All entries for Monday 27 November 2006

November 27, 2006

British Sport: An Annus Horribilis?

Name one British sportsperson who has had an outstanding year.

You can’t, can you? Looking down the list of contenders for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, you begin to realise that there’s either been a dearth of major sporting events this year, or we’ve just been crap at them.

  • According to the betting, Darren Clarke is the current favourite. This is the golfer who, in the four major tournaments this year, came 22nd, 56th, didn’t make the cut in the third and didn’t play in the fourth. Yes, he won the Ryder Cup, but aren’t we making more of that tournament than is appropriate? I think his nomination is only because of the death of his wife, which while tragic, surely isn’t reason enough to give him this award?

  • Zara Phillips is second favourite. She’s now the Eventing World Champion, but aren’t we clutching at straws to say that’s the best achievement of the sporting year?
  • Joe Calzaghe is third. He added the IBF Super Middleweight Championship to his WBO title. Whoop-de-do.
  • Beth Tweddle is fourth. She’s the World Champion at “Uneven Bars”.
  • Andy Murray is fifth. His main achievement is being more exciting than David Coulthard. But that’s not hard.
  • Monty Panesar is sixth. He wasn’t good enough to be picked to play in the Ashes. Steve Harmison was. Enough said, I think.

But my personal choice for sports personality for 2006 is….... David Walliams at 40/1. Which I think says all you need to know about the state of British sport at the moment.

Magazines: the new wave

Magazines, like newspapers, are making the move online. Paper is beginning to look seriously unfashionable (did you know 200,000 trees are chopped down to make Britain’s Christmas cards each year?), and the old media is becoming the new.

But unlike in newspapers, there has been a trend towards online-only publications sprouting from unusual quarters, challenging the traditional magazine industry before they can get their feet under the table.

So how do these young pretenders rate?

British-based The First Post is, as far as I know, a relatively recent entrant to the online journalism race. As with any start-up, it’s slightly lower on content than some others, and the articles are very brief. But this makes the site quite endearing. It’s proud of the fact that its opinions are “ill defined”, meaning they’ll publish just about anyone reasonable. Navigation is fantastic, much simpler than other offerings, and the home page is brilliantly un-fussy.

There’s better use of photos than seen on the American sites, and a good mix of contributors from the old media world to the new. Well worth a look, The First Post feels a little like one of those ultra-small handbag-sized magazines, full of little gems.

Slate isn’t especially young. Created by Microsoft in 1996, the magazine was designed to provide content for MSN. Two years ago it was bought by the Washington Post Company, home of Woodward and Bernstein.

The design of the site is quite busy, with plenty of scrolling to be done on the home page. Being American – and broadly liberal – there’s plenty of news articles on Iraq and the ins and outs of the Democrats. In fact as an outsider looking in, there’s little to distinguish the magazine from the New York Times or the Washington Post. Unlike The First Post, the articles are newspaper-length, which is maybe a little long for the internet. But the sheer breadth of material makes it a valuable resource.

Another offering from the United States, is probably the pioneer in the field (starting in 1995). They’ve gone for a more intrusive advertising policy (making you watch an ad before entering the site), but it’s got better over recent years. Based in San Francisco, there is a slightly heavier bias in favour of the entertainment industry, although there are a number of political commentators who’ve spread their wings (such as Sidney Blumenthal, who also writes for the Guardian).

It got caught up in the dotcom boom, making horrendous losses when the bubble burst. It made its first profit in 2005.

If this short snapshot of the online magazine industry is anything to go by, then the lighter, British newcomer is beating the weighty, over-the-top offerings from the other side of the Atlantic. Having said that, its coverage of foreign affairs is a little loose, and sometimes a bit simplistic. But if you’re looking for something off the mainstream news agenda, any of these three are worth checking out.

The White Van Man

What is it about people – it seems to be mostly men – when they get behind the wheel of a white van?

It seems only to occur when it’s a van and when it’s white. Yet there seems to be no logical reason for this phenomenon. They bear down on cars in front, they flash their lights at people, they never do any favours to other vehicles, and they generally hog the fast lane on the motorway.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether they are a white van man or just someone who’s hired the van. They’re still evil…

So how about some punitive measures? We could do something obvious, like tax them, or we could just launch a campaign to write nasty things about them in the dirty exterior of their bastard wagon. Here’s some suggestions:

Drive Carefully! Paedophile on Board!
WIDE LOAD (and that’s just the driver)
I read the Daily Mail
Chelsea FC
I’m a Racist, Sexist, Homophobe

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