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The Boat Race... it’s oars for bores
ONE week on from one of BBC television’s last remaining sporting jewels – now down to such a paltry few as to not even prick the interest of a desperate tea-leaf – we have another one today.
But at least with this afternoon’s Grand National, the spectator is always guaranteed excitement and drama.
Last week it was the turn of the Boat Race. This annual two-oarsed race is still regarded by the BBC as a spectacle. Foisted upon us like some remnant of empire when Britain ruled the waves led by those varsity captains of privilege, the BR has acquired an inexplicable status despite its inherent tedium.
And it all amounts to these two crews on a particular stretch of river along which they row.
Who’s going to win? If I was a betting man I’d say Cambridge or Oxford. But as I totally do not give a soggy fig, I’d just rather fall back to kipsville.
Bizarrely, unbelievably, astoundingly, the powers that Beeb continue to divert and devote lots of live coverage and expense to this annual water margin of monotony.
But bizarrely, unbelievably, astoundingly the April 7, 2012 encounter was attention-grabbing, albeit for a totally unexpected and unforeseen factor.
From out of the blue, or rather mucky grey of the River Thames, up bobbed – not a creature from the deep – but protestor Trenton Oldfield.
The various photographs of his head above water within feet of the oars of the two crews, who looked river-wards in sheer astonishment, will remain one of the most compelling sporting images of the year.
At the least his actions were foolhardy, at the most they could have been injurious if not fatal.
But, and as I write this it looks even more flippant, his unscheduled appearance did actually enliven what is traditionally as engrossing as watching a nail rust.
Obviously the race had to be stopped for the offending Oldfield – a runaway candidate for dolt of the year – to be hauled out of the river, covered and detained.
Then when it was re-started victory went to Cambridge as one of the Oxford crewmen’s oars broke. More than 100 years of BR history and not one but two dramatic incidents in one afternoon and that’s not counting the unfortunate hospitalisation of Oxford stroke Alex Woods, which, I stress, is far from a laughing matter.
However, the appearance of Oldfield did add an energising dimension to a rivalry that might be machete-sharp in Varsity history but is regularly as dull as Thameswater to a large majority of the rest of the country.
There’s no screening – on licencepayers’ fees – of say, a Yorkshire v Lancashire university boat race, or Durham v Newcastle, or Cumbria v Northumbria, or the ancient kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex.
If the varsity BR is to continue to be broadcast ad infinitum by the BBC, and the way its sports coverage is tailing off like so many dead flies it may well soon be the only alternative to carpet bowls, then it needs a degree of spicing up.
I am not doubting the intense training that the respective crews undergo to make the crew, nor am I belittling the sheer physical endeavour of those who take part.
But as it is, as television entertainment it is so dreary.
I dunno. Perhaps the respective boats would have to change lanes a set number of times during the race.
Maybe some sort of rapids could be introduced a la The Last Of The Mohicans. Perhaps some other sort of obstacles would need to be navigated.
Failing that, spectators could be deputed to fire fusillades of soggy bread, or sopping sponges or some such other safe missile across the bows. Just something, anything, to transform this springtime snore-fest into something worth watching.