Iwas a little bit apprehensive before the MCC v Rest of the World at Lord’s. I’m not normally one for friendly sporting fixtures and I feared that it might be light entertainment at its worst with an ambience bordering on the inane, hyperactive, jocularity of Question of Sport. Thankfully, none of the cricketers made any concerted efforts to mimic Matt Dawson, playing the game in a semi-serious manner. There was even some scuttling about on the boundary led by the blooming Tamim Iqbal and everyone’s favourite, Kevin Pietersen. Most of the retired cohort looked in pretty good shape with no one yet reaching the comfortable proportions of an Inzamam-ul-haq, although Murali seemed to be developing a slight paunch. Brian Lara kept the amateur spirit alive when he failed to make up the five yards necessary to take a dolly at short mid-on after a thick edge from Yuraj Singh.
Last week the ‘great lion of BBC journalism’ and ‘the scourge of politicians’ called it a day after 25 years in the saddle as the principle Newsnight anchorman. Of course there was no thanksgiving, tears or even a wobbly lip. The ‘great lion’ did, however, agree to mark his departure by partaking in some minor frivolities, going on a bike ride with Boris and presenting his favourite news item – the weather. Newsnight will certainly be weakened by his departure; it might as well have been called The Jeremy Paxman Show. Fortunately, the ‘scourge of politicians’ won’t disappear entirely as his enthusiasm for reading out tricky questions to bright young things and making high pitched utterances of disdain remains undiminished.
As a Newsnight anchor I shall miss him, more as an entertainer than as an informer. He had charisma and star quality and was a cut above most of his contemporaries. In a programming era increasingly driven by ‘accessibility’ he was a welcome intellectual bulwark. Indeed, if Jeremy Paxman presents a programme, you know that it comes with a triple A intellectual rating. The questions on University Challenge are as difficult as they ever were.
It’s a little odd, I know, but in the build up to the World Cup in the Youtube age, I watch it again, and again, and again: the montage clip of England’s travails at Italia ’90 accompanied by Nessun Dorma* belted out by Luciano Pavarotti. Why do I do it? Is there nothing more to it than having a particular regard for Luciano’s stirring rendition? Do I like watching grown men cry? Am I just weird?**
Among urbane Londoners, admitting to a fondness for UKIP and its man of the moment* Nigel Farage is about as bad as confessing never to have watched Mad Men and The Killing. Maybe that’s a touch extreme; perhaps a better analogy would be about as distasteful as drinking blue top milk or serving up a Dairylea Dunker as a canapé?
Despite making inroads across much of the UK in the Local and European elections last week – Nigel was particularly excited** by UKIP’s gains in Wales – UKIP failed to convince a large chunk of London voters of its merits. And why was this? Well, one reason for UKIP’s London failure, as acceded by Suzanne Evans, UKIP’s communities spokesperson, when interviewed on Radio 4 last week, was UKIP’s difficulty in appealing to the ‘cultured, educated, and young’, of which it would seem London is absolutely packed to the rafters.
On 1 June 2012 Brendan Rodgers was unveiled as Liverpool’s new manager. His appointment did not exercise the bulk of Liverpool fans. Many felt sheepish about King Kenny’s departure; others deemed him callow, ungarlanded with silverware, not a big enough name for a club of Liverpool’s stature*; many would have preferred ‘Rafa’ Benitez. I would have liked to have seen Jamie Carragher appointed as player manager for a giggle.
With a weak mandate, and inheriting a squad versed in the ‘swing the ball about’ culture of King Kenny, Rodgers’s task in reversing Liverpool’s downward trend was bordering on the herculean. And from a strictly outcomes focused, league table perspective, it appeared in the initial months that the task might be a bit too tricky for Brendan. Indeed, Liverpool were languishing in mid-table. The fans were disgruntled and the media unimpressed. Both were particularly vociferous in their criticism of Rodgers’s decision to send Any Carroll on loan to West Ham with a forward line lacking in numbers after Borini’s injury. Then came the unfortunate documentary (marketed for a US audience and the worst decision of the current Liverpool management) portraying Rodgers as not too dissimilar to David Brent. Personally, I don’t think that I would ever be bosom pals with a man possessing a self-portrait at his family home. Anyway, I digress: mild egomania is a pre-requisite of being a successful football manager. In fact, omit ‘mild’.