There can probably be very little argument with Paula Radcliffe's victory this year. It turns out that she went 5/5, not 4/4, winning the World Cross-Country championships at the start of the year as well as her victories on the track and on the road. She had a total of 619,577 votes to second-place David Beckham's 113,539. The interesting thing is that the BBC claimed that they received over a million votes, so we can do some arithmetic here. The first three places in total garnered 821,088 votes. We can assume that fourth-and-fifth placed Jonny Wilkinson and Lennox Lewis earned fewer votes than McCoy, so we can estimate something like 900,000 to 990,000 votes for the five overall. This gives us somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 minimum votes cast before the big night. We don't know exactly how many, because we don't know the total voting figures other than "over a million". However, I suspect the figures will not have been particularly high either here or for the Greatest Britons poll.
Incidentally, Paula only earned a sitting ovation at the end of the show. I can remember there having been standing ovations for winners in the past. Do we conclude that (a) Paula is felt to be less outstanding a winner than those of past years by her peers, (b) the BBC floor manager responsible spoke against it or (c) my memory is dubious? Quite possibly two or even three of those could be accurate simulataneously!
The other choices were slightly more controversial. I can't help feeling that instead of having Arsene Wenger as coach of the year and the European Ryder Cup twelve as team of the year, it would probably have been more fitting to crown Sam ("let's play our best players at the start of the singles") Torrance individually and Arsenal collectively. Still, it was nice to see that the award for "coach of the year" was decided upon by a panel and the panellists' names - auspicious ones, at that - were made public. Wayne Rooney was a questionable choice for Young Personality, being ill at ease in the surroundings, chewing gum throughout and mumbling a one-word acceptance speech. The media look down on such things. Charlotte Kerwood, who won the Commonwealth Games gold medal for ladies' double trap shooting at a shooting-record youngest age of fifteen, would have been a far better choice if it weren't for the fact that it could be thought irresponsible to encourage youngsters to shoot - even clays for sport.
It might be interesting to consider whether the frequency with which sports' stars are recognised relative to one another could be used as a barometer for the relative popularity of sports to one another. It wouldn't give the same results as net attendance figures (a million attending football matches each weekend, athletics events seldom attract more than a few thousand) but there's got to be something there. The BBC's sport section sets up a three-level structure, paying most attention to a top nine of football, cricket, both rugby codes, tennis, golf, motorsport, boxing and athletics, with an "other sports" ghetto focusing on a second five of Horse Racing, Snooker, Sailing, Cycling and "US Sport". Admittedly there are sporadic stories in squash, badminton, swimming, (field) hockey, winter sports and the like too, but a definite third division. There are many fine sports which do not even make it that far, alas.
What I'd like to see in future years would be an award - at least an unofficial one - for the best and worst pieces of commentary over the past year. Dougie "not Howser, MD" Donnelly would probably have won this year's for his earnest attempts with the women's curling semi-final and final at the Olympics. It's somehow fitting that the BBC's fourth-choice reserve presenter/host should get his chance to shine in the sun just as curling has done. Curling is probably a game which lends itself well to memorable commentary as the stone slides down the ice, too. Will (from the semi-final) "Here it comes... this is the one!" and (from the final) "You will never see a better stone under greater pressure" be curling's "They think it's all over... it is now!"? Only time will tell. (There were some bloopers on this year's show, but they had redubbed commentary, which rather spoiled the effect.)
I'd also like to see mind sports get recognition like physical ones, but I doubt that even Michael Adams winning the world chess championship, a British team winning bridge's Bermuda Bowl or a Briton winning $2 million in next year's World Series of Poker would be enough to merit a mention, more's the pity. It would earn a write-in vote from me, but probably not many others.
Despite all the misgivings, the Sports Personality of the Year remains a very entertaining review. It's nice to see such a prominent audience gathered all together; it's nice also to get a recap on some of the year's biggest tunes. It's also nice that the show reliably overruns by about 15 to 20 minutes every year, to the point where they put "may overrun" into the TV listings. Wouldn't it just be more convenient all round to schedule the show for its real length?
So what next for Paula Radcliffe? She revealed on the show that she would be running in the 2003 London marathon and one of the track events at the World Championship as well. However, she hasn't signed up for the Flora 1000 Miles Challenge. This is ultra-long-distance endurance running with a twist - the one thousand miles must be travelled no more than one mile an hour for a thousand hours, a shade under six weeks. (In practice, this will mean a hundred-minute sleep followed by two miles in twenty minutes, ten either side of the hour mark.) The pay is good - six pounds a mile, so a shade over a thousand pounds a week. Make it through six weeks and earn another thousand pounds to go up to 7k; hour 1001 onwards will be engaged in running the London Marathon, just for fun. (Complete miles 1001 to 1026-and-a-bit within seven hours to win eight thousand pounds, and there are bonuses for the first man and woman among the six contenders to complete the whole operation. It's like a 24/7 game show, except that it isn't being shown on television. (Or is it? We shall see.)
Connecting television shows and awards programmes, the quite-good-these-days Challenge ? TV channel held a set of game show awards late last century. I wasn't far from London at the time and nearly ended up going and fanboying the hosts from outside the theatre, except that I didn't have enough information about what exactly was going to happen when and where to be confident about going. (It would have been very sad, too, if I had been the only fanboy there fanboying.) Unfortunately the game show awards proved to be a one-off, so it doesn't look like I'll ever get a chance to be a game show awards show fanboy. You never know, though!
Unrelated thought: how would one organise a competition to see who has the best sense of balance - a World Balance Championships, if you like? Would it an interesting sort of competition to hold or to watch?
Another unrelated thought: bootup time has lengthened already. One guess as to the major suspect - that dratted RealOne Player. Prime95 offers an option to automatically start processing once the boot process has completed - or, specifically, 90 seconds after the start of the boot process. Once bootup has finished, it tells you how long the program needs to wait before the 90 seconds are up; effectively, this provides a way to time the boot process. If anything else slows down the boot process unduly, I shall keep you informed.