2008 slightly skewed: October to December

MY ad-hoc, hotch-potch look back at 2008 concludes, picking out my favourite bits and leaving the strawberry creams for someone else to digest.

October

Russell Brand writes a terrible sports column in the Guardian every Saturday, which contains about as much insight as a jar full of air, and is about as funny as a roll of wallpaper.

A few days after the manufactured outrage over his unfunny prank phone call to Andrew Sachs brought an end to his Radio 2 show in October, Brand’s Guardian column was headlined: ‘What a barmy, hysterical, cosmic week.’

Hilariously, the column made absolutely no (explicit) reference to his own travails, instead waffling on for 900 words about Harry Redknapp’s move to Tottenham and Diego Maradona’s appointment as Argentina’s coach.

Brand signed off by writing: “No matter how insane things become or how far from the truth we are led by histrionics and lies, the truly, objectively beautiful remains untainted.”

Ah yes, Russell, we get it now. You clever man.

Brand had been less obtuse at the beginning of October, when writing about Newcastle interim-manager Joe Kinnear’s sweary rant at a load of newspaper journalists.

“I identify with the craving to lash out at journalists, though,” Brand wrote.

“Just yesterday, some snooty prig was straining out weak humour in a telephone interview I’d agreed to and I thought, ‘Why am I tolerating this when I could simply find out their place of residence and dash out their brain with an onyx lamp?’

“But that would achieve nothing.”

During October, Brand was outshone in the humour stakes by Darren Farley, who became a YouTube sensation for his disturbingly accurate impressions of Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Peter Crouch, Michael Owen and Rafa Benitez.

Radio Five Live commentator Alan Green, meanwhile, did a wonderful impression of John Cleese’s character in Clockwise. Green didn’t make it to Wembley for England’s World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan until half-time, because his flight from Manchester was delayed. Despite that, Green still saw all of the goals in England’s 5-1 win.

Elsewhere, St Helens managed to blow the Super League title again, as Kevin Sinfield’s superb kicking inspired Leeds to a deserved 38-10 Grand Final win at Old Trafford.

November

Jacqui Oatley’s first Match of the Day appearance for eight months created the kind of uproar usually reserved for a Strictly Come Dancing judge, as she commentated on Stoke’s 1-0 win over West Brom.

The solution is obvious. Oatley should be made the commentator for the next series of Strictly Come Dancing, allowing the nation’s viewing public to unleash all their ire in one programme.

If this were to happen, Oatley would be following in a tradition of football commentators popping up on prime-time entertainment shows; one which has seen Jonathan Pearce work on Hole In The Wall, and Tony Gubba do Dancing On Ice. Surely it can only be a matter of time before we hear Steve Wilson commentating on Britain’s Got Talent, or Ian Gwyn Hughes describing the Eurovision Song Contest.

Ridiculous? Don’t forget this was the month when ‘Unbelievable, Jeff’ Stelling was coinfirmed as the new host of Countdown. Expect Chris Kamara in Dictionary Corner before next summer.

Speaking of Gubba, I saw him in the press room at The Hawthorns when West Brom played Blackburn on November 1. Shamefully, I passed up the chance to introduce myself and tell him all about the Gubbometer.

Two weeks after that near-meeting, I spent a surreal evening in Doncaster, watching Ipswich idiot David Norris deservedly booed every time he touched the ball; a result of his crass gesture to drink-drive killer Luke McCormick after scoring at Blackpool in his previous match.

Lewis Hamilton’s last-lap Formula One world championship triumph was only the third-most remarkable sports story of the month.

The second came at the Rugby League World Cup, where a phalanx of experts spent a month decrying the tournament as a waste of time, because it was obvious Australia would win it. They promptly lost to New Zealand in the final.

But top of the list was the tale of Ossie Tosum, the Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur League referee who reached into his pocket for a red card, couldn’t find it, and so sent off a player with the first thing that came to hand – which was a B&Q till receipt.

December

Even as I write this, the saga of Droylsden’s epic FA Cup tie against Chesterfield is still not quite over.

Heartbroken Droylsden owner Dave Pace has launched an appeal against Droylsden’s explusion for fielding the ineligible Sean Newton for their 2-1 replay win at the Butchers Arms on December 23.

Pace has hardly covered himself in glory since Newton’s ineligibility came to light, having threatened to walk out of the club in one interview, and to throw himself off the nearest bridge in another.

Chesterfield boss Lee Richardson, on the other hand, has watched the entire saga with growing bemusement, ahead of the appeal, to be heard to New Year’s Eve.

“There’s certainly potential for a film in a few years’ time,” Richardson told the BBC. “I just wonder who’s going to play me.”

The BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year night in Liverpool ran much more smoothly than the Droylsden-Chesterfield tie – so smoothly, in fact, that Harry Hill managed to extract only two jokes out of it for TV Burp. (One was about Nobby Stiles looking a bit like a very old Hill, the other was about Ricky Hatton failing to say ‘Young Sports Personality of the Year’ with anything approaching coherence.)

It was a victory for Steven Spielberg, as cyclist Chris Hoy became the first winner of the award ever to be inspired to take up their chosen sport as a result of watching E.T.

Hoy was a six-year-old boy in Edinburgh when he saw the film’s BMX scenes, and decided he wanted to have a go.

The Scot’s sporting excellence made him a worthy winner, but perhaps the credit crunch played a role in his victory too. Lewis Hamilton is, after all, a tax exile – something less likely to win public favour at a time when we are all tightening our belts.

2008 was an eventful sporting year. But I can’t wait for 2009.

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