Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Real McCoy - How the BBC & Sports Personality of the Year Screwed AP

This week the BBC announced the ten finalists, who would make up their ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ voting, and quite frankly I’m appalled; not so much at who is in there, but rather at who isn’t.

First of all I don’t see the need to narrow the field down to a final ten – it’s almost as though they think the public are so stupid they couldn’t decide of their own free will and need a shortlist…

…Actually come to think of it, they’re probably right on that count. It doesn’t alter the fact that it’s another nail in the coffin of intellect though as the ‘X Factor’ generation continue to take the art of being dumb to new heights.

‘Sports Personality’ has been in a downward spiral for years though and this inane voting is the reason why – does anybody else remember when it was one of the biggest events of the year?

When I was younger I remember being glued to the TV when the show aired, to miss it was unthinkable; yet in recent years the whole thing has been a distinctly lacklustre affair that if you missed you wouldn’t really miss anything.

Much has been made about this year’s show as it, rather unfortunately for the BBC, clashes with the ‘X Factor’ final. The Beeb were reportedly outraged about the scheduling clash, but with their predictably boring and safe list of nominees for this year’s award they are seemingly intent on keeping the show that was once such a big event swimming in a sea of utter audience ambivalence. If the BBC kept the vote open to everyone until the night of the show it would at least create some intrigue.

My main beef here though does not stem from the voting system or the downhill slide that the ‘S.P.O.T.Y.’ broadcast has been on in recent years, it is born of the criminal omission from the ballot of one Tony McCoy.

As you all know, I’m a big Horse Racing fan, but I’ve no love lost for McCoy –he has an infuriating habit of screwing me over when I’ve backed against him and then letting me down spectacularly when I’ve backed him, so this isn’t some hero worship masturbatory spiel about my idol.

Taking my gambling bitterness aside though, it is impossible to deny that this man is a great champion, a fabulous ambassador for the sport and one of the most successful sportsmen the UK has ever, and probably will ever, see.

Simply put: Tony McCoy is a living legend.

But maybe that’s why he’s been repeatedly ignored for this award – he’s a success. To me ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ should be about celebrating winners and champions with great personality who have really excelled in their field, yet year on year the front runners for the award these days seem to be perennial failures, that’s the attitude of this country all over though (but that’s another rant for another time).

This year Tony McCoy rode the 3,000th winner of his career. The 3,000th - just stop for one minute and try and fathom just how incredible a feat that is - 3,000.

This past year also saw McCoy crowned champion jockey for the National Hunt season for the 15th straight year – that’s like Jenson Button winning the driver’s championship fifteen years in a row, imagine the media frenzy there’d be if that happened.

You’d think someone who had achieved as much as AP McCoy would become a mercenary and only appear for the big events, but no, he is out there week in, week out at the distinctly unglamorous likes of Huntingdon, Fontwell and Leicester just to ride for no other reason than that this is what he loves doing. Maybe that’s why he’s ignored though – his success is on show all year, and not always at glitzy events, he isn’t limited to the odd mass hysteria event like some of the others the Beeb have nominated.

Yet in spite of all his success, Tony McCoy remains one of the most honest, down to earth sportsmen you will ever see – he is a fantastic role model to every aspiring young jockey and sportsperson out there. Yet for some reason the BBC continue to overlook this unparalleled champion; all I can assume is that it’s because he’s from the rather unfashionable world of Horse Racing.

If a Footballer had experienced Tony McCoy’s success, he’d be demanding pay rises, punching paparazzi, spitting his dummy out & going AWOL when he doesn’t get his way and being papped sticking his camera phone up Danielle Lloyd’s cooch.

You would think the BBC of all people would want to give Horse Racing all the exposure they can, given that they have the rights to a number of the season’s big races. But instead, they overlook a man who has worked his ass off for almost two straight decades and could spark wider interest in the sport through his achievements in favour of a teenage boy who jumped off a plank into some water – are they trying to appeal to the tween crowd?

I’m not here to belittle anyone’s achievements (which I have blatantly just done and will undoubtedly end up doing again anyway) but the majority of the final ten are no more deserving than McCoy, in fact half of them haven’t achieved anything nearly as stratospheric as the Champion jockey has this year.

Let’s have a run through of the final ten:

- Jenson Button
- David Haye
- Mark Cavendish
- Phillips Idowu
- Tom Daley
- Andy Murray
- Jessica Ennis
- Andrew Strauss
- Ryan Giggs
- Beth Tweddle

Don’t get me wrong they all, in some way, do deserve great recognition for their achievements, but so does Tony McCoy – it might not matter to him or make a difference to how he feels about his career success, as I think he made peace with the lack of acknowledgement from outside Racing along time ago, but it sure as hell matters for Horse Racing.

It is Tom Daley’s inclusion coupled with McCoy’s omission that is the major sore point for me here. Sure, Olympians are always in there these days (since we started actually winning things recently) but for a fifteen year old boy to be included on this list while McCoy is left out is an utter farce, irrespective of what he’s achieved this year. Tom Daley will undoubtedly win ‘Sports Personality’ one day but this is akin to Sven taking Theo Walcott to Korea – too soon.

It was in the news earlier this year that Daley was being bullied at school, and ironically the BBC recently ran a campaign called Bullyproof that was aimed at cutting out bullying. If Daley was being bullied after winning gold medals, what do the BBC think those same bullies are going to do with that ‘Sports Personality’ trophy if he wins?

In terms of a ‘Sports Personality’ winner, it has to be Ryan Giggs for me. Giggs is the footballing equivalent of Tony McCoy – loyal, respectful, successful and someone you’d actually want your kids to look up to.

Giggs is a dying breed – the quintessential gentleman in a sport that is very rapidly losing all sense of right and wrong; he has been a fabulous servant to the game and richly deserves an honour such as this bestowing upon him.

This isn’t about who is on this list though, it’s about who isn’t. The Racing Post recently devoted their front page to trying to drum up support for McCoy in the 'S.P.O.T.Y.' voting, but even the man himself knew it was a waste of time.

He’s quoted as saying at the weekend when asked about ‘Sports Personality’:

“I'm not going to be involved in it, so it doesn't really matter, does it? …I was third in 2002 but if Frankie Dettori never won it for riding seven winners at Ascot, then no jockey's going to get involved in it. He's our biggest personality by a long way…”

The man has a point. I’m under no illusions, had he been included on the final shortlist, McCoy would never have won; but it would have been nice for this fantastic champion and for the sport of Horse Racing had he been recognised for such an incredible achievement that will in all honesty probably never be replicated in our lifetime.

The BBC know better than anyone just how hard McCoy works, he is out there in all conditions competing in one of the most unpredictable and dangerous sports virtually 365 days a year – can you even imagine another sportsperson with dedication like that?

His snub must be down to Racing’s dour image. Sure every now and again an Aintree Ladies’ day will attract a Coleen Rooney and some slappers on a hen party and grab a few headlines in The Sun but beyond Grand National, and to a lesser extent, Gold Cup Day, Racing very rarely grabs the sporting headlines and sparks public interest for the right reasons and is still ignored by the masses as an ‘old man’s sport.

I can’t help but feel that the Animal Rights issue has a hand in Racing’s failure to appeal universally. There is far too much ignorance out there from people who love to get on their high horse (pun intended) about how ‘cruel’ this sport is when if they really looked at the sport they would see that these horses are treated with more love and respect than other sportsmen show their team mates – you only have to witness Paul Nicholls’ tears on Saturday to see that (but we’ll get to that in a minute).

The British Horse Racing Authority is reportedly keen to raise the profile of the sport and if they are successful then maybe we will one day see Tony McCoy recognised outside of Racing for his fantastic sporting achievements, I fear that day could be a long time coming though as the BHA have one hell of a fight on their hands to make Racing as popular as the likes of the resurgent F1.

It’s a crying shame that Racing isn’t getting more widespread media coverage because Saturday saw one of the greatest sporting performances I have ever witnessed.

Emotional was not the word as Denman roared home demolishing his opponents under a crippling weight in the Hennessy Gold Cup. I get goosebumps and a tear in my eye every time I rewatch this historic race as I suspect do most fans of the sport and in particular this great horse.

The story of Denman’s return to form is nothing short of amazing and he silenced every single one of his critics at the weekend in glorious style.

It’s a travesty that this wonderful performance and fantastically feel good moment won’t be appreciated beyond the Racing community, but that’s the challenge that the BHA and Racing fans face – even with great champions and awe-inspiring performances from the likes of McCoy and Denman, Racing can’t seem to crack the mainstream, so what chance does the sport ever have of being featured alongside the cool kids on the BBC’s annual celebration of sport…?

Sports Personality of the Year airs Sunday 13th December on BBC1 & BBC Radio 5 Live @ 7pm live from Sheffield Arena

Reality Round-Up:

- ‘X Factor’ finally became a competition this week as little wooden boy Lloyd, the only contestant who looked like he distinctly wasn’t having fun on stage each week, as voted off. He was unbelievably shit and should have gone weeks ago, the fact that the likes of Cheryl Cole can sit there and seriously say he was good makes me worried that everyone involved with the ‘X Factor’ has been lobotomised.

I’m still sticking by my stance from Week 1 – if this show is supposed to find the next big recording star then Danyl has to win. Like him or not, he is the most talented and will have the longest career in music.

Sure, Joe will have a great career now as well, but it will be in musicals or as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s fluffer. Joe is a great singer but he is not a pop star and although he will predictably have number ones, if he were to win he would be more Leon Jackson than Leona Lewis, where as I feel Danyl would be more the latter.

‘X Factor’s Sunday results show saw the new dark Rihanna perform and quite frankly I miss the old Rihanna circa ‘SOS’ and ‘Umbrella’; her up-tempo stuff was infectious and catchy whereas this new dark direction is just gash. I should probably cut the girl some slack though – being punched in the face by Chris Brown would give anyone a dark outlook on life.

Sunday also saw Alicia Keys perform and as hot as she looked, every time I see her I think of the Saddam Hussein-Dog hybrid from ‘Hot Shots Part Deux’ for some reason. I’ve desperately tried to find a picture to showcase this resemblance but have thus far been unsuccessful.

- Over on ‘Strictly’, sadly no one had the balls to dance to ‘Jailhouse Rock’ in honour of Ricky Whittle spending the night in the slammer late last week. It looks as though Whittle’s brush with the law may have cost him the ‘Strictly’ crown though as Ali Bastian now seems like the most likely to win going off the judge’s scores and public voting.

Bastian seems to be scored too highly every week though if you ask me, I’d personally prefer to see Chris Hollins go on to win now. He’s easily the most improved and has really grown on me as a person, it also helps that he’s dancing with the very sexy Ola Jordan.

- And in the jungle Katie Price has pretty much ruined this season of ‘I’m a Celebrity’. Since her premature departure the headlines have dried up for the show and I honestly couldn’t tell you who was still involved.

In spite of my article the other week on the show, I’ve barely watched a minute of it, not even to revel in watching Price get Bushtuckered (to be fair though I had already seen that Dane Bowers sex tape).

Other Musings:

- I would like to extend a big thank you to the guys over at AlmeidaIsGod[dot]com for picking up last week’s open letter regarding the Almeida shaped hole in season 8 of ‘24’ and giving the article, and the blog, some great exposure on their site.

It was kind of nice heading over there and getting into a dialogue with some of the site members – it at least made me feel that I’m not alone in being disgusted with this decision to oust Tony from what could be ‘24’s swan song.

- ‘The Thick of It’ had a rare mis-step for me this week. I hate Terri with a passion (I think you’re supposed to though) so when she stood up to Malcolm I was ready to see her get some of The Enforcer’s most venomous vitriol.

Instead, he almost had a breakdown and actually showed humanity, which was just awful to watch. Here’s hoping he gets back to his ballistic best next week.

It wasn’t all bad for Tucker this week though, we at least got to hear him refer to incompetent Minister Ben Swain as a “sack of cum”.


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