Next Thursday sees the BBC’s now annual smug-fest round-up of the Sporting year. Except that this year should be slightly less of a smug-fest than usual because of the controversial list of nominees for Sports Personality of The Year.
When the list was announced at the end of November, there was immediate controversy as there were no sportswomen on the list – with the BBC receiving the most brickbats. While the Beeb were undeserving of criticism about the makeup of the list, they should have been criticised much more for the make up of the electorate. They’ve only chosen to canvas The Herald over The Scotsman and the Daily Record, yet have canvassed both the daily and the Sunday editions of The Telegraph, The Times, The Star The Daily/Sunday Mail and the Guardian/Observer.
However the worst transgression was inviting the views of those well known dedicated “sports” magazines “Zoo” and “Nuts”. Perhaps mindful of this, the votes cast by those magazines show a modicum of knowledge of sport outside the sphere of Football – with the vote for Judd Trump being maybe the one least justifiable. At least they didn’t disgrace themselves… unlike the Manchester Evening News who voted for those fine British sportsmen Dimitar Berbatov, Yaya Toure and Patrick Viera.
For my money, I’m not really surprised at there not being any women nominated. Most of the sportswomen who garnered votes will have won championships without very much exposure, but will be looking for better performances come Olympic year next year when the exposure will be there. However there are sportsmen who I am surprised that have made the final 10. Amir Khan won the WBA Light Welterweight championship this year, but surely there are tougher opponents in Khan’s division as exemplified by his defeat to Lamont Peterson. Both Andy Murray and Luke Donald have had excellent years, but both have Slam/Major sized holes in their locker. As for Alastair Cook, I suspect that his nomination is more for his Ashes exploits last winter than his form during the summer, where apart from his 294 against India at Edgbaston, he didn’t make a century. Andrew Strauss hasn’t hit a century since the first Ashes test at the Gabba last November, but he makes this list because of his captaincy of the best test cricket team in the world.
By the looks of things there are three frontrunners for this prize. Mark Cavendish was nominated a couple of years ago after winning 6 stages of the Tour de France. He only won four this year… but won the Green Jersey for the first time. Cavendish also became the World Road Racing Champion, the first Brit to win it since 1965. Cavendish’s strongest opponents for the prize come in the shape of two Northern Irish golfers.
Rory McIlroy made last years Ryder Cup team, but this year he truly arrived in the world of Golf. Four shots ahead going into the last day of the Masters, McIlroy struggled before folding at the 10th on his way to an 80, finishing 10 shots behind Charl Schwartzel. At the next major, the US Open, McIlroy put himself into a similar position, this time sealing the deal to become the youngest US Open Champion in 88 years, and the youngest major winner since Tiger Woods stormed to the Masters title in 1997. If the rise of McIlroy is the story of future promise and the emergence of a new sports star, the story of countryman Daren Clarke is one of emotion and triumph against the odds. Having been a mainstay of the European Ryder Cup team since the mid 90’s, many thought Clarke would never win a major – his best chance came at Troon in 1997 when Justin Leonard came through and beat both Clarke and Parnevik to the title. Clarke’s first Indian summer came when his performances were key to Europe retaining the Ryder Cup at the K Club in 2006, months after the death of his wife Heather from Breast Cancer. His second came this year when he landed the biggest Golfing Major of the lot – The Open Championship.
Both Dai Green and Mo Farrah would have expected to have been in the running had the three sportsmen mentioned above not had excellent years, and had their World Championship’s winning performance been broadcast on the BBC – not a sleight on Channel 4 who did an excellent job of broadcasting the World Championships meet in Daegu (as well as give an overdue promotion to TV for the former 5Live commentator John Rawling), more that the BBC would have been promoting their case slightly harder had they held the rights to the World Athletics Championships. In truth, the contest will be between Cavendish, McIlroy and Clarke, with possibly Clarke winning – with the Golfing constituencies love of Clarke’s emotional back story pulling him through. This year there will be no Tony McCoy (above) style left field winners.