Partisanship in commentary

Italians are wonderfully, unashamedly biased when commentating…but not often, to my knowledge, are they on the side of England. Ben Hammersley has an interesting tale of watching yesterday’s Rugby World Cup Final in Italy.

I watched it on Sky Sport Italia, here in Italy, with the Italian commentary on and, bloody hell, were they biased. It was quite possibly the most partisan commentary I’ve heard on TV: the two commentators so blatantly, outrageously, violently pro-England that even I, a Natural Born Englishman of the first order, was getting a bit Steady-On-Chaps about it. Commentators just aren’t supposed to use the “We” form of any verb, and at times you got the feeling they were a hair away from screaming “take him down! take him doooooowwwwn!” like it was the arrival of the Oliphants in the Return of the King.

As far as I know there’s no particular dislike of South Africa here, so I’m guessing it was a hemisphere thing, with the Italian’s defaulting to supporting the North. Still, as the clock ticked down and it became obvious that England weren’t go to pull one out of the bag, it was greatly comforting to share the disappointment with the two very gutted sounding commentators. That, and seeing Prince William swear very loudly when the try was disallowed, almost made up for the whole thing.

Where to watch the rugby in London?

Right then. It’s a big one tomorrow for the Rugby World Cup Final. Me and my mate have come up with what we consider to be a definitive list of must-haves for a venue in London:

1) Pub atmosphere. A pub, then.

2) Reasonable quantity of South African supporters, but no more than 50%. And that includes those behind the bar.

3) Decent Guinness, and not the extra-cold filth

4) Decent Youngs, Adnams or other draft and a fine selection of snackage

5) Not massively packed. Yeah, ok – stupid request

6) Easy access to outside for the socially retarded smokers like me

7) Oh, and a TV would be useful too

8 ) Unattached ladies to court. Sloanies need not apply. (No funnies about Soho please)

The O2 centre was mentioned but I’m not going all that way. I want it to be central in case we lose and need to drink into the wee hours. In fact, that applies for both eventualities.

So come on – by this time tomorrow I want a choice of at least 10 ideas.

The only series that still matters

Here’s a hypothetical question for England fans out there: if England were to lose every Test match and one-day international from now until 2009, but then win the Ashes back, would you take it? Be honest, now.

Much has been talked and written about the indifference of the English to one-day cricket. But meaningless one-day bashes are, if anything, merely the tip of the indifference iceberg. As England fans, there’s a whole host of other things we don’t care about, from Twenty20 internationals, through the regular thrashings of Bangladesh and the West Indies, right up to – sharp intake of breath – the upcoming winter tours of Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

Oh, of course we’ll check the scores from time to time. Perhaps even watch a bit if we have Sky and remember to set the alarm. But I don’t know too many people from outside the game who have very much of an emotional investment in the outcome at all, just as long as it’s not a humiliation. England series these days feel like part of a two year-long hors d’oeuvres to the 2009 main course.

Just as Australia’s sights were fixed on the 2006-7 series from the moment they walked off the field at The Oval, the year 2009 is seared indelibly into our consciousness. It’s everywhere: in the press, on the messageboards, and very possibly in selection meetings (“I mean, Sidebottom’s accurate, but will he trouble the Australian top order?”). And as for the detritus in between; well, the disappearance of cricket from terrestrial TV has made it a lot easier to ignore. The fact that England barely hit top gear all summer should be a point of grave concern. But to me at least, it doesn’t seem to have been.

There’s a parallel with the rugby here – the English descending on Paris this week care not one jot about the Six Nations humiliations and Antipodean kickings to which England have been subjected over the last four years, but about their performance on the stage that matters. For ‘World Cup’, substitute ‘Ashes’. I suspect most England cricket fans will willingly endure two more years of anguish if there’s a little red urn waiting at the end of it.