Tomorrow is a crucial day for cricket-lovers.
As I write it’s the end of the third day’s play.
On this important day for English cricket, comprising maybe six hours of play, how much coverage will I be able to enjoy on TV, either terrestrial or freeview? Nothing, nada, rien, nichts, zilch. Not even five minutes of highlights. I could watch it by subscribing to Sky Sports, of course, but I don’t think it’s worth committing to that monthly cost for the occasional overseas Test match.
So the BBC did not think it worthwhile to cover this series. What other sporting delights does the Corporation offer in its place? The answer is snooker, which dominates airtime this week in “BBC Sport”. (I use the quotation marks advisedly) Last week it was darts. And when I say dominates, I mean it: up to six hours coverage in every 24 when there is a major tournament on, sometimes even more.
No doubt snooker and darts are cheap TV compared with cricket. But are they sports, as BBC branding insists they are?
Right now, by the way, the snooker competition that swamps the schedules (especially on BBC2, which was promoted as the culture channel when launched) is called the Masters. No, let’s give it its full title, as a sponsor has no doubt paid handsomely for the privilege. It’s the “Pokerstars.com Masters”. I know this, because I saw it in a graphic alongside the BBC Sport logo. Maybe, in future, the BBC Sport schedules could include poker too? And why could not snooker, darts and then poker become Olympic sports?
I’m about to stop writing this before it becomes a full-on rant, so that I can watch the football on “Match of the Day”. I am not really a football fan; after all I don’t really support any particular team.
Where am I going with this? Snooker, darts, (and poker too) require great skill of course. But athleticism? Fitness? What constitutes sport and what constitutes a pastime? Discuss, as they say.
Simon Barnes in the Times did indeed discuss that, very recently. (see link) He praised the skill of the darts player Phil Taylor (no problem with that) and suggested that anyone who says darts is not a sport (and that includes me) does so out of snobbery. Well, who am I to disagree with such an eminent sporting journalist, but I shall. If you were to suggest that croquet is a sport I would say that that is a pastime, just like darts and snooker; snobbery doesn’t come into it. Tosh, Simon, no matter how brilliantly you expound it. Frankly I think it’s marginal as to whether golf (now to be in the Olympics) is a sport; or whether it’s “a pastime that’s almost a sport”, as one of my all-time favourite Dilbert cartoons memorably described it.