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Martin Kelner, Journalist, Author and Radio Presenter.
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The Voice of the Mug
By Martin "I back the ones with nice names" Kelner on Feb 16, 2014 - 8:16:47 PM

I'm here for balance.   Rather like Question Time on the BBC, where the wearying mix of professional politicians is sometimes leavened by a stand-up comic or a maverick journalist representing the views of the ill-informed masses, so I appear here amid all the expertise for which this journal is famed, as the Voice of the Mug.


Tell me if you don't think this is stupid.   I have formed a sentimental attachment to a horse, on which I have never won any money but which I continue to back to give it, like an errant child, "just one more chance."  


The animal is called Recession Proof - if you are looking for a definition of irony, there's one right there - and I dutifully placed my tenner on it when it turned up at Newbury on Saturday.    The reasoning - ha! - behind my continued support is the fear that if I fail to honour the beast with a portion of my children's legacy, that will be the day it romps home at 20-1.   Law of averages, as no-one with a scintilla of common sense ever says.


This is why I never buy a lottery ticket.   Once you do, you have to continue just in case your Auntie Edith's birthday and the number of your first house come up on the very week you fail to invest.   


And if you doubt my qualification for mug status, consider this: when Recession Proof huffed and puffed home, fifteenth in a field of 20, behind the 33-1 winner Splash Of Ginge, I actually said, "I should have backed that.   What with me being ginger, and having two ginger daughters."  Yes, you're right, idiot.


Fortunately, I was playing with money I won the previous evening on the return of Super League to Sky.   For some, the first sign of approaching Spring is the call of the cuckoo, for me it's the sound of co-commentator Stevo bawling "he's utilized the dummy runner," "he's lost the plot," or any of his other oft-repeated catchphrases.


It means the start of the so-called Summer rugby season, and a chance for me to retrieve Winter's losses on such unreliable animals as horses and participants in reality TV shows.


They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but I find it far less dangerous than absolutely no knowledge at all.   Being based in West Yorkshire, a rugby league stronghold, I am privy to the build-up to the matches in the local media, and based on radio interviews, I liked the cut of the Huddersfield coach's jib, so put a small investment on his team to win at favourites Wigan at 5-4 - I'm told if I had shopped around I could have got 11-8 but I didn't want to endanger my mug credentials too much - which paid off if not handsomely at least borderline attractively.


One of the great joys of a new Super League season on Sky is to see what innovations they have introduced to their coverage.   It has become almost axiomatic that with each new season the broadcaster will unveil some new gimmickry, and this year they have opened up the deliberations of the video referees to the TV audience.  


For the first time, we are transported into the sanctum where two refs study the recording of a try, spooling back and forth, and relay their verdict onto a big screen under the slogan "Decision Time," which used to be reserved for minor issues like General Elections.   What with these two refs, the one on the pitch, and another in Sky's commentary box - four in all, count 'em - the simple act of placing a hand on a ball over a line of whitewash is subjected to the kind of analysis under which a proposition by Wittgenstein might have crumbled.


But at least there's an even chance you might know what they're on about.   With the hour upon hour of Winter Olympics coverage on the BBC - beautiful to look at, but baffling and ultimately pointless, like the presence of Elizabeth Hurley in pretty well any film - you can get lost within seconds.  

It's not that the Beeb are neglecting exposition, they're trying their hardest to give us a vague idea what's going on, but when the commentators talk of "Cab 270" and "Cab 450" as if organising hire cars from a shack behind a kebab shop, and coo admiringly over a "backside double 40," which loses to a "backside 1440 triple cork" (I've seen a few of those round here at the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet), it's probably time to hoist up the white flag.


The comprehensiveness of the coverage is clearly influenced by the BBC's triumph at London 2012, and Channel 4's at the Paralympics, and in one respect the winter games eclipsed even those broadcasts.   It took less than three minutes for someone to describe the event as "amazing," an all-comers triple-cork record.


It was Amy Williams, gold medal winner at the Vancouver games and now a BBC pundit, whose actual description was "amazin'."   She also praised Britain's "trainin' attitude," and the principles we were "bringin'" to the games.  


I don't know what Amy has against usin' the letter 'g' at the end of a word - or utilizing it, as Stevo would say - but I've now found myself countin' up Amy's discarded 'g's, which at least kept me tuned in on Saturday afternoon, and more importantly away from the racin'.

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