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Main event becoming a sideshow

There are, I was once told on a rare foray out of the office, very few cameramen (should that be camerapeople?) who can film live cricket. Not only do you have to be a brilliant television camera operative, you have to understand cricket to a very high level. Reactions are key to this: what appears to be a controlled sweep that might have you panning your camera to the leg-side boundary could turn out to be a top edge and the ball going in completely the opposite direction. That sort of thing doesn’t trouble people covering darts or snooker.

But in all walks of life there is lots of chaff that makes the wheat more special. For every example of cricket cameraman genius, when passage of ball is traced from bowler’s hand to edge of bat to fielder’s grasp with effortless fluidity, there are a hundred shots of crowd-wankers.

Because of the stop-start nature of cricket, the sport is perfect playground of the crowd-wanker. In between overs, or even as the bowler trudges back to his mark, the crowd-wankers make hay. And even though they require little encouragement, they receive plenty.


Crowd Wanker starting young.

The goal of the crowd-wanker is the same the world over: get yourself on the big screen. You need to be able to behave as though that extra chrom0some you tragically possess is working overtime, but what the hell.

Point a television camera at a pocket of crowd-wankers and they will instantly have a collective fit. In a good way that they enjoy. If the camera operative alerts them that they’ll be on the big screen in 10 seconds they have a really big fit that will last as long as they are in shot. It’s brilliant.

There are cultural differences to being a crowd-wanker. On the Sub-Continent they carry are male and tend to carry homemade cardboard signs and have a small plastic vuvuzela-related instrument stuck in their gobs. In South Africa and Australia they are in beachwear, clutching a beer. In England an amusing Viking helmet does the trick, or cross-dressing, or disguising yourself as Sylvester the Cat or the Pink Panther. All children are encouraged to be crowd-wankers, as are women between 18 and 30 as long as they are pomading their bodies with factor 15.

Whoever controls the cameramen controls the crowd and when the watchers become the watched the main event becomes a sideshow. In the 1970s there was a man in America, Rollen Stewart, who attended sporting events simply to hold up a sign that read “John 3:16”. He probably thought he was doing good but he begat people who held up signs with the initials of broadcast networks so that they would get on telly. They in turn begat the Mexican-wavers, who begat the crowd-wankers.


Children of Rollen Stewart

The danger lies in what happens next. If cricket becomes an excuse and an opportunity to simply watch one’s self and one’s own ilk then the game is in trouble. Maybe they should take away the big screens and encourage people to concentrate on the sport. It would be like county cricket, the type no one goes to watch.


Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Thank goodness sport doesn’t take a holiday. That dollop of festive football we’ve just had was as good as anyone can remember and a much-needed snook cocked at advocates of a winter break. Just before Christmas rugby’s Heineken Cup was a bit tasty and another helping is just around the corner. Come to think of it, the Six Nations is only a month away. England are about to start a Test series against Pakistan in the UAE just as Australia mop against India and South Africa win their first series since 2008 by beating Sri Lanka at home.

Looking ahead there is the small matter of the Olympic Games, Euro 2012, an English summer of cricket, a new Formula One season. It’s non-stop. In Hawaii this weekend the US golf tour gets underway, the tennis season has started Down Under and people are already racing cars and motorcycles. Top-class sport simply doesn’t take a breath.


Watching sport is nearly as healthy as playing it

The Americans pride themselves that there are only two days in a year when none of the four main professional sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) are played. These aren’t Christmas and New Year’s days, or even Thanksgiving and Easter. It’s the days before and after the baseball All-Star game each July. That’s sport: wall-to-wall, 24/7, whatever the weather.

Never has there been more sport, you can’t move for it. Women are interested in it, politicians are aware of it. It is played, watched and consumed by every sector of society regardless of race, colour, creed or sexual orientation.

Sport is big business. Large, rich companies want to be connected to sport. Rich people want to be connected to sport. Sport is used to promote products that have nothing to do with sport. Sport is way out of the ghetto and a path to a better life. Sport is healthy, and sexy. The best-looking people on earth look the way they do because they take exercise, which is sport in its most basic form.


Lindsey Vonn: look what skiing does for you..

Sport has so much going for it you would think that there should be whole newspaper sections devoted to it. What? There were. Not for long.

Newspapers are content to fill their pages with minor-league politics from every corner of the globe, fashion, celebrity, gossip, business nonsense and even self-serving media drivel before you get to sport. The argument is that you can get it all online, but you can get everything online, including white goods and Brazilian fart porn.

Sport should not be cut back by the papers, be they local, regional or national. What else in 2012 is such a force for good, can bring so much enjoyment and unite communities and nations. If there is one thing that deserves a fair crack it’s sport. Just look at the calendar, it never stops.

12 TV Sport Wishes for 2012

1 – Football commentators give up padding with meaningless rubbish. “When these two teams met in 2003 the away side led 1-0 with 13 minutes to go but lost so the home fans will feel there’s still a chance to turn this around.” It’s rubbish, stop it.

2 – Martin Brundle will stop endlessly reminding us that he used to drive F1 cars to try and make himself seem special. We know why you got the job so just do the job. It’s for our benefit, not your’s.


Martin Brundle: racing driver.

3 – Someone senior at the BBC will realise that sending Mike Bushell to try bog-snorkeling in Diss is a waste of money and very dull.

4 – Viewers will stop grizzling about paying for Sky Sports. It’s the 21st Century; if you want to watch sport it’s going to cost you.

5 – Third umpires and TMOs hurry up and make a decision. If you can’t give it, then don’t… and vice-versa.

6 – Jeff Stelling and his Gillette-sponsored panel of old pros get given the flick. Ceefax was better and that’s before anyone invented the internet.


Stelling: not as good as Ceefax. 

7 – Showing still photographs on TV sports bulletins because you haven’t got the rights looks and is crap. Yes, you BBC.

8 – Eurosport does more to promote their MotoGP coverage. Toby Moody and Julian Ryder are thebest commentary double act anywhere. If you have something to shout about then do so.

9 – Sky Sports News might be first with the news, but every other media outlet doesn’t need to copy their style. “Terry not a racist, insists Villa-Boas.” “Vettel is driving better than ever, insists Damon Hill.” I insist that stops.

10 – Stuart Barnes shuts up about red wine. In fact, Stuart Barnes simply shuts up.


Barnes: not such a fine vintage.

11 – Same for you, Stevo.

12 – That Sky cricket commentators stop calling Ian Botham, Sir Ian. No one likes a suck-up, Nasser.