vast majority of athletes who compete in more “physical” sports, but that should not derail the fact that his sport is essentially to drive a car really fast.
It does indeed hold what many consider to be an imperative in the definition of what sport is: risk. Fifty people have died behind the wheels of F1 cars, considerably more than most sports, and the 25-year-old Jules Bianchi currently lies stricken in a coma as a result of an accident.
Formula 1 is a risky sport, there’s no denying that.
It would be arrogant and rude to argue, then, that golf, the sport of runner-up Rory McIlroy, is more of a sport than F1. Nevertheless, I believe what McIlroy achieved this year is superior, in context, to what Hamilton did.
Winning the Open, USPGA and being pivotal in the Ryder Cup victory is, I would argue, somewhat more credible than winning your second F1 trophy.
I don’t doubt that the voting public – a characteristic of reality shows – didn’t comprehend what an achievement that was from McIlroy, but it’s an indictment of the ostentatious nature of what is the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Much like on the X Factor, the geographical divide was clear in the demographic of who voted for Hamilton and other previous winners. Andy Murray won it when he was the Wimbledon champion, Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish won it as they waved the English flag on a bicycle; heck, Ryan Giggs won it as some sort of tribute to his long career in the English Premier League.
They say reality show hopefuls need a sob story. Just play funky music whilst there’s a promo of an athlete and it’ll conceive the emotive essence needed to win a publicly-voted award.
But a round of applause must go to the same Gary Lineker, hosting with a blocked nose. He is rare in that he presents shows well without relying overly on his medal-littered reputation. He just got on with it and relayed well the seductiveness of sport, which is essentially the aim of the SPOTY now.
The victor’s entrance, however, provided an example of the porous credibility of the award. In Hamilton’s victory speech we received the much told story of how his father balanced several jobs just to keep his karting dream alive. This gave a balance of sporting drive to his now borderline egocentric personality.
Fair play, but showing up on the red carpet with a dog as an accessory didn’t exactly encapsulate his sporting validity.
The SPOTY is an extremely esteemed award and a good product at that. Winning one should be an honour as you are recognised as the greatest universal sporting champion of the year, but the narcissism which runs through the event is far too evident.
Sport is individual in that it creates it own stories and emotion. It doesn’t need the sprinkling of glitz and glamour to isolate it from other forms of entertainment.
PICTURE COURTESY OF: Mike Boudreaux