I think this just might be my favourite ever Howard Jacobson column. The whole thing is exquisite, but this, on the relentless over-dramatisation of the already-dramatic sporting event, is just perfect:
Ah, reader, I sympathise, but you miss two things. The first is the universal capitulation of sport, along with every other form of popular diversion, to the gaudy. The Olympics were organised along the lines of a rock concert. The same tushes that are flashed at Alexandra Palace are flashed in Mumbai whenever Dhoni hits a six. Even Strictly Come Dancing, than which, in its very conception, no light entertainment could be lighter, must lighten the dancing still further with that which isn’t dancing – how-much-do-you-want-this interviews, the camp banter of pantomime judges, and Bruce Forsyth mesmerised every time there’s a standing ovation, though he of all people should know a television audience will stand and ovate a boiled egg.
The second thing you miss, you who judge the World Darts Championships harshly, is irony. In fact, the inappropriateness of the packaging works in the game’s favour. Think of how the mock-heroic satirises the overweening ambition and self-absorption of the hero. Precisely because we know they are not Ali and Foreman, and they know they are not Ali and Foreman, the darts players make their ceremonial entrance with a sort of anti-swagger, conscious of their physical limitations, their mountain bellies, their chubby arms, their unhealthy complexions, in the process flinging our banal expectations of what sportsmen should look like – indeed, what anyone on television should look like – back in our faces. Quite obviously, their sheepish expressions say, as the bulbs explode around them, quite obviously the skills we possess require regimes of dedication that are different from what you’re used to applauding. So forget the idea of falling in love with us. Just try concentrating on what we do.