I’m honestly not sure why we bother with Sports Personality of the Year here in Britain every year. Whilst it’s always sold as a unifying event that will bring the nation together and make us all proudly relive the glories of the past year, it seems to be a more a recipe for conflict and disagreement with every passing year. In 2011 for instance, we had the whining over the fact no women got nominated – apparently in a competition where you’re meant to judge whose achievements trump the other, it was necessary to assume a level of equality of gender- and in 2012 we had the moaning over how the hell boxer Nicola Adams got onto the shortlist at the expense of people like Laura Trott. Even when the result is announced, everyone complains it should have been different, forgetting it was voted for by the public, and the usual conspiracy theories take off.
Now really, in a piece that starts complaining about how people complain, I shouldn’t thus write in a complaining tone for the rest of the article. But I will, because this is Britain. Sports Personality is, as already mentioned, simply an excuse to be a pedantic, cynical little person for everyone, a good chance to find everything wrong with the world over an arbitrarily chosen list of sportsmen and women whose achievements can’t really be compared across sports, but we’re invited to anyway. Cheery Christmas viewing then.
The BBC certainly thought so, wheeling out Gary ‘Endless Puns’ Lineker, Sue ‘Put Words in their Mouths’ Barker and Clare ‘Caricature of Herself’ Balding to do the gloopy and over sweet presentation duties, where we were of course to be told that Britain was the best at everything, and had made the best Olympics ever, and so on. We’re very bad losers as a country, and even worse winners. Luckily, Ian Thorpe was an antidote to Barker’s quest to make everyone say Britain is best, a trait she carries over from Wimbledon where the question she asks everyone is always the loaded ‘This is the one you want to win most, isn’t it?’ usually followed by ‘is this the best Grand Slam?’ Thorpe, when asked the supremely loaded ‘They said Sydney 2000 was the greatest games ever…but what about London?’ didn’t fall for the bait and instead came up with ‘They said Sydney was the best…London…London was exceptional and comparisons are valid.’ Barker, unsure of what to do, claimed ‘It looks like he’s not going to answer that question.’ He had Sue. Just not in the back slapping ego-inflating way you’d hoped.
For ego-inflating is another big thing on Sports Personality. There seems to be an obligation to produce a very slow, slow motion video, preferably with some Elbow music over the top or similar over dramatic gush, and then to get Eddie Butler to narrate some unbearably pretentious, well, shite, over the top of it to built the melodrama to some pathetically flat peak. Years of doing this make it all a bit samey and frankly rubbish, yet still the BBC persisit in trying to make everyone weep and cry. They might well do, but it’ll be over how nerve tingling pretentious it is, not how deep and moving.
So what of the awards, the parts the evening was actually about? Impressively, the BBC didn’t even follow their own rules for them. Despite the rules for team of the year clearly stating ‘For the avoidance of doubt this criteria excludes Team GB/Paralympics GB but includes the likes of British Cycling, Rowing Coxless Four and the European Ryder Cup team’, the BBC decided that gushy patriotism was worth breaking the rules over (so why even bother in the first place writing them?) and so Team GB won the team prize, to the bemusement of the Ryder Cup team no doubt. The overseas one went to Usain Bolt, which was fine though predictable, and Dave Brailsford got Coach of the year.
Which brings me to another oft discussed part of Sports Personality: terminology. Withing seconds of Brailsford’s award, the internet exploded with complains, a few thick football fans asking ‘whose Dave Brailsford’ aside, moaning that Brailsford was not a coach, but a manager. Give me strength. Every year someone brings up that the event is called ‘Sports Personality’ as well, and decides to go on a high and mighty speach about how A might have made the best achievement, but outsider D has the best personality and that’s clearly what the event is after. No, it bloody isn’t. ‘Personality’ is just a gender exclusive term so they didn’t say ‘Sports man’ of the year and invoke the wrath of the bra burners. End of story.
When the big finale did come round at about 10.25, three hours after the show began, it was with the result everyone expected, Bradley Wiggins won, although the Daily Mail, in an article more about the Duchess of Cambridge and her dress, told us that David Wiggins had actually won before going on to tell us all of the joys of Jessica Ennis’ bottom. But of course, this could not be taken well by anyone. *Horror* Andy Murray had come third, and Mo Farah, a man obsessed with a pointless and meaningless celebration, had missed out on the podium. This was apparently shameful. ‘Wiggins wasn’t even born in England’ ran one complaint. But then neither was Farah. ‘Is Farah not white or elitist enough?’ moaned another. The ‘Mo’ fans were the most damning, seemingly promising Death to the West over the fact their hero had been denied the chance to do his dumb celebration despite the fact they were such good fans they were spelling his name with two R’s instead on one, but the conspiracy of the night (there always has to be one) came from the Scottish contingent who claimed they had been unable to vote for Murray, and thus it was all a fix because English men ‘always won’. The last time an Englishman won was Zara Phillips in 2006.
What they all seemed to forget was that it was public phone vote, and that perhaps they should have voted for their heroes if they were going to be upset they hadn’t won (the Murray fans said they could still ring on a mobile). But in the end, it was all about Wiggins. Clearly off his head at the start, they stopped showing him for a while whilst he sobered up presumably, after mocking Lineker’s make up and calling Barker ‘Susan’ (on that note, where had Balding disappeared off to by the end of the show?!) We weren’t sure if the expression on Chris Froome’s face was simply ‘Judas’ or more with Cavendish and Brailsford, whose faces clearly read ‘some one shut him up.’ Still, he was ok by the time they had the Duchess up, so that averted any chance of treason.
So all in all, we had a good complain, the best man won, and it’s all over for another year. Hopefully, Homeland will be on at the same time again so I won’t have to pay attention once more…