Monday, August 15, 2016

Early suggestions for BBC Sports Personality of the Year

I know many disregard BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Since the BBC lost the coverage of significant sporting events, their end of year of review hasn't been as good as it use to be. A lot of people tend to focus on the word "personality" and seem to exclude who don't think are exciting enough to be a "personality". Remember the term "personality" has many different meanings (I remember the podcast "No Such Thing As A Fish" defined personality as a special person and used the term "TV personality" as a comparison).

However SPOTY (the acronym for Sports Personality of the Year) gives rise to the intrigue of trying to compare different sporting achievements. With Rio 2016 halfway through, most of the focus will be on athletes who have excelled at the Olympic Games. Here are just a few suggestions for names that will be in the hat in December:

1. Adam Peaty
There was a lot of pressure for Peaty coming into these Games. He was the world record holder and world champion for his marquee event - the 100 m breaststroke. He showed he can handle the pressure by breaking his world record in becoming Olympic champion and giving Team GB their first gold medal of Rio 2016. He is also contributed in the 4 x 100 medley relay, helping the British team gaining silver.

2. Jason Kenny
Kenny moved into a tie with Wiggins and Redgrave as male Olympians with five gold medals, after winning in the individual and team sprints. He was already world champion, having won the individual sprint earlier in the year in London. If Redgrave and Wiggins can get knighthoods for wining five gold medals, surely there will be a Sir Jason Kenny coming soon?

3. Bradley Wiggins
Wiggins returned to track cycling after finding success on the road in the Tour de France and the Olympics. He won the madison with Mark Cavendish in this year's world championship and he gained his fifth Olympic gold with the win in the team pursuit. With that medal he becomes the most decorated sportsperson in British Olympic history. And for the people who are fickle that the winner of SPOTY has to have personality, Wiggo has plenty in abundance.

4. Laura Trott
The other half of British cycling's celebrity couple, she is no slouch herself. Going into Rio, she had already world champion at the scratch and omnium. Trott added the team pursuit to those accolades and became the only British female Olympian with three gold medals.

5. Mo Farah
I have no idea why Farah has not won a Sports Personality of the Year award. In the non-Olympic years of 2011 and 2013, he won both the 5000 m and 10000 m world championship. He already has won the 10000 m in Rio, despite falling down and he could retain the 5000 m later in the week. Surely his time is due.

6. Max Whitlock
If Louis Smith had been Team GB's gymnastic star in 2012, Max Whitlock has been the sensation in 2016. He helped Team GB win the team bronze and then going on to win two individual gold medals (Britain's first in gymnastics) in the floor and pommel horse.

7. Katherine Grainger
By winning a medal (silver) in the double sculls, Grainger became Britain's most decorated female Olympian with five medals (one gold, four silvers) and doing this at the age of 40 years.

8. Justin Rose
There were several golfers who shied away from the Olympics. Rose fully embraced being an Olympian. He attended the opening ceremony, despite it being six days before the start of the golf tournament. He carded the first hole-in-one on the first round and it got better from there. On a thrilling last day, he edged out Henrik Stenson to win the first Olympic golf gold in 112 years. He could further improve his odds of winning SPOTY by helping Team Europe retain the Ryder Cup in September. A honourable mention should include Danny Willett for winning the Masters in April.

9. Andy Murray
I have to declare my bias as I'm an Andy Murray fan. He won last year after helping Great Britain win the Davis Cup, where he really should have been someone else and the team win just Team of the Year. However it is difficulty to ignore his achievements this year. He has reached the finals of the Australian and French Open, becoming only the tenth player to reach all Grand Slam finals. He won WImbledon again in July and now he has become the first tennis to retain the single's title and win twice in the Olympic tennis tournament. He still has the US Open, the Davis Cup and the World No. 1 spot left in his calendar. Could this be the first time SPOTY has been won in successive years?

We still have half the Olympics plus the whole of the Paralympics to look forward to. Let's hope Great Britain's sporting achievements continue.

(N.B. Team of the Year should be Leicester City, defying the odds of 5000-1 to win the Premier League title.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Haters gonna hate Andy Murray

It has been announced the flag bearer for Team GB at the 2016 Rio Olympics will be Andy Murray. Naturally there are people who thinks he deserves the honour. Nonetheless there will be other people who think the responsibility should go to another sportsperson. Both sides have their arguments for and against, and all are valid. Yet somebody has to miss out. The most compelling argument is one I read from a reporter on Twitter. Of the 26 flag bearers for the British summer Olympic team, 23 have been white males. If you had argued on that fact, I wouldn't mind the flag bearer being Nicola Adams or Jessica Ennis-Hill.

However Andy Murray does deserve to bring in the Union Jack for Team GB. He has played at two Olympics, is current Olympic men singles champion and also won a silver medal in the mixed doubles. He competed in Beijing as well and stayed in the Olympic village there.

(However he did not stay in the village in London, as did most tennis players as the complex was very far from the tennis site of Wimbledon. Andy Murray won't be staying in the village for Rio, as he will be staying with the British tennis team in an apartment. I'm slightly disappointed with the decision but I've heard many well known athletes get hassled for autographs and photographs if they stay in the village.)

There has always been detractors regarding Andy Murray. It all started in 2006, when he joked he would "support whoever England were playing against" during the World Cup. Most people thought he was serious and took the comment the wrong way. I was on the opposite end of the spectrum. As a Scotsman, Andy Murray is allowed to make that joke. It has always been a joke every Scot has made about England's participation and Scotland's lack of participation at the World Cup finals. All Brits laugh at this joke, so why would we treat Andy Murray differently? A prime example of "being Scottish/British" joke is when Alex Ferguson was asked if he would take the England manager job. Ferguson replied he would make England worse if he did. Nobody was angry at Ferguson then (probably because they all fear him).

At least Andy Murray was trying to make a joke. Most sportspeople are a vacuum for humour. That is what you get if you dedicate your life to being the most successful sportsperson - your personality seems to go. Roger Federer has his admirers but I just find him bland, along with Rafael Nadal. At least Novak Djokovic is great at doing impressions of other tennis players. Those big three tennis players may have more Grand Slams, been men singles tennis No. 1 and have other accolades but I will admire Andy Murray more.

The only other controversy I can think Andy Murray has been in was his tweet regarding the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. He tweeted "Huge day for Scotland today! (The) No campaign negativity last few days totally swayed my view on it. Excited to see the outcome. Lets do this!" He got a lot of abuse online for that and I cannot see why. He's entitled to his opinion about any affair, whether it is informed or ill informed. As a Scotsman (although not living in Scotland), he has more of vested interest in that referendum than the rest of Great Britain. And anybody thinking he can summarise his own view of Scottish independence in 140 characters is in loony land themselves.

As you can see, I'm a great supporter of Andy Murray. He may have a monotonous voice when giving speeches or interviews but that is the way he is and he's not going to change that. He hasn't done any media training and I hope he stays that way. Nobody remarks how bland footballers sound when the give post match interviews.

People often confuse his dourness for a lack of humour. That is far from the truth. He poked fun at himself at the 2015 Sports Personality of the Year Award, when he said:
“I didn’t expect this. A friend actually sent me a message the other day with an article from a newspaper which said ‘Andy Murray is duller than a weekend in Worthing’, which I thought was a bit harsh... on Worthing.”
He shows that he doesn't mind being ridiculed. He has had to bear the annoyance of the kids from "Outnumbered" for Comic Relief. He was actually funny with Richard Ayoade for "Stand Up To Cancer". Yet the best example of his humour is his appearances on "Mock the Week". He has appeared in 2012, 2013 and last month. All come after recent successes at Wimbledon. He is brave enough to face seven comedians and let them have a dig at him. The point of ridicule must been on his second appearance, where one round of Scenes We'd Like to See was dedicated to him - Unlikely Things For Andy Murray To Think. Gosh that must be excruciating for him to watch but a delight for the rest of us.

As a supporter, I naturally follow him on social media. He posts on Twitter and Instagram semi-regularly but if you really want to see him more, you should follow his Facebook page. It's the usual you get from a sportsperson - mention of sponsors and charities, behind the scenes of his preparations. He does keep a lot of his personal life private and I don't mind that.

The snippets of his personal life I do know make me love him even more. He has two dogs Rusty and Maggie May. Rusty was named after Lleyton Hewitt, while Maggie May has her own book published and her own Twitter account. He has a great wife in Kim Sears. She is an artist but she stays silent about that and doesn't use her relationship with Andy Murray to promote her work. She is always by his side at matches (and at Mock the Week - surely she gets tired of that?) and you can occasionally hear her, like in the 2015 Australian Open (look it up).

Andy Murray may not be the best tennis player in the world, or the funniest or most exciting. But he is the sportsman I relate to. He know he's dour, he love his dogs and he like watching Mock the Week - sounds familiar to you.

On a last note, he geeks out about the BBC TV show "Sherlock". After winning this year's Wimbledon, he got a chance to talk to Benedict Cumberbatch. You can see he is a fanboy of Cumberbatch, and fist pumps when he hears that Series 4 of Sherlock is being filmed. Who doesn't love that?