Fellow Pseuds: it’s December and so time to have a little think about the events of the year – as regards our favourite topic: SPORT. Unfortunately due to various shenanigans across the board, politics and drugs may creep in!
As this is a Review not the Oscars, I’m not going to be handing out awards, accolades or even allocades (which may disappoint those Pseuds who are also OBOers and may remember that much fun was had in the depths of the winter with Seani’s allocades!).
However, one award must be given. It isn’t to do with any actual sporting achievement but given that none of us would be here in this part of cyberspace without The Editor Our Good Lord Ebren, I feel it only right and proper to present The Begetter with a large and incredibly vulgar gold-plated trophy for giving us this space to publish our sometimes brilliant, sometimes mundane (me: endless Tour reports), sometimes humorous but always worth reading articles.
Thank you – but no time for speeches.
Moving on, rapidly – goodness me, this is about a year of sport not a year of blogging – I’m going to look back on the last 12 months and solely from my memory. From here on in, be assured I will not be googling or wikipediaing or even checking my own stories. I’m offering for comment my flawed and questionable memories of a year that for me, brought more pain, anguish and desperate chasing of false hope than great celebrations. Please do pick me up on errors or areas in which my flawed and fractured memory conflicts with your instant recall. Oh and there are some sports I simply won’t deal with as I am not worthy in your company to discuss eg football, American football, darts, chess – the list could go on forever really.
I have to start with December 2006 and cricket: our boys went to Australia to defend the Ashes. Within five weeks the all-conquering Aussies, led by gerbil-faced, foul-mouthed Tasmanian Ricky (second-best batsman in the world) Ponting had crushed us underfoot and we lost the Ashes 5-0. From Steve Harmison’s first ball in Brisbane I knew we were doomed. In Adelaide, England did what they do so well – tossed us a small smidgin of hope and then chucked it away. Desperate times. We did fight back and against the odds our defeated, dismayed, dismal One-day side somehow snaffled the Commonwealth Bank Series and we returned from the back of nowhere with at least one trophy.
Hardly having time to draw breath, or so it seemed, the lads were off again with Duncan "I’ve written a really good book now" Fletcher and we were under siege – or perhaps water – in the West Indies for the ICC World Cup. An interminably long tournament of which I can remember little except we lost lots of matches, Fred lost his head and the vice-captaincy, Scotland did better than expected and Ireland caused Pakistan’s downfall. What happened next, the death of Bob Woolmer, overshadows all memories of the tournament. The press went to town with conspiracy theories and to this day we have no real answers. It is a stretch now to remember who the finalists were. Sri Lanka and Australia I think, and obviously the Aussies won – that’s what they do. I have no idea what the scores were. Fletcher resigned/was sacked afterwards and we entered the Peter Moores era. From what I recall we were dodgy against India – we lost, then did well against the West Indies, but for all the detail I can recall, it could have happened on a different planet. Scotland meantime, hosted Israel for an international fixture, just a few miles away from me, but sad to say, I missed that match.
County cricket became a lottery of the weather gods and then came the World Twenty/20 where, surprise surprise, England were rubbish again, but not so rubbish that we didn’t hold out some hope. Vain as it always is and I’m afraid I can’t remember who won. Sticking to my principles and not looking anything up, I’m going out on a limb here and reckon it wasn’t Australia. Dog’s sake, there must be something apart from the CB series they didn’t win this year – and I think they’ve just wrapped up the Hadlee Trophy against the Kiwis.
I did spend time with some other sports – mostly those involving fit young men in leather or lycra.
Looking at those in leather first: "chuck it away, why not" Casey Stoner proved that there was a beautiful marriage for Aussies and Italians as he took Ducati to win after win on the 900cc MotoGP bikes. Casey’s dominance in MotoGP was a let-down for the series really as in recent years it has been the most exciting wheeled sport, but Yamaha and Rossi were plagued by tyre issues and mechanical problems and could not mount a proper challenge. As for Honda – well I just don’t know what went wrong there for the biggest team in motorbike racing. They were damn nearly beaten by Johnny-come-latelies Rizla Suzuki, so lots of homework for Honda in the off-season.
Stoner wrapped up the MotoGP Championship with at least two races to go and that was that. Fortunately for those of us who get a kick out of the leather and two wheels, the Superbike title went a bit further. Won eventually by our own James "Fingers" Toseland, it was thrilling and just a shame that most of it was not on terrestrial TV. Young James, now a DOUBLE World Champion, was honoured by being nominated for the BBC Sports Personality of The Year (or SPOT as I will refer to it later) and despite being a WINNER, was only there to play boogie-woogie piano. Which he did very well but that’s hardly the point. James moves to MotoGP next season with the second string Yam boys and we have our fingers, toes and whatever crossed for him.
Formula 1 went down to the wire – but only because FIA politics had taken over the events. McLaren v Ferrari in Spygate was unedifying and in fact sullying of the sport. Max Mosley’s remarks disparaging Sir Jackie Stewart brought the sport to an all time low. I was embarrassed to be known as a subscriber to an F1 magazine. However, cool, fast, speedster Kimi Raikkonnen ended winning the drivers’ title and deserved it for fantastic driving, and for never getting involved with any of the shit. In my view Ferrari shouldn’t have won the constructors’ title and I deplore the most recent development where Renault have been found just as guilty as McLaren of having other teams’ knowledge but not penalised.
"Babyface" Hamilton proved that a seat in a top F1 car and a lifetime’s relationship with Ron Dennis means you can win in F1 almost from the get-go. Alonso proved that being a World Champion doesn’t make you gracious in any way or form.
I came out of the F1 season thinking the right man won – that’s Kimi – but everything else was political shite.
In rallying, the wrong man won – Seb Loeb – but only because emotionally I’d have liked Marcus Gronholm to win in his last year and celebrate the double with his team who won the constructors. That’s Malcolm Wilson’s MSport Ford. A reason why it would have been so sweet if Ford could have had the double this year is that it would have been a tribute to one of motorsport’s greatest heroes: Colin McRrae.
Colin died in a freak helicopter accident on 16 September 2007 and had that not happened, I rather expect that part of this review would have been to report on him and David Coulthard winning the Race of Champions at Wembley (staged a week ago and this year won by the Germans: Michael (I never really tried to shove Damon or Jaques off the track) Schumacher and rising star Sebastian Vettel.
Sticking with four wheels for one more championship – and this is a goody. The World Touring Car Championship. A series that attracts manufacturers from Europe, the US and the Far East and has drivers who have won multiple titles. For the last two years it has been won by a boy from the Channel Isles who this year was driving for almost a family set-up. Andy Priaulx did not have the best car, did not have the best resources, but WON. He is a MULTIPLE WORLD CHAMPION – but obviously wasn’t even nominated for the BBC SPOT show.
Back to two wheels now, but not with petrol engines. Cycling – that most maligned of sports, but actually we didn’t have too bad a year.
The trouble is, with cycling, that the sports pages only ever cover three weeks in July – yup Le Tour. Admittedly, this year, that is what I spent my writing hours on for Pseuds – I’m sure you all remember and enjoyed my interminable reports of each and every stage. Or perhaps not.
Anyway – every year for almost as long as I can recall, Le Tour has been the focal point for drug scandals and just about everything that is wrong on the ProTour. This year was no different. Big names (and I’m going to be really careful here because I don’t have the bucks to hire lawyers) were kicked off before the start and at least one team was "disinvited". However, with the eyes of the world upon cycling, Le Tour kicked off Le Grand Depart in London in the best possible style. It was a triumph.
Not much else about Le Tour was – dopage après dopage followed. Then the Rasmussen debacle and no-one is really sure who won. Still better than last year – Floyd Landis, stripped of his win, vows to fight on.
But… despite all that cycling has had a great year. Mark Cavendish, 22, is a huge emerging talent and Roger Hammond, 42????, proved at Ghent that he still has it. Cadel Evans, the most boring cyclist ever but utterly clean, won the ProTour by dint of being boring (and having nicked Mattie Haydon’s eyebrows along the way), and the younger Schleck – Andy – is a very bright hope. Bradley Wiggins won on the road and on the track. He’s class. Chris Hoy failed in his high-altitude attempt at the Hour, but won loads of medals elsewhere and Beijing beckons for the entire GB Team who knocked the cycling socks off everyone, everywhere on the track this year.
Well, that just about wraps up my review, part the first, of 2007. I’ve done willow-wielders and chaps on wheels so far and there is much more to cover. Please feel free to vilify me for getting things wrong – I welcome all criticism.
In a PS – horribly I realise that in all my praise of the cyclists, I have not mentioned Victoria "Multiple Champion" Pendleton. My mistake. She is brilliant.