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Operation Grand Slam

The trouble with the TV coverage of the war isn’t just that the various TV stations have their various biases. It’s that most of the time nothing is happening. Long periods of boredom, and short bursts of total panic. Mostly nothing happens, so they recycle old stuff. But you still tune in to the nothing just in case something happens, and for the same reason they don’t like to switch to anything else either.

How much more convenient is the televising of sport! You know when it will happen, and the excitement is spread reasonably evenly over a set period. Only one thing can happen at a time. Imagine if a rugby match, for example, took place over such a large area that it needed half a dozen different commentators simply to give you a rough idea of what is happening. And imagine if the players spent half their time holding press conferences to tell lies about who’s doing best.

Well, rugby fans can see where I’m going. I’m going to Lansdowne Road, Dublin, where Ireland will play England in a Grand Slam shoot-out in the final game of the Six Nations rugby tournament, which has been televised in its entirety by the BBC, and very well they’ve done it. Ireland and England have both won the first four of their five matches, so it’s winner take all. France is also a fine side, but they were narrowly beaten both by England and Ireland. Wales, Scotland and Italy are scrapping it out for the bottom three spots. The best things about Scotland and Wales this season are their national anthems, which are truly terrific, even if they aren’t proper UN-type nation states. Too bad those come at the beginning. Italy’s anthem is dreadful, but they’ve actually played rather better this year. When they played England, they were 33-0 down after twenty minutes to a rampant England. They looked like they were going to lose by about 100-0, but in the end they lost by a mere 40-5, which must have felt almost like a win. A sporting Dunkirk, anyway.

Upsets can still happen. The Ireland v. England Grand Slam decider script was nearly spoilt by the hitherto abysmal Wales last Saturday, when they came as close as that (small amount signalled with thumb and first finger) to beating the mighty Ireland. I was away last weekend, so I missed that game, but I have a tape (thanks taping person – you know who you are) of the England Scotland game, which featured a terrific try by the small but perfectly formed Jason Robinson.

England ought to win. But then, they ought to have won a Grand Slam at least twice in the last five years, but this team has yet to win even one. They have tended (a) to look like the best team in the tournament by far, but then just when we’re all excited (b) to play badly in and lose one game per season, for as long as anyone can remember. On the other hand, most of these losses have coincided with the absence of the fearsome-faced (it’s the eyebrows) regular England captain Martin Johnson, and Johnson is playing this time. Indeed, there are no injuries to key England players. Number one scrum half Dawson, England’s other mighty midget, hasn’t been available for all the England games this year, but he’s now fit as a flee. As in a certain other conflict, England seem to have too many big guns available to lose. On the other hand, Ireland are also a hell of a good side, with, in captain Brian O’Driscoll, one of the world’s greatest players. What price England v. Ireland in the World Cup Final later this year? Well no. Beating Australia and New Zealand, very narrowly indeed, at Twickenham is one thing; beating them in their own back yard is something else again. First things first. First England have to beat Ireland, so that England go to the World Cup confident, and Ireland don’t go there overconfident.

There is interest in this fixture out there in the Gulf, and from the point of view of morale boosting out there, the best outcome on balance – for don’t forget that the Irish rugby team represents both Northern Ireland and the Republic – would be an England win.

But I would say that wouldn’t I? Tomorrow, it’s two appetisers in the form of France v. Wales and then Scotland v. Italy. Then on Sunday, the feast.

4 comments to Operation Grand Slam

  • Pete

    “It’s that most of the time nothing is happening. Long periods of boredom, and short bursts of total panic. Mostly nothing happens, so they recycle old stuff. But you still tune in to the nothing just in case something happens, and for the same reason they don’t like to switch to anything else either.”

    Are you sure you aren’t talking about soccer?

  • Guy Herbert

    Thanks, Brian, for indirectly explaining something. When ordinary TV is shoved out of the way for endless war speculation about not much information, there still seems to be a lot of sport on.

    Now I’ve got it. Sport and war have parity and priority in the eyes of programmers and viewers because they are collective, tribal, activities. This explains not only why the sport survives these schedules of mass destruction but also why we keep losing Buffy to snooker, and the West Wing seemingly flies about at random. Why should we want to be privately amused when we can be absorbed in the mass?

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