Sports Editor’s Blog: Give BBC Sports Personality of the Year back to the anoraks

Watching BBC Sports Personality of the Year is as much a Christmas TV staple as The Great Escape and The Snowman EMN-171212-093300002
Watching BBC Sports Personality of the Year is as much a Christmas TV staple as The Great Escape and The Snowman EMN-171212-093300002
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With more presents to buy and arrangements to make, but markedly less time to do either, the yuletide crisis could be in danger of spiralling out of control.

So this year, more than ever, I’m relying on the BBC and the good people who vote for its sports personality award to do me a favour and hit the right tone.

It’s become a Christmas tradition to fall out with the general public as they choose to disagree with my own verdict of who should carry away the gong.

And getting the wrong winner just exacerbates the experience of having sat through another evening of self-satisfied showmanship.

Growing up, I remember the show as quite a staid affair, a serious review of the year dealing with the serious business of sport. I liked it.

There would be the occasional weird ‘light-hearted’ segment to lighten the mood; Frank Bruno smacking a golf ball into a clunky virtual reality fairway still sticks in the mind.

Now the broadcast seems more concerned with self-congratulation of its own slick production values and even slicker presenters, rather than the sports stars there to be honoured.

There’s a bill of bands and singers performing on the night.

Like an ageing flair footballer who has long since disappeared down some smug blind alley, the show veers away from its raison d’etre.

I’ve never watched a match to listen to the analysis or showboating of pundit and analysts.

My selfish wish is to purely see what happens on the pitch, court, track whatever.

Forget the garnish, just give me the filling.

Tell me the kick-off time and that’ll do.

Condensing an entire year of sport into a few hours seems tough enough without choking the schedule up with glossy frippery.

The TV is fit to bursting with popular entertainment, so leave us dull sporting anoraks with just a tiny slice of the schedules to get our sad kicks.

Maybe, like much everything else in life, I’m the problem. I’ve failed to adapt with shifting public taste; I’m becoming a niche audience.

The decision to open the vote to the public was another development fraught with risk. Generally the public find it in their hearts to pick a worthy winner, but there are odd aberrations, such as Ryan Giggs ludicrously beating newly-crowned F1 world champion Jenson Button to the prize in 2009.

Rory Mcllroy also missed out in 2014 despite winning two of the four majors and leading Europe to the Ryder Cup.

He paid for his naivety; grimly sticking to his sport when obviously a sketch with James Corden or an I’m A Celebrity victory was the better bet.

Mo Farah has failed to make the top three altogether since 2011, despite repeatedly making history in British and global sport.

And I fear my 2017 nailed-on winner, Chris Froome, may suffer the same fate.

He has yet to make the top four despite three previous Tour de France wins, but this year not only did Froome add a fourth title, he also became only the third rider in history to win two of the three Grand Tours.

Yet this may still not be enough, his chances dulled by a quiet demeanour and the fact he chooses to focus on his sport than cultivating a popular following.

Many people tend to forget this award is not, despite its name, a personality contest, but one of sporting achievement.

Maybe it’s the suspicions the public at large have over athletics and cycling which count against Farah and Froome.

Maybe, and I sincerely hope not, it’s due to the geography of their birth.

For the record I’d have Farah and Adam Peaty to complete my podium.

Only that and an on-stage fail from Dan Walker can avert another Christmas crisis.