Aggers talks sense

I have been convinced for quite a while, that technology can sense a non-convert. It seems to know that I am capable of emailing, flicking through news websites and Google mapping, but aside from that, I’m neither too competent, nor too bothered. Recently, for reasons still unknown to myself I enrolled in a computer course to extend my (perfectly adequate if Neolithic knowledge) of Word, Excel and Powerpoint. As a result, (I’m still waiting for official conformation) I do believe my name will appear in the next publication of the Guinness Book of World Records under the depressingly accurate accolade of having been entrapped in a public library where all previous levels of boredom known to man were annihilated through the medium of databases. Minutes turned to hours as I began to recognise the early onset of Stockholm syndrome as I persuaded myself I was there for my own good.

I’m diverting off on a tangent of doom. What I wanted to point out is that I listen to a lot of sport on the radio because I don’t have Sky TV.

Most of the time, (depending on the commentator) I don’t feel like I miss out by not having pictures.  When watching sport, there are often distractions which catch the eye, particularly when crowds of people come together – pesky homemade banners at Stamford Bridge, scores of afro-wigged revellers at the Ryder Cup, middle aged men with coqs on their heads at the 6 Nations, Eddie Jordan’s shirts, David Coulthard’s chin….

The Test Match Special (TMS) team have an excellent reputation for being able to strike a popular balance between describing the on-field Cricket action amongst the bigger landscape of weather, spectators, coaches, and unexpected diversions. That is, between the infectious fits of giggles and eating cake! Jonanthan Agnew, Aggers, is one stalwart of the team who has sense. Earlier this week he transferred me to the sun-drenched banks of the University Oval in Dunedin for the first Test between New Zealand and England, but it was a newspaper article he wrote about sport ‘personalities’ last week that made me want to applaud. Thank-you very much Aggers, your talents know no boundaries; you took the words right out of my mouth.  Let me quote the great man commenting on the inflated media reaction of the response by Rafa Benitez in an interview after Chelsea fans gave him some grief from the stands,

“Part of the problem is that the public pronouncements made by many in the sporting world these days are mind-numbingly dull. There are expectations of course, but in the main, press conferences and television interviews are sanitised almost to the point of being worthless…..But it is the media’s fault. In the rush for quotes, and the absurd over-emphasis placed on the importance of what a sportsman or sportswoman has to say, we have created Mr and Mrs Bland.”

As someone who reads the paper from the back pages to the front, I am interested in the opinions of players, previews and reviews from commentators and insider knowledge. In spite of, or perhaps because of this, I feel like I could easily give a bog standard press conference for most of Britain’s major sporting events and fixtures in the calendar. Aside from injury updates, which aren’t always accurate or truthful, there isn’t much more to be gained from a scheduled presentation to the media. As a much more experienced, well-informed, connected and knowledgeable sports fan than me, Aggers is honest enough to voice an opinion that hasn’t come directly off the conveyor belt of stale, benign, exhausted, responses to questions on sport. Now that’s worth listening to.



Sachin Tendulkar: The Little Master in command again

The rest of the Cricket world remain studious pupils as the Little Master shows how it is done.

Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar (Photo credit: R@VITH)

Fans, TMS commentators, photographers and opponents had to wait patiently as Tendulkar reached the gleaming milestone of scoring one hundred runs one hundred times in his professional career. His last century was compiled last March so writers of encylcopedias, Sunday sports supplements and pub quizzes all over the world have been willing the Indian playmaker to break through the nervous nineties to finally get the accolades his illustrious career deserves. In the One day match against Bangladesh in Dhaka, part of the Asia Cup, the 38 year-old finished on 114 off 147 to put his team in a commanding position for the umpteenth time in his 23 years representing his country.

This is guy is a wizard with the bat and many a glittering eulogy has been heartedly declared in his honour, all of which are massively deserving given the records he has achieved and broken. All any Cricket fan wants however, is more of the same.

Can a sports fan embrace all sports?

How many times have you heard someone say ‘I’m a sports fan, I love sport. It’s great’? What they really mean is they enjoy heading down to the pub and slagging off fat and/or overpaid footballers. They can display adaptability by splurging on the sofa infront of the telly and wonder how Ian Bell has racked up over 70 Test appearances for England despite being more inconsistent than the British weather. When people say they are a sports fan doesn’t it usually equate to watching a couple of different games (usually Football and Cricket) on a regular basis? If only Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup where categorised as different sports rather versions of the one then some fans would just have their horizons expanded further even than KP could thump on an on-day.

This week I went to watch a sport that I had never seen before and it was an eye-popping spectacle….

What attracts a person to a sport is often obvious, even if you have never participated yourself, from a distance you can understand why others do. Running fills you with a sense of freedom, horse riding encourages you to form a partnership with a powerful, intelligent animal, darts means you drink and play at the same time for example. Platform diving however is a sport that can is not easily comprehensible. The obvious technical intricacies along with great power and flawless timing needed was overshadowed by the constant disbelief as to why, never mind how, anyone could do it.

Watching the 18 women perform five dives each off the 10 metre platform in the semi-final of the World Cup at the London Aquatics centre was an awesome sight. Sitting behind the row of judges in a seat I like to think my bottom christened, I wanted to know what it was I was seeing in order to try and fathom just how incredible this sport it. The information available to the spectator was useful, fast and clear so the description of each dive was provided before it happened. I found myself counting rotations and twists while observing the difference between the back and the inward. HOw comfortable my plastic, moulded chair felt each time a competitor reached their toe to the edge to fell where the safety of the concrete platform ended and time and space began. Every so often I would flick my head backwards in anticipation of the diver jumping backwards, head first off the precipice as I tensed up preparing for them to enter the water, hopefully more vertically than horizontally.

The armchair fans becomes an expert in Olympic qualifying pace. As I imagined what the view might be like from the top of the platform (not on the way off it), the newcomer sitting beside me figured out that the success of the dive was simply down to the size of the splash at the end, anything that happened before then didn’t make too much of a difference. Although the likes of Monique Gladding or Ruolin Chen (I know my divers!) might contest this synopsis it is definitely a useful tool when watching the sport as a beginner.

The surroundings were outstanding, the standard was world class and the crowd appreciative of what they were witnessing but do these things combine to make diving a sport for the fans? In my mind the physical connotations these athletes train their body to perform makes the sport much more impressive than football, cricket or even darts but the one thing lacking from the spectacle was the feeling that I wanted to do it myself. There was no twitching resentment in the back of my brain that if only I had spent more time on (or off) the diving boards instead of the slide during the summer holidays, or if only I had been born in China I too could launch myself from on-high in my speedo reciting in my head as I leapt the divers mantra – don’t splash, whatever happens, don’t splash. I wasn’t to be so instead I can embrace the sport with respect, and a constance wince.