Belfast Telegraph

All-conquering superstar Andy Murray is right on the Spoty

By Billy Weir

And so the good ship BBC set sail bound on an odyssey for Belfast and then were very confused when the welcoming natives told them it's not called that anymore.

Still, they weren't here to rock the boat, there was a man called Fury to do that, while everyone wondered did SSE stand for Smug, Simpering and English, this wasn't the time or place to open festering wounds and so we welcomed Gary Lineker, Clare Balding and Gabby Logan with open arms.

"SPOTY is a Christmas tradition but who'll be going home with the presents tonight?" pondered Lineker (choose which one of SSE you would like).

"We'll be giving out eight awards all building towards the ultimate money can't buy present." But this was no time for a Leicester City Premier League champions T-shirt or a lifetime supply of Walkers, you're in a different land, Gary, one of giants, big if rather unsuccessful boats, and other potato-based loveliness of our own thank you very much.

"It's going to be brilliant, I promise you, because over the next two hours on BBC1 we will give you a show that is momentous, that is magical and will be memorable," Balding assured us.

The cynics among us would suggest that given that the Beeb's long-term sporting future is as likely as Eddie Izzard and Tyson Fury getting it together, the magical part is that it could soon be disappearing.

I'm not here to stick the knife in and it was perhaps fitting that in Belfast, Lineker was having his own fair share of troubles.

"Who is going to win this coveted prize which I've just cut my finger on - I'm bleeding everywhere" he said, words that have often been used with all three of our intrepid explorers from across the sea.

The preliminaries over, it was time to tiptoe, gingerly as it turned out, through the dozen nominees for the top award, starting off with Greg Rutherford, long-jumper and owner of red hair. There must be some Irish in him.

This set the tone for the evening. Yes, foreign raiders were to be welcomed but if they even had a hint of green about them then the rafters would be lifted.

It looked like gymnast Max Whitlock was going to do a wee Phil Coulter number when he appeared beside a piano, then jumped on it, spun about and generally behaved in a manner in the arena that would usually get you a hefty tinkle right in the ivories before being chucked out on your derriere.

A degree of decorum returned as AP McCoy was given a Lifetime Achievement award by Rory McIlroy and in a break from tradition paid a heartfelt tribute to his equine chums before his human fans raised the roof for the 'national' hero. I saw what Clare did there.

Not to be left out, Logan then got the chance to gab to Mo Farah, who decided that an empty room in Oregon was preferable to one filled with people who had heard of Quorn but weren't taking any chances.

"You aren't really good, you're incredible and they haven't worked out how they can beat you, they keep trying different tactics but you keep out-foxing them," said the impartial face of BBC Sport without a hint of irony.

The second face of BBC Sport then arrived as a very nervous Gary, who had already spilled blood, looked as if he was about to spill another bodily fluid as he took on Fury.

A small amount of tummy-tickling was followed by asking the World Heavyweight Boxing champion did he regret saying daft things. And they think Leicester City are punching above their weight.

Fury was adamant he hadn't meant any harm and that was allright then, although well done to the director who panned straight onto Rutherford just as he was asked.

In the confusion the team award then went to Andy Murray for winning the Davis Cup and James Nesbitt came on and started talking about football.

"When Windsor Park rocks it sounds like all of Belfast, Bangor and Ballymena and everywhere in between is screaming 'Green and White Army'," he told us as Graeme McDowell turned up on stage to present the Coach of the Year award. I'm spotting a theme here.

Of course G-Mac was hoping for a local winner, but the coach of the Flordida Marlins didn't get a look-in, as Michael O'Neill came on and thanked everyone, one by one.

Gary, like an irksome iceberg, gradually slid across the stage to finally jump in to stop Michael taking the mick with the mic as the main award had sailed into view.

In third was Jessica Ennis-Hill, for having a baby, presumably if she'd had triplets the Beeb would have had kittens.

In second was Kevin Sinfield, and many people in the crowd perked up wondering why the Blues had been nominated, while Yorkshire's telephone exchange breathed a sigh of relief that the Leeds Rhinos charge was at an end.

And in first was Andy Murray, Davis Cup winner and a man by his own admission 'duller than a weekend in Worthing' meaning that the Sports Personality of the Year award went to a man with no personality for being part of a team.

But hey, it's Christmas. Britain may not rule the waves any more but they do rule the tennis. Who am I to rock the boat?

Belfast Telegraph


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