THERE are times when sport just grabs you by the balls - round or oval, big or small, vinyl or pimpled. And there are times when sport just slides on by.

This weekend it's a rare combination of both extremes when two worlds conspire to bring the best and worst prejudices out of yours truly.

The Grand National and the Boat Race are the two contests that occupy today and tomorrow.

The vastly differing duo always seemed to be inextricably bound in the same weekend.

Indeed, in the past the sporting hype surrounding both was frequently swelled by the occasion of the FA Cup semi-finals on the same day.

Unlike the past both the Aintree adventure and the Thames trawl are divided by more than 24 hours, the former holding sway today, the latter hoping there's not too much sway tomorrow tea-time.

As this column navigates a course through the duo, let's start with the second event with a confession - I bloody hate the Boat Race.

It's an admittedly jaundiced view which is hard to rationalise as there was no one more captivated than myself by the Herculean efforts of Team GB crews in the last Olympic Games rowing voyages.

There's no doubting the athleticism and power required of the respective Oxford and Cambridge crews to power through the four miles plus course on the River Thames.

It''s also nought to do with the fact that it's annual two-horse, sorry, vessel, contest in which either one of Cambridge or Oxford will win, provided, of course, there's not a dead heat or a double sinking.

What rattles my rollocks is what the event represents - privilege, elitism and the London-centric nature of the rowing showdown.

Even the very destination stations of the race irk me. Putney to Mortlake - sounds like a pronunciation test to ensure you devour your vowels and consonants like some gelled hair and graces goon or gal from 'Made In Chelsea'.

The Boat Race remains an integral part of an inherent sporting calendar, more to do with an exclusive capital social scene sniffily cocking a snook at the rest of these islands. The Boat Race, Ascot, Wimbledon,..all hurrah and all traditionally covered by the dear old BBC. All that's missing is Henley Regatta and that's probably because some Beeb underling mislaid the gilt-edged invitation in the days of Pelham Ptang-Ptang Ponsonby.

Ironically, the BBC's sports coverage was undeniably one of the reasons why the Grand National remains so dear to the Kelly heart.

Even though, I remain ambivalent to the sport of kings, the National still stirs the pulses.

That may be to do with the fact that Aintree was but three miles from my childhood. Sometimes as the cameras tracked down the run of fences from the Melling Road you could spot on telly St Chad's, the nearest Proddy church to our house.

Maybe it was because of the time when a few of us scallywags bunked on the course and when chased off had in our mitts some of the fencing so as to try to sell to American race-going tourists as they headed back to Liverpool city centre.

There was also the frenzy of fevered betting in our household.

Me dad would pour over several newspapers scouring form guides and inevitably strike out while me mam would look at the colours of the jockeys, or the funny names of the horses, and almost always touch lucky. Even us kids were indulged in a tanner each-way bet.

If we weren't heading for the course, then we were all crowded around the box for the build-up and duration of the race. If not St Chad's-spotting we would be seeing where our choices fell, while marvelling at the seamless way the commentary switched across various talking heads, who all brought their own individual flair to the BBC's coverage.

The National was ours, still is ours. It remains for me a uniquely northern sporting phenomenon as Ascot is part of the south.

TALKING of wagers, what's the betting that the pictured confrontation ends badly for the home nations.

The photograph comprises a robot of a German team, left, playing the ball while confronted by a British team robot in the Kids League at the RoboCup German Open which concluded today in Germany.

The result is not yet known, but you can bet that the German metal machine prevailed in the penalty shot-out.

Also gives a new meaning to the phrase the Iron Cross.