Sports Personality of the Year – the jewel in the crown of British sporting achievement or an overrated extended montage culminating in a predictable winner?
The award could almost be sponsored by Marmite. You either love it or you hate it. Catchy and very true.
It seems to be the kind of thing that you love when you are a child – happy to get sucked into a world of awesome sporting achievement. As one gets slightly older and more cynical you might start to question whether one of the contenders is actually playing a sport or merely a game. Then, as you get even older and slightly wiser, you might get over this and enjoy it for what it is – a celebration of sporting talent in this country.
It is an award with plenty of history and tradition. Many, in fact, most of the greats of British sport have won it at one time or another.
Bobby Moore, Sebastian Coe, Sir Ian Botham, Daley Thompson, Sir Nick Faldo, Nigel Mansell, Sir Steve Redgrave, David Beckham, Jonny Wilkinson, Sir Chris Hoy….Need I go on?
If so many great people win it and so many amazing sporting achievements are celebrated, then why do people hate it?
It has to be something to do with the gimmicks. It has always been a show where stars of sport are taken out of their comfort zone to perform something they don’t do for a living live in front of a packed audience of their peers and millions watching at home.
Just ask James Toseland, the former Superbike world champion, who was asked to play a blues/jazz piano piece in 2007. He was very good but was it entirely necessary?
Now I am not saying the ceremony should be a dull awards ceremony vis a vis the Oscars, far from it. But, it can be, and has been, accused of being slightly naff.
Keeping it to the well-made and emotional video montages which the BBC do so well, interviews with people who can actually string more than one word together and obviously the awards themselves will turn it back into a sporting celebration rather than an evening of awkward routines and nervous laughter.
It has the ability to pull the heartstrings too. Remember when Sir Bobby Robson was awarded with his lifetime achievement award by Sir Alex Ferguson? It was done with a touch of class and plenty of emotion. This is the kind of thing that the ceremony should look to as it is what it does best.
There is one thing the producers cannot control however and that is who wins. In general the voting public get this right but every so often the award’s name is brought into question as people ask whether it is for achievement, personality or either for that matter.
Question marks surrounded Ryan Giggs when he won in 2009. People asked whether he had done more that year than Jenson Button or whether he was a genuine personality. He is the most decorated player in British football history though I suppose.
A new dawn is upon us though as SPOTY 2011 is hosted from MediaCityUK at Salford Quays – the new home of the BBC. This is exciting as it solidifies Manchester’s position at the top of the food chain when it comes to sporting cities.
With BBC Sport, the plethora of top football teams including the Premier League’s top two, the reigning country cricket champions, Sale Rugby Club, a host of top rugby league outfits plus much more, all based in the city, Manchester should be proud of its successful sporting past, present and future.
Now all we need is for Mancunians to vote for Amir Khan and the city will have something else to shout about.