BBC Sports Personality of the Year, BBC1

by | Dec 18, 2008 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

A better year for British sport led logically to a better celebration, which provoked much breast beating for good old Britannia and resulted in the right winners* in many of the categories.

What was good about it?

• An almost flawless line up of nominations, with only a few anomalies. Why were Rebecca Romero and Nicole Cooke chosen ahead of Victoria Pendleton? Where was Bob Nudd? And while you expect some bias towards individual athletes, the inclusion of Andy Murray, who had four chances to win a big title but failed, and the exclusion of, say, Rio Ferdinand who was an integral part of a team that triumphed in two tournaments both of which are ten times bigger than Wimbledon, was baffling.

• Jake Humphrey’s legs appeared to grow about six feet over the evening.

• Eleanor Simmonds winning the Young Sports Personality of the Year Award. And Alistair Hignall taking the Helen Rollason Award.

• Ben Ainslie’s film, which saw him portentously pushed into the freezing sea. It was later shown in real time, and we saw Ainslie amusingly hurriedly swim back to the jetty from which he’d been pushed and flee for some warmth.

• Dan Geyser taking the Unsung Award.

• The films for Rebecca Adlington and Lewis Hamilton.

• Sir Bobby Charlton collecting the Lifetime Achievement Award; there was one moment when we thought that the ovation would continue for an eternity, or at least as long as the audience didn’t collapse from thirst.

• Bradley Wiggins’s brilliant conclusion on the cycling success in Beijing: “None of us really expected to lose.”

• Dave Brailsford and the cycling team taking coach and team of the year, respectively.

• Usain Bolt bagging the overseas award. Michael Phelps won more gold medals, but Bolt would have won about 30 golds if athletics adopted the swimming rule book, and had a sprint in the style of each of Monty Python’s silly walks.

• Chris Hoy’s triumph in the main award. In an Olympic year, and especially a good Olympic year, it’s just that the best Olympian wins – and by the cold logic of medal count that’s what Hoy was. Hamilton, who will win next year given he has about a 50% chance of being world champion before he’s started the first race, and Adlington were worthy runners-up.

What was bad about it?

• Sue Barker opened with the old man hobbling cliché of: “It promises to be the most exciting race for years!” This is the sort of phrase many sports presenters hype any event with, confident in the knowledge that most of their viewers struggle to remember the names of their own kids let alone sporting events from 12 months ago.

It’s the same as “there’s all to play for”, “this was the best title race ever”, “we’ve never seen a player like him”. And while we’re sympathetic to hyperbole when caught up in the maelstrom of live action, but this verbal tripe has been scripted down to its last tar-stained syllable. They are the phrases sprinkled like coins onto the off licence counter by the local drunk after he’s scraped together enough cash for a bottle of absinthe.

• Sue also used the phrase “the ripped Andy Murray”. There comes a time in everyone’s life when they must stop using the teenage argot of the day, and instead employ a vernacular that requires at least a single cerebral impulse a day to speak. That time is when you emerge from the womb. “Ripped” is the sort of word used by people who shop for jumpers for their lungs.

• The Andy Murray film was also the worst of the ten preview films. Having him hit tennis balls into the ocean whilst wearing a distant expression on his face doesn’t make tennis profound, and neither was it enhanced by getting Darth Vader to do the voice over.

• Perhaps the punches are beginning to stick or maybe he’s just illiterate or nervous, but Ricky Hatton’s reading skills appeared to be on a par with a flamethrower. “The young spersonality of the year is Elanor Simmonds.”

• The BBC Sports department often have a flawless use of music, but here it was almost as though it was scored by the committee voting to determine the winners of next year’s Brit Awards. Dull Coldplay, histrionic Duffy, irrelevant Robbie Williams (all of his fans are dead – whether they know it or not), but worst of all was the re-writing of history on a par with the life of Winston Churchill that proclaims Heather Small’s Proud as some kind of modern classic breathing frostily on the pantheon of majesty, when it is to music what the Russian winter was to Napoleon.

• Zac Purchase playing his saxophone in the most pointless waste of time on the show since Frank Bruno played indoor golf.

• Whether he was inspired by a spider we don’t know, but the scorn of the world hasn’t deterred Jake Humphrey, and his Robert the Bruce-like determination, to integrate “Team GB” into the lexicon. It was a vulgar Americanisation six months ago, spouted by the same semantic Visigoths who use dehumanizing euphemisms such as “head count”, and remains the same today.

• Ian Poulter presenting the year in golf. Why not get Zippy, George and Bungle to present Football Focus?

• There’s this new nauseating trend in cloying mutual affection that we’ve noticed over the past couple of years. Perhaps it’s always been there, but is currently dormant, like Tory bigotry, but the way in which a celebrity utters a vacuous platitude to the audience – here it was Hamilton’s “Thanks for the warm applause” – and the crowd applauds his gratitude for their initial applause, as if applauding his decency in noticing their existence.

• The incessant barrage of reminders that were so frequent, loud and intrusive they could teach the Luftwaffe a thing or two about the infliction of persistent misery. Who needs to be reminded of such things at such short intervals, other than goldfish and the myopic stampede of cattle who have bought both Alexandra and Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah?

• In rugby league, “Leeds were crowned the best club in the world”. Fine. According to the rules they were – but next time let’s make it two legs, eh?

* ‘Right winners’ means the voters who had the final say were people who actually like sport rather than chasm-faced ogres who despise all athletic endeavour unless it’s performed from the indolent cockpit of a car, and who speed down to Surrey each week to stand at the back of the Top Gear ‘gang’, sleeves rolled up exposing forearm tattoos emblazoned with the emblem of their local croquet club and an ever growing tally of cyclists who they’ve maimed, to act as dumb wispy, nerve gas hyenas for Clarkson and co to use as stooges to persist with the illusion of cultural sanctity they have forged among that wretched spleen of humanity.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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