Tonight the BBC will host its annual Sports Personality of the Year awards, from the glamorous surroundings of MediaCityUK, Salford Keys. This year SPOTY has even bigger problems than living up to one of broadcasting’s most unfortunate acronyms. Women up and down the land are fuming at the absence of female athletes from this list of sporting movers and shakers.
The shortlist of 10 is compiled from the votes of editors representing a wide range of British publications. My guess is this embarrassing situation could have been avoided if those “sports experts” from Zoo and Nuts had been asked to nominate their “Naked Sports Personality of the Year”.
I used to enjoy this annual review of the sporting year, back in the days when we had some genuine personalities like Henry Cooper, James Hunt and Ian Botham. Now the sight of suited and booted athletes being fawned over by Sue Barker and her sycophantic colleagues induces a gag reflex. Still, at least viewers at home won’t be overpowered by the heady combination of aftershave and testosterone.
I really hope “Manx Missile” Mark Cavendish wins tonight, but I won’t be watching. BBC Sport still knows how to put together a great montage. But I don’t need a further reminder that the world of sports commentary has been colonised by the bland, the egotistical and the simply hysterical.
Instead, I’m going to celebrate another vintage year of sporting idiocy from people whose IQ seems to be inversely proportionate to their income. Here are some of the stars whose ill-judged “humour”, lack of restraint or breathtaking stupidity kept the headline writers busy and the Twitterati in a flap.
Off-target: Ashley Cole
It’s fair to say that the Chelsea and England left-back and former Mr Cheryl Tweedy has a bit of an image problem. (I’m a Chelsea fan and I think he’s a greedy, philandering dick-head.) But “Cashley” had yet another weapon in his armoury — the air gun with which he accidentally shot student Tom Cowan at the club’s training ground in February. Here he reflects on one of his highlights of the year.
Damp squib: Manu Tuilagi
There were lots of dull moments for the England rugby team at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. But while their on-field performances were largely sterile, a succession of tabloid-friendly antics had fans back home choking on their cereal. To cap it all, centre Manu Tuilagi celebrated the team’s early elimination by leaping off a ferry into Auckland harbour. “He was just jumping off a boat” explained colleague Ben Foden, apparently baffled by the tidal wave of negative publicity.
The last laugh: Caroline Wozniacki
It’s been another great year for Caroline Wozniacki, who ends 2011 as the world’s top woman tennis player and the girlfriend of golfing superstar Rory McIlroy. She may have a one-dimensional game and no Grand Slam titles, but Caroline is doing her best to counter accusations that she’s in any way boring. In January she invented a story about being attacked by a baby kangaroo. At the US Open she had her own humorous take on Rafa Nadal’s press conference cramping incident. Now she’s resorted to doing impressions of Serena Williams. Side-splitting stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Misunderstood: Steve Williams
If there was an award for the most obnoxious loudmouth in professional sport, golfer Tiger Woods’s former caddie Steve Williams would be a shoo-in. His disparaging remarks about Phil Mickelson pale in comparison with describing Woods as “that black a***hole”, at a dinner in Shanghai. He later explained, “I now realise how my comments could have been construed as racist.” Whatever his failings, Tiger will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the game’s all-time greats. Williams will simply go down as an ignorant jackass.
Bloody mess: Alberto Contador
We still don’t know whether Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador will be stripped of his 2010 Tour de France win. Was his steak really contaminated with clenbuterol? We do know that attempting to land a right hook on a heckler during the ascent of Alpe d’Huez wasn’t a winning strategy in the 2011 Tour de France. The scrubs-wearing spectator’s behaviour was annoying and potentially dangerous, but Alberto’s feeble swat made him look like a big girl’s blouse.
Talk to the hand: Sepp Blatter
We should be grateful that blundering Sepp Blatter is only in charge of Fifa, rather than an important body like the World Bank or the European Union. Every time this self-serving windbag opens his gob, he makes the troubled world of football look even more ridiculous, ignorant and morally compromised. In November his apparent attempts to downplay racist comments made on the pitch drew widespread criticism. Where will the “Blatter-gun” strike next?