Row Z edition 60; dateline 1 October 2011

Going home tonight is…
And so finally it’s ended. After weeks, nay months, of clamorous early rounds a final 16 were selected, spent time closeted with their mentors and then emerged blinking into the “competition proper” to scrap it out with bullying, bad mouthing and bad behaviour in general hitting the headlines. Inexorably their ranks were winnowed on prime-time television with favourites and no-hopers alike despatched both fairly and unfairly until, finally, only one remained, the one the organisers had decided would win quite some time ago. Not the X-Factor obviously but the rugby World Cup. Congratulations to the entire Kiwi nation. A total of 4.3 million and one souls (as clearly Craig Joubert will be made an honorary citizen and accorded the right to drive sheep through Whakarewarewa after his performance in the final) with their minds bent on only one goal. Impressive, and only slightly tarnished by the nagging doubt in every one of those 4.3 and bit million minds that they’ll never repeat it until another 24 years have passed and they get to host the competition again.

Begone, dull coach
Speaking of rugby, Row Z would like to announce that it will be conducting a review into Martin Johnson’s performance as England manager, making a grand total of six reviews currently under way. The review board will be taking evidence in the back room of The Star, just over the road from the station, on the evening of Wednesday 2 November. Contributors are asked to supply their own peanuts and to bring sufficient funds to cover a round of the Lancaster Blonde, which is a beer rather than a barmaid. Not wishing to pre-empt the outcome in any way but one straw in the wind was provided when the old gummer who does the garden perked up on seeing the headline “Thomas
retires from all forms of rugby”. He was marginally less pleased to be told the story relates to Gareth, the glacially paced Welsh winger, rather than Martyn, the hopelessly embroiled English administrator. Bring back John Steele, we say. He knew a hawk from a handsaw.

When love goes bad
While The Leisure Review is considering its love affair with the institute formerly known as ISRM, Row Z has pretty much made up its mind that, following the appointment (although we're assured it is an unpaid post) of new chair Miles Templeman, the Loughborough-based agglomeration of failing professional bodies is loving itself quite enough without us adding our two pennies worth. We do, however, love their reinvention of a bloke who has never worked in sport, leisure or culture as someone fit to join “a number of eminent speakers who will discuss strategic ways in which the sport and physical activity sector can maximise the impact of the forthcoming 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games”. Mind you, when you note that they consider Anne Milton, Simon Harrison and Steve Moore to be “eminent” names perhaps old Miles is a big fish after all. And while we’re riding this particular hobby horse, people were bored with debating legacy about three years ago, just about the time it dawned on most people that we were not going to see any beyond a few gold medallists lining their bank account and some nice new buildings.

Balotelli beggars description
The behaviours exhibited by Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli have challenged both the etymological and philosophical skills of the entire Row Z staff, who spent two, nearly three, coffee breaks trying to find the mot juste to define his latest adventures. The Italian’s unveiling of a T-shirt asking “Why always me”, which was followed as night must follow day by a yellow card thus adding more “unfair” treatment to his litany of complaint, is both a self-fulfilling prophecy and an example of reflexive rhetoric. At least we think it might be, but the intern with the 2:1 in philosophy bunked off almost the entire evidence and argument module at university so is not quite sure. Even less certain are the attempts to categorise the enthusiastic fronting of a fireworks safety campaign by a man whose house was nearly burned down when the bathroom was used to set off fireworks. Sideliner eventually ended speculation by suggesting that we simply refer to everything he does as confirming Balotelli’s Razor, a finely honed philosophical principle which states that everything he does is stupid.

Any drivel will do for The Lord
Go now and go quickly while the going remains good to BBC Radio 4's Listen Again feature and look up Broadcasting House, a programme which assays wit and erudition at the sort of time on a Sunday when most people are struggling to attempt consciousness. Sideliner caught their interview with Andrew Lloyd Webber on 30 October only because some fool had decided to put Great Britain on Central European Standard Coastal Time overnight and failed to inform the appropriate staff member at Row Z Towers. Suffice it to say that "The Lord", as Graham Norton refers to him only slightly ironically, was grand value on the subject of the Olympics, an enterprise Lloyd Webber is generally against, despite being on the government's Olympic Advisory Committee. Why? Because "politicians" are advising people that the capital may be a bit busy next summer and sensible people would do well to avoid it around Games-time. This will of course affect regular – non-Olympic – tourists and so affect those who prey on these gullible souls. Particularly the good folk of "Theatreland", a semi-independent district of London owned and operated by people whose sole aim in life is to part the credulous from their cash. People like Andrew Lloyd Webber. "Cancel the Olympics, dear boy, or I may lose a few quid" was the thrust of his argument, which was not one that had Sidey convinced.

At the Arts End

Spelling it like it is, comrade
Sidey was buoyed by the Art of Protest, a 'pop-up' exhibition (it's great, it's modern, it could be a toaster) in Manchester, celebrating the culture of dissent but slightly concerned by one image of a young man holding a handmade placard that sought to draw attention to the iniquity of unpaid work experience opportunities in which large companies hold out the promise of employment to young people able to afford to work for nothing for a considerable period of time. The banner might have had a bigger impact had the final word of the "Stop free internship" message not been missing a pivotal 'N'

Radio Toff disappoints over muesli
Let us state for the record that Sideliner is no enemy of change per se but Row Z finds itself firmly on the side of the disgruntled when it comes to changes to Radio 3's breakfast output. Having Jean from Doncaster pop up at just gone half past eight to explain “down the line” why Vivaldi's Four Seasons reminds her of a lovely weekend in Formby in 1971 or Bob from Godalming celebrating Handel's Messiah because it reminds him of his Auntie Pauline who always loved a good tune is beginning to grate.

Radio with toughs, far better
Speaking of the wireless, the BBC’s fifth channel – the one that deals with news and sport – is absolutely at its best when there is no sport actually happening. Saturday morning previews of kickball contests are immeasurably more entertaining than the subsequent commentaries or the round-ups; even the phone-ins are often amusing and, yes, engaging. Friday evening is an example, although this is not a slot much visited by the trendy young folk from Row Z Towers who down their electronic tools on the stroke of 6 o’clock each week before adding gel to their hair and a swagger to their step as they “shoot off” to a chrome-and-steel wine bar in the centre, nay the hub, of town. Those with less pressing alcoholic needs, however, were treated recently to Colin Murray interviewing Roy Keene and then Noel Gallagher about the then forthcoming Manchester derby. Gallagher on music and football was a joy and Murray’s delight at nailing the interview palpable. Yes, he did go on a bit later about Pat Nevin’s candidacy for the rectorship of a Scottish university – he called him Hannibal Rector (sigh) – but taken as a whole, fantastic listening.


Like a Springer Spaniel with a smelly tennis ball, this feature is about to cross the line between ‘lovable’ and ‘aggravating’ but until it does, “Fetch, Lily”:

What have we learned from:

Sport England dropping the SCUK equity workshop from Clubmark: that you can lead a sports club to a workshop but you can not make them value it; that spirals go down as well as up; that the good, white, middle-aged, middle-class people who run British sport don’t need to be challenged unnecessarily on their attitudes to race, gender, sexuality or disability as it might upset them.

Motor sport: that there are some things you don’t joke about

Tevez versus Manchester City: that had Mancini met Tevez when the former was in his prime he would have kicked him into the abroad equivalent of Row Z; that, according to some, a professional kickballer being asked to warm up is tantamount to ritual humiliation; that Gordon the Hutt of the PFA is the love child of Vidkun Quisling and X-Factor Billy Nomates, Louis Walsh; that the ‘professional’ in ‘professional football’ is one of the most inappropriate uses of an adjective since someone called Tony Blair an honest broker.

Talk Sport versus the BBC: that some people get above themselves some times; that self-interest is a powerful motivator; that only someone wanting to score cheap points would argue that angling, badminton and hockey will make riveting radio; that the BBC completely fulfil their responsibility to minority interest – and indeed very boring – sports by their extended coverage of Formula 1.





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