Belfast Telegraph

Balding serves up a big helping of chat with Becker

By Billy Weir

Apart from live footy, the enforced repatriation of Clare Balding from the BBC to pastures new was one of the major coups for BT Sport, but she has been used sparingly thus far.

Her main vehicle is The Clare Balding Show (catchy title) and this week was dominated by tennis with Boris Becker and Judy Murray top of the bill, supported by a female rugby player and an American surfer, for 'another 90 minutes when anything can happen.'

The live audience, who have a feel of having been shanghaied into the studio with the promise of free broadband and cheaper evening calls, looked at each other in the background at this stage wondering could they last that long and, more importantly, could Clare's schoolgirl excitement.

"Boom Boom, Der Bomber and Baron von Slam are just some of the nicknames for this ace," she said, making no reference to the bitter lawsuit he fought with another famous BB, Basil Brush, over the first of those monikers. No mention of Captain Cupboard either, but we'll move swiftly on.

"A coach, a captain, a mother, a force of nature – Judy Murray is with us," as scuffles broke out in the background with the audience actively volunteering now to be press-ganged immediately.

It wasn't as bizarre though as Clare then adopting the worst Italian accent since Captain Bertorelli was in his pomp in 'Allo Allo for an ill-judged impersonation of Paolo Di Canio. What a mistakea to makea and not at all PC about PDC.

There was more of this to come, as Boom Boom came on to shake the room and suddenly, without a DeLorean in sight, we were whisked back to 1985 with the strains of Hey Frankie by Sister Sledge in the background.

In an all-too casual aside, Clare let slip that she'd interviewed them recently but didn't go any further, although I'm guessing it wasn't after the 3.45 at Haydock Park.

Boris didn't care, he was off on one.

"The Eighties were a great era, it wasn't yet too PC, everyone was given a chance to do what you're supposed to do and I was in the middle of it," he said, as a disgruntled cupboard owner nodded all-too knowingly.

"I never had a party while I was a player, Clare, what's your opinion of me?" he added with a twinkle in his eye, before suddenly tackling prejudice head-on with the deeply prophetic 'stupidity and ignorance has no passport, it can happen anywhere.'

Indeed as we moved on from his first wife, the colour of whose skin cause an uproar back in 1985, to the current Mrs B, who is 'mixed colour as well, I like them a little darker.' I think BB's PC may be on the blink.

We moved swiftly on to a video link with Kelly Slater. I'll be honest, I thought that was an Eastenders character, but no, he's a surfer. A really good one.

We joined him via satellite where Clare asked him about looking after his body, with the reply 'it's basically all beers and meat pies.' All those years of training I've put in, it's nice I can attach a sport to the regime.

Up next was Judy and there is a definite softening of the edges of Mrs M, and in no way is this being manufactured by a PR guru as she continues to pop up on our screens.

The regime change is working, she comes across as affable and amusing, but when she was screaming 'kill him' when Clare and Boris played tennis with a balloon (not Greg Rusedski) you were still a tad wary.

By now, I was in need of a change, I didn't have the will to hear what the rugby player had to say or why former swimmer Mark Foster was clambering through mud, a bit like the audience tunnelling under the BT Sport pitch, I'd made my excuses and escaped.

Belfast Telegraph


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