11 December 2007
Joe Calzaghe won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award by some distance, and thank God for that. At least this year it went to a champion.
The list smacked predominantly of mediocrity. Lewis Hamilton is clearly a superstar in the making, but he didn't win anything. Ricky Hatton's reputation, as well as his face, took a battering mere hours before the votes were cast. And these were the guys who finished in the runners-up spots.
Who else was on there? Andy Murray. For God's sake, Andy Murray. What a dour, miserable sourpuss this lad is. He somehow was deemed more deserving of a place on the shortlist than his elder, more impossibly barneted and far smilier brother, who actually won a Grand Slam title (albeit in doubles) in 2007. Murray the younger not only didn't win any Grand Slams, he didn't even play in two of them through injury. And he moaned a lot. And he hates the English. And he didn't go to the event.
Jonny Wilkinson displayed his usual immaculate kicking prowess at the World Cup, but wasn't in a winning team. He won this award four years ago when he was in a winning team. Voting for him this year therefore instantly devalued the award. His team-mate Jason Robinson, who in his retirement interview tried to get the crucial countryside vote by saying he was buying a farm, got more votes for also losing the World Cup.
I don't know anything about Justin Rose as I don't follow golf at all. But I didn't notice him winning much in the golf round-up.
I do know Paula Radcliffe won the New York marathon six months after giving birth. That's an achievement and a half. But she is always going to be the perennial underachiever at the biggest event of them all and that will always cost her votes. I know she's won it before, but that was when people weren't tired of her heroic track failures and were still attracted by that daft nodding action.
Then there's the other athlete, Christine Ohuruogu, who finished tenth and last in the final voting by a very, very long way. She won the world 400m title, but she also served a suspension (this was even mentioned in the one-line summation about her each time the phone lines were flogged on screen - without mentioning the reason or the later exoneration). Proof that the public take time to believe someone who played chicken with the rules.
That leaves the guy I'd have voted for, had I ever felt the inclination to spend 15p on a phone call. James Toseland was world superbike champion for the second time (yep, twice over, everyone) and had obvious good looks, charm, manners and humility. His fantastic piano playing also will have endeared him to more than just the grinning Suzi Perry. And yes, I know most of these reasons are not relevant when considering who to nominate, so let's look again at what he achieved - world superbike champion. For the second time.
It's enough to win, or come second to Calzaghe, no? This is as opposed to second in the world Formula 1 championship. For the first time. Or nowhere in the world tennis standings. For the umpteenth time.
Toseland should have been in the top three and in fact was a handful of votes from overhauling Hatton for third place. The minority status of his sport obviously doesn't help, and so far only the incomparable Steve Redgrave has managed to take achievements in a minuscule sport to such heights that he won the award.
I don't especially like motorbike racing. But I recognise a champion when I see one. And there were only two, plus a slightly tarnished two more, out of ten on show. The rest got on there to spread the sports around, encourage more votes (and money) and persuade some of them to go to Birmingham in the first place.
Bobby Robson's award, and the reaction to it, made the whole watching experience worthwhile. What a magnificent man he is - the only one who produced an England football team good enough to win a World Cup since 1966. Bit surprised by some of the individuals making up his guard of honour though - okay, I understand the presence of Terry Butcher, Steve Hodge, Peter Shilton, Roger Osborne and Mick Mills, but what was Dave Beasant doing there? I'm glad he didn't present the award, as (**old and telegraphed joke alert**) he'd have almost certainly dropped it.
And how great was Tom Daley, the 13 year old diver who won the Young Personality award? Ok, he recorded his speech as he wasn't at the ceremony, but his articulacy and self-belief made Zara Phillips' horrific, feeble effort of last year ("amazing!") look even more stupid. Good luck to him.