Monday 24 October 2016

Television: A few good men, a lot of the other kind

* Panorama : Catch Me If You Can (BBC1)
* The News (BBC1)

Published 08/06/2015 | 02:30

Chuck Blazer (left) with Sepp Blatter
Chuck Blazer (left) with Sepp Blatter

There we were thinking it was going to be a long hard summer without a World Cup or an Olympic Games and with the Rugby World Cup not even having the decency to provide its meagre consolation during this fallow period, and what do we get? We get a load of sport anyway, albeit in the slightly unusual form of watching terrible old men in blazers trying to find a way somehow, to stay out of jail - and fine sport it is too, perhaps the finest we have seen for some time.

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Remarkably, the first two items on the BBC's main evening news last Wednesday were about this sport within sport, starting with a reprise of a Panorama programme about doping in athletics which had just been shown, before moving on to grand old FIFA types such as Chuck Blazer and Jack Warner, and their pursuit of the truth as they see it.

It might be argued that Blazer and Warner are late conversions to that cause, but a thing that I have noticed is that sports administrators in general tend not to be the best of men.

For this reason, when I hear commentators talking about FIFA being "cleaned up" by some new kind of sports administrator, I laugh out loud. Indeed I was laughing so loudly and so uncontrollably at these suggestions of a "new broom" that a man walking his dog outside our house actually called in to check that everything was all right.

And when I told him about this notion of a different kind of "blazer", standing in readiness to put FIFA on the right road, he started laughing too, and he just couldn't stop.

Anyway, the old committee men are still around, fair play to them, giving us plenty of value. There is something innately entertaining about blackguardism on this scale, and about the men who have made it their life's work.

Indeed the journalists such as Andrew Jennings on the BBC who have been stalking various FIFA officials for some years, themselves bring a sort of theatricality to the task - the elderly white-haired Jennings always seems deeply relaxed, utterly at ease in the knowledge that the men he is pursuing, are not good men.

Perhaps we too are attracted to the degenerates of FIFA because when we look at these men, we feel better about ourselves. We know that whatever we do, we can never be as bad as them. We just don't have the imagination, we do not have that insatiable hunger for big dinners all the time, we can't even see ourselves wearing a blazer.

Yet since men such as Andrew Jennings started investigating FIFA, though the corruption was always massively obvious, it has still taken quite a while to get to that place in which Jack Warner is turning on his old chums, proclaiming his righteousness, and channelling Gandhi.

Likewise the Panorama programme about doping in athletics, "Catch Me If You Can", told us certain things some of us might not have known, but one thing that is massively obvious to anyone with the most basic observational skills - the dopers have been winning in large numbers for a long time.

In football with the "high pressing game", in tennis with matches that are played at full tilt for five hours, in rugby which is now apparently being played by an overgrown new species, it is now an intrinsic part of the experience for the viewer to ponder the source of all that strength and durability, to spot the ones who are juicing, and the ones who are not.

And then there are the horses and the dogs, who have always been up there in the vanguard of pharmaceutical endeavour. And eventually we get to the cyclists, who are beyond drugs, and yet still going very fast indeed.

So you can see that there are profound links between those two stories which led the BBC News - having established that sport is, shall we say, vulnerable to drug abuse, we then realise that any remedies for this situation are at the discretion of men such as Sepp Blatter, who are often very busy men. And who are getting busier all the time.

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