The list of ‘sports’ which should be brought before whatever tribunal these days deals with issues of trade descriptions grows ever longer. Yesterday, several thousand people participated in the 34th London Marathon, choosing to spend their Sunday morning running a little over 26 miles. I feel another of those ‘why?’ moments coming along very soon.
This year, the event was given added hype due to the marathon ‘debut’ of Mo Farah. Now I actually like Mo Farah. He seems personable and reasonably intelligent. The same can’t, unfortunately, be said for a substantial part of the media who spent several days prior to the event building up Farah’s chances of winning the thing, and now are spending precious column inches analysing at nauseating length the reason why he ‘only’ finished in eighth place; like this was some kind of national tragedy which demanded rigorous scrutiny in order allow the country to heal its collective wounds over the disaster, in order to be able to move forward into a better, brighter tomorrow.
I suppose one answer to the riddle as to why the media insist on treating this kind of thing as though an asteroid the size of Sao Paolo were hurtling towards the Earth and was imminently going to wipe out life as we know it is that…..it keeps some people in a job. Take Tom Fordyce, ‘Chief Sports Writer’ for BBC Sport, for example. What on earth would he be doing first thing on a Monday morning if he didn’t have this kind of trauma to deal with? Hairdressing? Landscape gardening?
Tom writes, “Free of the hype that understandably surrounds a debutant of Farah’s talent and fame, it is not a disastrous time. What went wrong?” Firstly, the ‘hype’ that Tom writes about was actually only stoked up by….the likes of Tom! Who else but sports writers short of a hobby would really care too much whether Mo Farah won the London Marathon or came in 8th? Anyway, let’s move on, because Tom clearly feels that it is vitally important an immediate investigation into this devastating turn of events is launched. His conclusion? Well, he gives it in the very next sentence. “Not that much.”
My immediate reaction was, ‘Well, thanks Tom. You’ve saved me several precious minutes of my life.’ I always believe that short answers are usually the best. The problem is that having answered his own pointless question succinctly, he then decides that he had better justify his salary by writing several more column inches on the subject. ‘Less is more’ is obviously a rule of thumb that Tom, and sports writers generally, have either not heard of, or honour it in the breach. From this point, Tom goes on, and on…….and on.
Having unpacked a dull list the ‘whys and wherefores’, Tom then goes for broke in the bullsh*t stakes. “The support along the capital’s streets was as remarkable as you would expect when people have the chance to cheer on the greatest distance runner Britain has ever produced for free.” Britain has form for this kind of delusion. Does anyone remember that famous ‘Brit’ Zola Budd? Well, maybe not because she let her country down quite badly after tripping up her main rival in the 3,000 metres, Mary Decker, during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, before finishing in seventh place, admitting that she slowed down in order that she didn’t have to collect a medal in front of a ‘partisan crowd’. When I say ‘her’ country, of course I mean South Africa, because she was actually running under a flag of convenience. Other famous ‘Brits’ to have worn the jersey with pride include, of course, Greg Rusedski (British because the country is fundamentally crap at producing tennis players) and Kevin Pietersen (British –or ‘English’) because here was a man who could actually hit a cricket ball with a bat at least ten metres and had a first name that could reasonably pass as ‘English’. These are just two or three ‘Brits’ who spring easily to mind. There are plenty of others.
Mo Farah a ‘product’ of these shores? In what sense exactly? He was born in Somalia and lived there until he was eight years old! Am I alone in thinking that by rights he should be running for the country he was born in? And how do the people of Somalia feel about this? I mean, the country has been racked by civil war, terrorism, starvation and brutality for years, and in spite of having sent teams to the Olympic Games pretty much since 1972 the poor sods have never so much as won an Olympic medal, let alone a gold one. How must they feel, seeing Mo breaking the tape in 2012 and collecting the gold for a country that seems to be happy to award a jersey to any reasonable athlete that can be persuaded to be British?
The London Marathon is largely an event where people do something repetitively –in this case running a very, very long way- for little discernible reason. Apart, of course, from…..charity. This event offers people the chance to put aside sanity and run for hours and hours, stressing the heart and limbs beyond anything they ever really should be put to, and do it on the basis that they are earning a few quid for their favourite charitable cause. This is actually a very clever gambit because, once again, if you raise any kind of questioning word about this event, or the pointless training that the competitors do for months and months, you are immediately labelled a heartless killjoy who hates charity, and made to feel as though you are personally responsible for the fact that twenty kids in Crewe won’t be able to have new football goals next season. I would actually be more inclined to sponsor people not to run. Watching people running for hours on end is at the upper end on the scale of pointless, as far as I am concerned.
And who in their right mind would run twenty six miles from Greenwich to Westminster Bridge when the actual distance is six miles? Why not just cut out those wasted twenty miles and save several hours for competitors and spectators alike? Like golfing and dart aficionados, the ‘running crowd’ clearly lack any faculty for logical thinking.
Anyway, while it may not keep thousands of people off the streets, it does at least keep people like Tom Fordyce off them.