I MIGHT not know a goofy from a cant but the past fortnight of winter sport has had me glued to the TV.
I’ve been skiing once in my life, last March, and inside of five days it was quickly discovered that I have neither the natural balance nor the in-built recklessness to make a trip to the Alps a worthwhile venture.
Quite frankly, after twisting my ankle on the second day despite wearing supposedly ‘ankle-twist-proof’ boots, I didn’t have the inclination to pursue the sport any longer either.
But that hasn’t stopped me from watching in awe as some of the most outrageous nutters in the world have helter-skeltered down ice runs at 80 miles an hour, leapt 100 metres onto snow wearing nothing but a less-than-fetching lycra bodysuit and taken on an entire freestyle skiing course backwards.
Furthermore, the Winter Olympics have had the added benefit of not being wholly media censored by super-paranoid spin doctors whose clients generally think they’re several times more important than they actually are.
Out in Sochi, in a country which has been condemned for its human rights infringements, we’ve actually been able to witness a bit of humanity in the Games’ participants.
They’re not marshalled like misbehaving schoolchildren on a year 10 French trip, their eyes shielded from members of a media corps universally suspected of malpractice or malicious intent by sporting governing bodies who just refuse to learn about the industry.
Instead they’ve been allowed to speak openly, honestly and widely about their respective sports - an essential part of the coverage of the unfamiliar half-pipe, Super G and luge disciplines, amongst others.
The likes of Jenny Jones, Elise Christie, James “Woodsy” Woods, Chemmy Alcott, Aimee Fuller, Shelley Rudman and Lizzie Yarnold have educated, promoted and inspired through their willingness to chat with journalists like you would your granny at a family Christmas meal.
Informal, insightful, intelligent conversation, unmediated by scaredy-cat press officers who’ll jump 12 feet in the air at the first mention of anything that doesn’t read straight off a check-list of tired cliches and unconvincing optimism.
Football should take note.
The programming offered by the BBC, too, though not to everyone’s taste, has been entertaining and at times utterly compelling.
It hasn’t boasted the same smooth-edged, shiny-graphicked sparkle as Sky Sports’ coverage of the Premier League - at times it’s bordered on being tacky and amateurish - but that is far from a criticism.
The expert co-commentators employed by the Beeb have used a wealth of knowledge to take the weight off the likes of Steve Cram and Paul Dickenson. Tim Warwood, Graham Bell, Jackie Lockhart et al should be applauded for their contributions. Unrefined, yes, but certainly not unprofessional. And totally engaging, even for a snow-phobe like me.
SEASON TICKETS ARE NO RIP-OFF BUT MATHCDAY FEES REALLY ARE
I’M going to talk about the cost of a fan going to watch a football match now, so for all of you who enjoy sparking off at journalists who have the cheek to comment about paying for a seat it’s probably best you click here and read about the bowls.
This week Swindon Town released their season ticket prices for 2014/15 and, contrary to some opinions I’ve seen flying around in cyberspace, I believe that they are entirely acceptable.
A typical County Ground season ticket will cost around £25 more next term, spread over 10 months interest-free.
Given the ever-rising cost of food, fuel and other more essential commodities, it’s a relevant price hike and hardly on a level with energy companies or satellite TV broadcasters, for instance.
A year’s pass to Town games has fluctuated between £300 and £400 for a good decade, maybe longer. It equates to roughly £17 a game over 23 matches and personally, given the club’s peers and the prices they charge, I think that seems reasonable enough.
Yes, I know I don’t pay to get into the ground myself - I’m sure you would feel a little aggrieved to be charged to go to work - but for many seasons in years gone by I did.
And that is why I continue to watch open-mouthed as the matchday prices around League One continue to rise.
Next season it will cost your average fan £27 to sit in the Arkell’s Stand for a League One ‘gold match’. That’s 33p a minute - slightly more expensive than the equivalent length call to Myanmar but cheaper than 60 seconds on the blower with the girls at Babestation.
It’s ludicrous, given this is the third tier of football in this country.
Pop to the West End and you’d expect to fork out at least £30 or £40 to see a decent show at an established venue. You wouldn’t anticipate paying the same amount at the local AmDram in Covent Garden.
Perhaps the fact that the club’s incurred costs are also rising has to be taken into account, as does its attempt to become self-sustainable.
But fans still need to be taken into greater consideration.
This isn’t a dig at Swindon Town in isolation, it’s more a general observation of the spiralling costs for fans who don’t want to or can’t attend matches week in week out. Another example of the sport losing touch with its roots.
UEFA'S WARPED SENSE OF LOGIC NEVER CEASES TO AMAZE ME
THIS week UEFA refused to allow LFC TV to screen Liverpool’s Youth Cup clash with Watford live because it clashed with a Champions League schedule.
If you weren’t aware of the governing body’s gross ego defect, that sentence sums up succinctly all that is wrong about the European game’s administrators.
For one reason or another, UEFA prefers to take the 1984 approach to sports management and considers it important to dictate which competitions can be televised on any given evening when its own events are running.
It’s the worst kind of depravity - egocentric, utterly illogicial and totally detrimental to the game they are supposed to be trying to protect and promote. Like a drunk Cruella De Vil, UEFA is tripping over its own feet as it dances along on its merry little power trip.
Honestly, unless you are a died-in-the-wool Liverpool fan, with a subscription to LFC TV, it seems highly implausible that you’d be opting out of Arsenal versus Bayern Munich in favour of that particular game.
That’s no disrespect to either the Reds or Watford, of course, it’s simple common sense.
Yet UEFA - the same organisation who saw it fit to dismember the European Championships and spread them across the continent, allowed the European Cup final to kick off at 5.30pm on a Saturday evening and employed two extra officials at either goalline when cardboard cut-outs would have sufficed - see the fixture as a threat to their viewing figures.
Perhaps they would suggest that the number one competition in domestic football should have a captive audience. Nonsense. That’s not promoting football, that’s actively doing the exact opposite.
Instead of preserving the qualities of the game, they are crushing the next generation of footballers who deserve the limelight - even if it is the equivalent of playing the Dog & Duck in Bayswater while the Rolling Stones give a free gig in Hyde Park.
Perhaps they needed to drive up audience numbers to increase revenue for their sponsors and advertisers. The wealthy few are the engine room of the sport now, remember.
Forget prawn sandwiches, this is lobster caviar stuff.
UEFA, like much of the upper rung of the football ladder, is quickly losing touch with consumers as it ingratiates itself with greedy conglomerates. It’s a hideous combination. But it’s here to stay.