The £125,000 Heptathlete
A friend of a friend of mine said (that’s how all journalistic articles should start) that he put £50 on Jenson Button to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award this year. He put it on in January before the F1 season started and thus was offered the slightly unlikely odds of 2500-1. Which means he stands to win £125,000. Not bad.
I assume that the wager was placed on a hunch and that he wasn’t so calculated as to smuggle in a mole to file clandestine reports from the Brawn testing track over the winter. I also have to speculate as to the thought processes of the bookmaker who thought that the chances of Button winning were so microscopically small. Button is after all not only a personality, but also one involved in a sport and there are relatively few of those about, particularly competing near the higher level of one of the nation’s favourites.
I have always found the title of Sports Personality of the Year profounding troubling. It suggests that some distinction should be made from Sportsperson of the Year, that aspects of the entrant’s character should be factored into the qualifying criteria. But if you should glance down at the roll of honour, it’s pockmarked with the names of virtual charisma vacuums all the way down.
If Button does win this weekend in Brazil, or in Abu Dhabi in a few weeks, then he is by no means a certainty to drive off with the small silver olden-days television camera (that is what it is – isn’t it?). Lewis Hamiton didn’t when he won. It’s quite difficult to endear yourself to the sporting public by spending a couple of hours with your face masked by a helmet and then finish it off by liberally spraying expensive beverages in the faces of your rivals at the end of it.
Jessica Ennis is probably a better bet. Polite and humble and above all, with a face that you can see. Maybe the bookmaker knew something after all.