Adam Hathaway, rugby correspondent of The People, remembers the days when a great show used to remember rugby and observes one of the good guys in his newish job.
Back in the day if RugbySpy had gone back to RugbySpy Towers via Dublin and Coventry, on this weekend in December, we would have been fretting big time if we were even a second delayed.
The biggest show in town was on the gogglebox – no, garbage technology then – and if our flights and trains were delayed there would be hell to pay.
Then the BBC Sports Personality of the Year was what current-day suits like to call ‘water cooler TV’.
It was a must-see event, like Line of Duty, Inspector Morse or the episode of Dallas when JR Ewing wore a bullet. And that is one for the teenagers………
When we landed back at our Stoke Newington penthouse we were disappointed to watch a load of cobblers, via some gadget from hell, thanks to the Bonkers Broadcasting Corporation.
And there is no bigger advert for being bonkers than the Bonkers Broadcasting Corporation and the way they have dumped on one of the great nights of the year.
BBC Sports Personality of the Year would be on the box, when we were kids and eating cheese on toast with Marmite, and that was officially the start of Christmas.
Get shot of that, lick a few stamps, and it was stockings up time. Fill yer boots.
And it was a no miss programme. You didn’t miss it because it always hit the target.
Proper sportsmen and women won the gongs. Ian Botham, Nick Faldo, Steve Davis, Daley Thompson, Barry McGuigan, Virginia Wade, Seb Coe and David Steele all landed the title.
For those who can’t remember Steele, the England cricket team could have done with some of his guts in Perth recently.
We are definitely showing our age here but we can remember the days when it really was a showcase of everything that was great about British sport.
Every now and then a rugby player would get mentioned too.
Not now though.
This year’s seasonal offering was a load of old tosh, especially from a rugby point of view. An injured Maro Itoje was on stage to hand over one award but apart from that it was almost a big fat zilch.
Imagine if you had played for the England women’s rugby team and you got precisely, and believe us we counted it so you didn’t have to, 42.57 seconds of coverage in a show that stretched for over two hours.
That was the same England women’s rugby team that won their first Six Nations title since 2012 and got to the World Cup final.
Cheers Sarah Hunter, Marlie Packer, Emily Scarratt, Lydia Thompson and Katy Mclean. Thanks for coming and thanks for working your guts out. Get your coats on the way out.
Imagine if you played in the British & Irish Lions team that drew a series 1-1 against a New Zealand team that most people thought would beat a spaceship load of aliens from Mars.
And imagine that if you had played in that team, and won a Six Nations men’s title and your entire year’s endeavour amounted to just over three minutes on the big night and the obligatory voice over from our old mate Eddie Butler.
Cheers Warren Gatland, Sam Warburton and the rest of your brilliant squad. The cab is outside.
At least they gave a brief nod to Doddie Weir, the fantastic former Scottish lock and all round good bloke, who is currently battling Motor Neuron Disease.
They also managed to remember greats such as Sir Colin Meads, David Perry, John Gwilliam and Willie Duggan who have left our game. Apart from that – that is about it.
The ceremony started in 1954, the brainchild of Paul Fox the former controller of the Beeb, and since its inception exactly one rugby player has won it. His name was Jonny Wilkinson so at least the great British public got that right.
That was in 2003. Also on the podium that year was the great Martin Johnson, you know the bloke who actually captained England’s team on their night of nights in Sydney.
But we should have seen this shambles coming. In 1971, when the British & Irish Lions beat New Zealand, Barry John came third in the poll, behind Princess Anne and George Best. John, ‘The King’ came third to a princess. Work that one out.
In 1974, Willie John McBride’s reward for leading a Lions team through an unbeaten tour to South Africa, and into sporting immortality, was to come third behind the athlete Brendan Foster and the, admittedly brilliant, boxer John Conteh.
Grand Slams for England in 1980 and 1992, 1995, not a dicky bird. Although Will Carling, the Slam captain of 1991 who led England to the World Cup final the same year, did come second to Liz McColgan.
Leigh Halfpenny, as they would say in the La La Land of the licence-funded corporation, medalled in 2013 and bloody right too. Since then……zip.
The show was as much a part of the festive season when we were in short trousers as our grandmother having one sherry too many and accusing our granddad of cheating at cards once the turkey had been done.
It was as much a part of the festive season as a young RugbySpy being accused of nicking some of the sherry…………
Those days are gone and, boy, the programme has gone too.
We took one for the team – big time to watch it via some I-Player thingy. We shouldn’t have bothered. It was a shocker.
The dozen candidates for the main award were put together by some people who know better than us mere scufflers who go out on the road, report and actually get amongst it.
They had a nightmare.
Then the votes roll in. If you didn’t get it drummed into your head once you got it drummed into your head a million times.
Call 09015 2282, said Gabby Logan, Clare Balding and Gary Lineker, plus the number of your candidate. Yours’ for 15p a pop and whatever your mobile company might charge you on top.
RugbySpy might have had a pint at Dublin airport on Saturday night and done a shift at the Ricoh on Sunday but we weren’t that far gone.
We wouldn’t recognise most of the runners and riders if they had asked us for a light in the street and directions to the station.
This year, the Beeb put on a show that was full of corporate glitz, which your correspondent is no fan of, and almost totally ignored rugby union.
This in a year when Warburton, Steve Hansen, Owen Farrell, Rob Baxter, Itoje, Eddie Jones, Gatland, Gregor Townsend, Alun Wyn Jones or Jonathan Davies might have been in the frame.
One of our mates was watching the horror show with his 14-year-old son on Sunday night. The boy is a decent fly-half with aspirations to play the game properly.
Ben turned round to his dad, who might have been on the Christmas sherry, and asked why there were no rugby players on the list. This is the Beeb.
His reply was. Bonkers, b*******, C********tion.
You can fill in the gaps.
You don’t have to fill in ours’. It was desperate. Bring back Red Rum and Desmond Lynam.
Talking of Dublin..it was affirming to see that good guys do win every now and again.
When we headed up to the press box, up in the gods ahead of Leinster’s game against Exeter on Saturday, at the Aviva Stadium, there was a guy called Stuart Lancaster taking the Irish side through their pre-match run out.
Lancaster is one of the good blokes in the game and it was great to see him settled in his
new environment. And he was coaching, instead of doing all the extraneous stuff like talking to mugs like us, on the record, before a match.
He took some flak for England’s early exit from the 2015 World Cup, but when a player like Johnny Sexton phones you up and asks you to go over to Ireland you must have something about you.
Northampton might be sniffing around Lancaster. He has a deal with the Irish province until the end of the season. He would be mad to go to Franklin’s Gardens.