Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Motty saves best until last

SO. FAREWELL then John Motson. You were almost as irritating and humourless as Jimmy Hill, but not quite.

For years, decades even, Motson has been riling me with one of the strangest verbal tics on TV, his weird habit of placing the subject of a sentence at its end. It works like this, in a typical Motsonian moment: "That's the second chance that's fallen his way and this time he's hit the post, Fernando Torres."

This isn't how normal people talk, at least not these days. It's the Roman way of speaking, which you'll know if you ever took a Latin 'O' grade. Translating one of those sentences, you never quite knew where it was going until you reached the end – darned confusing, I called it 30 years ago, and it's still as baffling now.

Still, I couldn't help feeling sorry for Motty, who'd plainly had enough of his job by the time he took his last bow, at the final of Euro 2008. At the end of the game, his colleagues should have given him a chocolate watch right there in front of the cameras, but they didn't and I bet that hurt the lad. Motson certainly struck a downbeat note when he told Ray Stubbs in an interview on BBC online why he wanted to quit: "I didn't want to be seen to be deteriorating or declining and I wanted to finish in a finals tournament while I was still coherent."

Those are not the words of a happy man of 62. She really needs to take old Motty far away from his so-called friends, lie him down on a beach and rub fragrantly-scented oils into his back, Mrs Motson.

On to SW19 (as even Radio Scotland calls Wimbledon), where the week's most absurd hype surrounded Andy Murray, whose sporting prowess was paraded in every corner of the BBC after he came from two sets down to beat a certain Richard Gasquet.

It wasn't just the broadcasters who got steamed up. "Murray had come off the ropes like Muhammad Ali" sang a front-page puff on one of the dailies, evoking memories of the famous 'Rumble in the Jungle', when Ali took seven rounds of punishment from George Foreman, before knocking him out in the eighth.

But can you really transpose tennis to the boxing ring? Having a limp-wristed Frenchman ping a rubber ball in your direction for three or four hours is rather different from absorbing hit after hit from an 18-stone heavyweight champion. One way of testing the strength of the comparison would be to put Foreman and Murray in the ring together. Imagine the superannuated barbecue salesman laying into Curlylocks of Dunblane – I for one would've queued all night to witness that spectacle.

On Wednesday, the muscular Rafael Nadal destroyed the fantasy that the Scot might win Wimbledon, dismissing Murray in an hour and 50 minutes, the equivalent of a first-round knock out at the Royal Albert Hall. In the eerie silence which followed, Sue Barker wondered: "What can Murray do to beat Nadal, what can he add to his game?"

John McEnroe had an answer, but it wasn't one the player wanted to hear. "All he's got to do is look at his opponents, who work unbelievably hard," said Macca. "Nadal's spin and intensity are unbelievable. And one thing about Roger Federer, his serve has got better and better. Look at a guy like Murray, and you have to improve… Everything, to be honest." Bummer.

Naturally, Murray received lots of advice from Jeff Tarango and Pat Cash, the kings of the BBC podcast, who love to talk about themselves and about the men's game, but are curiously short of ideas when confronted by women – unless it's to rate them for their looks. This week they barely nodded at the Williams sisters as they processed towards the final. Perhaps the two male chauvinist piglets find these particular women more intimidating than Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova, whom they'd so brazenly patronised during the earlier rounds.

I hope my own favourite among the players wasn't hurt by being so overlooked. If she was, I'd be delighted if she dropped by my place in sunny Leith, where she could show me how she strings her racket, Serena Williams.


Alan Coady said...

He's a prose stylist of the first water, Mike Wade.

Mike said...

I'm left speechless - I mean what could I find to say about the man who provided the drugs that got me through my wedding, Alan Coady.