Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Sue Barker knows a thing or Two

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 16:  London Mayor Boris Johnson speaks to Sue Barker ahead of the Rally Against Cancer charity match on day seven of the AEGON Championships at Queens Club on June 16, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: London Mayor Boris Johnson speaks to Sue Barker ahead of the Rally Against Cancer charity match on day seven of the AEGON Championships at Queens Club on June 16, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Irish comedian Dara O'Briain once commented that 'nostalgia is heroin for old people' and if that's the case then Sue Barker is Sanatogen for the slightly senile.

The blonde bombsite, sorry, shell, was our guide for a brisk, largely unaided, amble through 50 Golden Years of Sport on BBC2 on Saturday night.

Just in case you had missed out on your medication, nurse Barker was on hand to remind you that 'sport on BBC2 is 50 not out.' We'd kind of got that with the title of the show, Sue, but sorry to interrupt you. And what time does the tea come at?

"Half a century, packed with thrills, spills and unforgettable action," she continued before that was forgotten and we joined a myriad of familiar faces from homes for Retired Commentators and the Slightly Bewildered up and down the country.

First up was Murray Walker, whose first broadcast was so long ago it was in Latin, when Bernie Ecclestone was just a slip of a pensioner, and Formula One was about performance and not noise, or lack of it.

No such problems for Murray, who led us all on a sing-song, or rather, a hum-hum, as he attempted to perform the unforgettable theme that accompanied Grand Prix racing clearly largely forgotten by the likes of Gareth Edwards, Andy Murray, Hazel Irvine, Steve Davis and sporting legend, Johnny Vegas.

Themes were the, well, theme, for a few moments, with Gary Lineker telling us 'Match of the Day is a brilliant theme tune but it's not as good as the cricket' before we were off on another sing-a-long reminiscing about how BBC2 had been there to cover Botham's Ashes of 1981.

The only surprise was he didn't come along to belch the theme tune out. Instead there was the all together more cultured Stephen Fry, with Botham himself remembering his historic innings at Headingly.

"There were a few thick edges, a few thin edges and I got away with it," he said, a sentence that could equally be used to sum up his life as a whole.

And on we ambled, a quick stop off at Match of the Day, before Sue returned to her first love. No, not Cliff Richard, tennis.

"Today at Wimbledon – that's where I started my BBC career in 1993 and the programme is still going strong," she stated before not adding 'despite that'.

"There are so many highlights, nonemoreso that Andy's historic win last year," she added, before not adding that it was such a big thing that it wasn't shown on BBC2 but like most good things, was pinched by nasty big brother, BBC1.

Still, all this tennis talk allowed Des Lynam to make a welcome reappearance on our screens, along with the likes of Steve Rider and David Vine, albeit the latter on video, but it was great to have him back. Ah, the days when presenters were presenters and not a recently retired sportsperson.

And talking of legends, Peter Alliss, the honey-coated voice of golf, provided the most startling revelation of the evening when he revealed 'the ski jumping fascinates me, it must be terrifying' and with that hanging in the air we were back at Formula One.

There was unbridled joy for Walker in Damon Hill's World Championship win of 1996 and the pain still clearly etched on his and Rider's face as they relived the horrors of Ayrton Senna's untimely death at San Marino in 1994, both done with the professionalism of two men who were and will always be at the top of their game.

Things then took a bizarre twist though as Sue reappeared.

"When it comes to delivering skill, drama and a good night in, it's hard to beat the game of darts ever," a girl named Sue said never unless reading it from an autocue, before we concluded with the greatest ever drama on BBC2, the black ball final between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis in 1985.

How could we ever forget it, and just in case you'd missed a couple of your wee tablets, BBC2 had helpfully put on a repeat of Colin Murray's show called 'Davis v Taylor – The 85 Black Ball Final' an hour earlier.

Undeterred Sue brought the curtain down with lights out looming large, extolling the dramatic changes brought in under BBC2 when 'over the past five decades this channel had continuously brought the audience the very best in sporting action. So, happy birthday BBC2, thanks for the memories and here's to another 50 glorious years.'

Quite, although by 2064 there's more chance of Sue playing at Wimbledon than the BBC, One or Two, still having the rights.

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