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Where's the racket, Jim?

Where's the racket, Jim?

With Sky and Setanta having bought up the rights to screen all live sport in the UK barring the annual Sheep Dog Trials, the lesser of the two Darts World Championships and U12 Kabaddi, its something of a pleasure to live in a country where a Government ruling keeps a large proportion of live sport screened on free-to-air, terrestrial telly. In fact, were it not for the sport (OK, and the Simpsons), Bruce and Fran’s telly would do nothing but gather dust (although Fran does appear to be falling back into old ways re: Neighbours

That said, viewing the main summer sports has been far from painless thanks to the prevalence of two men.

Take the cricket: you can be settling down on your incredibly comfortable, three-metre long sofa knowing there’s probably work to be done, but accepting that another five overs never did anyone any harm; Richie Benaud’s pearls of wisdom are floating nostalgically on the air, interspersed with the odd bit of entertaining banter from Warney TM or Tubs, when there’s a change in the commentary box and in walks Mark Nicholas. The slimy bastard politician, having landed jobs with whichever channel has been showing the cricket in England over the past few years despite being an utterly unbearable presence, has now followed poor Bruce and Fran across the globe.

Delivering a stream of neverending hyperbolic bollocks seemingly read from a checklist of superlatives he’s drawn up the night before in an ever-rising, nasally whine, one can’t help but wonder if it’s possible to arrange some form of fight to the death between him and Ian “Mate Mate Mate Mate Mate Mate” Healy in which both participants die. At least he doesn’t come across as a potential sex pest, however, which brings to mind the tennis…

Now, Australia, could you not find one of your own to head up coverage of the men’s tennis at the Australian Open? OK, so in Roger Rasheed you’ve unearthed a moron best kept to 10-second blurbs from courtside, but Todd “Woody” Woodbridge won a shitload of tournaments and seems up to the task. That way, there would be no need for Jim Courier, a man who was as palatable as a weeping boil in his playing days but who has been omnipresent of late.

His commentary is bad enough but, while it lacks any insight, humour or power of description, is merely a taster for the post-match interviews. He sidles onto court, left arm outstretched as if just dying to stroke whichever sweaty victor he’s interviewing, and launches into convoluted, elongated, tautological questions that seem designed solely to get the players to tell him about their sex lives, perhaps to compensate for the lack of his own.

In his ideal final, he pictures Federer walking on court wearing nothing by seatless chaps and a cowboy hat, trailing Nadal on a leash in full gimp suit and snooker ball get up while he works up a sweat in the commentary booth in an attempt to replicate the latter’s one bicep bigger than the other look.

“Well, looks like we’re in for a good one tonight,” he says breathlessly. “Need me to come and help out, boys? I’ve got lube. And chickens!”

“Hey, Jim, where you going?” yells Woodbridge, as the ginger Yank leaps through the window and over spectators’ heads, shedding clothing as he goes. “Come back!”

“Fuck off, I’m gonna get me a real Grand Slam,” cries Courier. “Don’t worry though, I’ll be back with my own woody later.”

‘Shit,’ thinks Woodbridge. ‘Who can I get to co-commentate now?’

In races Mark Nicholas:

“Don’t worry, Woody, I’ve just signed up with Seven as well! And HERE. WE. GO! With a scintillating forehand, Courier thrusts himself into the action, sending the 15,000 vociferous spectators running for the nearest phychiatric ward. Devastating. Simply. Incredible… Oh, hang on, they need someone to cover the surf fishing championships – gotta go….”

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Nothing like this

Not even in their wildest dreams

In the dark corner: an Iberian-looking communista; a huge pair of lamb chop sideburns; a dead-eyed, pot-bellied hitman possibly of Eastern Mediterranean origin; a ginger; a skater; and a dank-haired Goth pre-application of foundation and eye liner.

In the light corner: an equally motley bunch of six, most of whom had met for the first time in the previous half hour. An underworld stand off? No. These new acquaintances were charged with defending the honour of the Mountain Goat brewery indoor cricket team at the Northcote Indoor Sports Centre. (Honour is a relative term here, given the team’s record stood at: Played 10 Won 3 Lost 6 Drawn 1. Equally, the six’s links to the brewery were sketchy: one player had once done a shift behind the bar, the remainder had drunk its beer.)

Sadly, the surrounds – four top quality indoor cricket tracks accessed by climbing through a giant red vulva, a beach volleyball court and bar – failed to inspire much in the way of quality. Chasing a paltry 52 for victory, Team Mountain Goat faltered after a bright start as Marilyn Manson’s snail paced, looping mortar bomb leg breaks proved to be an unlikely weapon. By the last over it was like the Champions League final all over, at least in terms of tension if not ability, importance, quality, fitness, financial reward or viewing figures (one: the Goat’s female driver).

Well I never

Now that’s what I call a surprise weapon

One Goat headed to the bar before the end.

“I can’t watch. I’m getting the beers in whether to celebrate or commiserate,” he said.

Were the men in white, yellow, beige and light blue, like John Terry before them, going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? No! Two wides at the close of the innings ensured a crucial win that moved them one step closer to escaping the relegation zone. Not that anyone from the brewery was there to see it.

Playing sport in Melbourne

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