Archive for November 2011
It’s never quite as intense when you can’t smell the red and white face paint around your nostrils, but watching South Africa take on Australia at cricket is nearly always absorbing, even as a Englishman from afar. The current series is as magnetic as ever, thanks largely to the flailing failures (flailures? that should be a word) of the batsmen on either side.
Australian tribulations are particularly satisfying. Phil Hughes is the Great White Hope of the batting line-up and he isn’t that great. Although he is white to be fair to him. He’s also a human slip cradle. A Mardi Gras-style parade nearly broke out in Sydney when Usman Khawaja made a whole 37 on debut against England, such was the craving for a new talent to emerge. His average has since dipped to 32.5. Mitchell Johnson runs into bowl with the grace of a pantomime horse whose front portion has just farted into his partner’s face. He took 3 wickets at 85. All good fun.
But it is also strangely comforting to witness the Australians reveal their survival instincts and level the series at the Wanderers (obviously disregarding the pustular look of jubilation on Peter Siddle‘s face). Hughes and Khawaja made runs. Pat Cummins is a very fast bowler and he was born in 1993. I’m literally old enough to be his dad, although that would have required relations with a girl when I was 14, where I was actually just at home playing carpet bowls with myself on my parents’ landing. And even Mitch dusted himself down and made a poised 40 to win the game. In Perth last winter he seemed to strike a rhythm with the ball after showing it with the bat. Perhaps this will be the impetus for a five-fer in the deciding test.
The series is tantalisingly poised. It promises much. A famous showdown between two ferocious rivals.
I’ve just been watching a compilation of highlights from the 1997-98 Premier League season set to “A Whole New World“, a cloying piece of music composed for the Disney film Aladdin. There are tears in my eyes. That is the immense emotional punch of the musical montage. Separately the footage and the song don’t have the capacity to stir, but together they form a powerful cocktail that reacts with that section of the brain controlling blubbing and throat-lumps.
The most seminal work in the field has been created by the BBC. Musical montages form part of their public service remit. I hope that in the seconds before I die, when my life streams before my eyes, it’s edited into a BBC musical montage. I have spent Olympic Games and Wimbledons waiting impatiently for the events to finish before enjoying the concluding montage. The segment following the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona was so moving it was conceivable that R.E.M. had written “Everybody Hurts” specifically as an elegy for Derek Redmond‘s snapped hamstring.
Montages can be potently funny too. Consider the collection of clips broadcast at the end of the World Snooker Championship, mainly of “ball-hitting-another-ball-and-going-into-a-pocket-it-wasn’t-intended-for” scenarios, perhaps the most unhilarious happening in sport. But place a Scott Joplin ragtime classic over the action and you’ve collapsed to your knees, crumbling in laughter, pointing at the screen screaming “OMG, did you see that ball fall into a pocket it wasn’t supposed to?”.
The phenomenon extends to other non-sport television. I managed to avoid the last series of the Channel 4 Big Brother series until its final episode, during which a montage was aired. It largely consisted of people that I didn’t know and didn’t care about walking up the steps to leave the house in slow motion. Temper Trap‘s “Sweet Disposition” played. Chills coursed up my spine. With this faculty for making even the worst in society seem sympathetic, advertisers should rethink party political broadcasts and simply show clips of David Cameron or Ed Miliband chatting to kittens or making daisy-chains set to Coldplay or Elbow or other mawkish music.
Snazzy despot Colonel Gadaffi recognised the potential of the musical montage, using one to impress his paramour US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice. He cut photos together with a specially commissioned song called “Black Flower in the White House”. Rice described it as “strange and creepy”. Perhaps that was more of an ITV one.
Traipsing through Youtube revisiting the television staples of your childhood, you’ll often discover that they don’t inspire the same affection as they once did. But they haven’t changed. You have. You’ve matured. Your tastes are more refined. You’ve lost your appetite for anthropomorphised jungle cats in lycra or schoolboys riding motorcycles into ditches or mash-loving badgers.
But A Question of Sport has changed. It’s evolved into a dispiriting grotesque of its previous self. It’s also revolved, literally. In fact when the studio swivelled to position the audience behind the participants, the cracks in the citadel began to appear. The audience at home were faced with colourless versions of themselves like some disturbing truth mirror, wan folk in fleece desperately trying to find entertainment in the back of John Parrott’s head.
Formerly Question of Sport was a show in which teams of personalities from the sporting world would attempt to best each other by answering questions. Any ribald humour that was squeezed from proceedings was considered a useful bonus, the emphasis was on taut, honest quizzing. There have always been a view avenues of comic potential: mistaking a muddied princess for a man in the Mystery Guest segment, or the time-honoured response at the beginning of the Home or Away round, “I’d like to go home please”. To this day, contestants still recite that line thinking they are pioneers, shooting for the stars of hilarity. And to this day, it still gets a laugh.
Now Question of Sport exists as an extended parlour game, a fevered bout of stupidity with some trivia crumbled in. Sue Barker has been cast as the aged aunt who has stumbled unknowingly into the dressing-room with all its weak banter, blanching as much as her artificial tan will let her. The captains groan and mug their way through what now resembles a noxious blend of Mock The Week and The Cube.
And now the sporting guests themselves, not charismatic enough to partake in this new variety, are being supplanted by jobbing comedians and daytime television hosts who only athletic qualification is one hour enjoying the corporate hospitality at Wimbledon.
Perhaps Question of Sport should have perished long ago before it became stale, before its legend waned, like the sporting panel show equivalent of James Dean. Before this:
I’d rather watch the back of John Parrott’s head.
I’ve just watched a clip of an old episode of Question of Sport. It’s actually a bit shit. I’ve changed.
I don’t like adverts much. In fact I’m known for it. Nick ‘the Ad-Hater’ Harrison they call me. I’ve developed a faculty for being able to turn over to another channel while the commercial break is on and switching back at the very point the programme kicks back in. I think I have a special cortex in my brain that has evolved especially for this function. It would be a neat party piece except that it is probably socially unacceptable to switch on Hollyoaks while attending someone else’s bash. I’m also quite handy at fast-forwarding through the ad breaks on pre-recorded programmes. The trick is to press ‘play’ when the trailer for a forthcoming show pops up at the end.
But turn an advert into a game and I am interested. Or as an advertising executive would say “engaged”. Oakley have developed such an interactive game – You Vs McIlroy – starring Rory McIlroy, or “Wee-Mac” as I like to call him, or “the Strop with a Mop” as Chubby Chandler might. It pitches you onto the West Course at Wentworth in a virtual duel against young Rory, including the choice of Fast Jacket eyewear and Oakley golf apparel. It asks for your Facebook details, and then creates a dizzying personalised experience, filmed in the first person so it’s like you are starring in your own episode of Peep Show. A slightly less funny episode about golf. You can access the game in two ways – firstly at http://youvs.oakley.com and, secondly, by liking the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/oakleyeurope. It also somehow takes your profile picture and creates something that looks like a Top Trump card. I’m pretty sure I saw a segment about bespoke Top Trump technology on Tomorrow’s World about 20 years ago so this is quite exciting.
Anyway there is a point to the game. Beat McIlroy in a virtual matchplay game around Wentworth and you have the chance to caddy for the man himself. In the real world with a real bag (so maybe ask for a trolley). This would obviously be brilliant. You might become friends or something.
For more info on Oakley and its products, visit http://www.oakley.com
Viral video by ebuzzing