Imagine if the BBC allowed animals to enter Sports Personality of the Year...
CONTROVERSY raged today over the BBC’s latest act of obvious if unintended sexism, following up their ‘no girls, no females, no women’ Sports Personality of the Year shortlist by naming a panda (yes panda) as their December female face of the year.
Not just that, but of the 11 humans they named, as the New Statesman’s Laurie Penny rightly puts it, more than half are less than inspiring (especially when compared to the male faces of the year):
“Newsworthy male feats in 2011 include, apparently, being a politician (3), being a police officer, being a soldier (3), being an Oscar-winning screenwriter, being an athlete, being a revolutionary martyr, being a fascist mass-murderer who definitely shouldn't have any more sodding publicity, and being shot by the Metropolitan police.
“To be considered a newsworthy woman in 2011, meanwhile, you have to make an allegation of rape, be a pop star, go on a date with a pop star, get married to a royal, be the sister of someone who got married to a royal, be a royal and get married to someone who isn't a royal, or be a panda called Sweetie.”
Leaving aside her implicit call for pandacide - saying of them “sometimes, it’s just best to let nature take its course” - she pretty much hits the nail on the head; not much one can add on the sexism point.
However, taking the equality of species angle, and with regard to SPOTY, what might have happened had the BBC chosen to apply this principle to this year’s competition? Imagine if male and female humans were excluded, and it was an all-animal affair?
Now, my knowledge of horses and greyhounds, who would inevitably dominate such a spectacle, is next to nothing, and Wiki’s not much help either, throwing up this and this, but with what little I do know about this field, the aid of Google and a bit of imagination we might come up with a show that goes a little something like this:
COACH OF THE YEAR:
Bryan Habana’s cheetah. The Springbok flyer raced the spotted speedster in the run-up to South Africa’s victorious 2007 World Cup campaign and is rumoured to have done so for the Boks’ title defence this year. If the job of a coach is to push his charges to the limit surely the lithe, loping little big cat has no peers. The RFU should take note.
UNSUNG HERO OF THE YEAR:
The unknown bull. If bullfighting can be called a sport it would be nothing without the vanquished, the real star of the show, more so than the prancing matador, in the most consistently one-sided (more one-sided than even the duopoly of the Scottish Premier League) contest in the history of sport.
IMAGE OF THE YEAR:
The classic picture of the dogs playing pool. As with the bull, it’s a shoo in every year. A work of genius. On so many levels.
TEAM OF THE YEAR:
The King’s Cup-winning Audemars Piguet elephant polo champions. The elephants not the men that is. And that’s elephant polo - not elephant water polo, but man, what a sight that would be!
OVERSEAS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR:
Yang Guang, Tian Tian’s mate. We can’t leave him out - the pair can show off their awards to the Edinburgh public together; just imagine the stick he’ll get from Tian if he goes to the enclosure empty-pawed... Besides, if the slothish, chilled-out Dimitar Berbatov can cut it, there’s no reason why the equally unathletic Yang can’t.
YOUNG SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR:
Siku, the newborn polar bear cub being hand-reared in Denmark. Like Yang, no sporting ability’s yet been demonstrated, but this award’s all about promise, and boy does Siku have it in him to be the new Knut, performing for thousands of adoring fans week in, week out.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD:
Awarded posthumously to Red Rum, quite simply the greatest horse who ever lived, three-time winner of the Grand National and runner-up in his other two attempts. A fitting tribute in the year his legendary trainer Ginger McCain joined him in the winner’s enclosure in the sky.
SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR:
Kauto Star, who on Monday won his fifth King George VI Chase, described by the Guardian as “record-breaking, history-making breathtaking... one of the most memorable performances in the history of jumps racing”. With that win, Kauto overtook Desert Orchid as the most successful horse in the history of the race.
So there we have it, surreal, (surprising? - lemme know in the comments), strange, but no less bizarre than the nomination of Sweetie as female face of December that got us here in the first place. Joking aside, it would almost be worth it just to see all the old dinosaurs from the Keys-Gray school - who saw no problem with an all-male shortlist - protesting about a no-bloke shortlist...
• Anger as BBC chooses Tian Tian as December woman 2011
• New Statesman: What “panda-gate” tells us about sexism
• BBC News: Faces of the year 2011 - the women
• BBC News: Faces of the year 2011 - the men
• LFF: Why is there such little coverage of women’s sport?
• LFF: And the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2011 could have been...