BACK in 1939, just three years after the first images appeared on a new fangled machine called the domestic television set, a senior BBC man was able to give this whole new broadcasting world a big thumbs up.
Gerald Cock, the Corporation’s new Director of Television, revealed the results of an early viewers’ survey.
To be fair, there weren’t many viewers, radio was still very much King of the Castle, but the few that were watching helped Cock to confidently predict that television had a big future and was going to become ‘grand entertainment’.
And as part of the survey, sports outside broadcasts were given a very encouraging 89% appreciation score.
Television, and sports television, was off and running and since those early days many great moments of sporting derring-do have been captured on the small silver screen.
Indeed for some, sport, with its trial of human endeavour, its colour and imagery, its global nature and, the fact that it is live unrehearsed drama with a different ending every time, makes it one of the most compelling reasons to watch television.
And so, that’s what I did for the large part of last weekend. It was tough (!) but I did my duty for The Post and sat and watched the telly.
“I’m sorry Mrs B, I can’t do the decorating today because I’m working on behalf of my esteemed readers – they deserve nothing less of me! Now then where are those biscuits?”
Sports channels, by definition, offer sport! But those that have a schedule mixed with entertainment, news, current affairs, films and documentaries still want their slice of the sporting cake.
So, wherever you looked at the weekend the sports fan was being super-served.
Rugby Union took centre-stage with all the home countries in live action with a mixed set of results. Bouncing around the channels, both free-to-air and subscription, it was possible to see the likes of England struggle to turn possession into points against South Africa and watch the all-conquering All Blacks take care of business against Wales at the Millenium Stadium.
If England’s rugby players were struggling at Twickenham, their cricketing counterparts were doing just the opposite with a thumping win over India in Mumbai.
Watching Kevin Pietersen, make do and mend his relations with his England team-mates with a thrilling 186 and then see Swann and Panesar spin their winning threads was exhilarating viewing. Indeed, ‘Grand’ to borrow a phrase from the past.
Live football is part of the sports fan’s staple diet, and last weekend the matches came thick and fast – plenty of goals in Saturday lunch-time’s Stadium of Light fixture between Sunderland and Steve Clarke’s West Brom, but then the football producer’s nightmare, a 0-0 draw between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park on ESPN at Saturday tea-time.
And that 0-0 draw was remarkably followed up by a further pair of live goalless games from the Premier League on Sunday on Sky.
Liverpool and Swansea seemed to pass each other to death. It is often said in boxing that different styles make the best fights – and here were two teams that were too similar. The Reds edged the match on points – but weren’t able to land the knock-out blow. Again.
Meanwhile, the Reds’ former boss, Rafa Benitez, got a rough, if totally predictable reception from the Stamford Bridge crowd ahead of the kick-off of Chelsea’s match with Manchester City.
Indeed, Benitez’s reception and Fernando Torres’ latest scoreless ninety minutes were the main talking points from a match that was a little underwhelming and, only came to life when the crowd marked Roberto di Matteo’s abrupt mid-week departure with a round of sustained applause as the game reached the same minute as that of his old shirt number.
However, Barcelona are always around the TV corner and they charmed the viewer with a 4-0 away win at Levante and, in so doing, fielded a team totally filled with players brought through their famous La Masia academy under the glow of the Catalonian sun.