The relentless countdown is almost over and in just a few hours we will learn who is the 2014 BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Just in case anyone fails to care enough about the outcome, the BBC has been filling the airwaves for weeks with reminders of the event and profiles of the main contenders (helpful background info for the majority of sports fans I suspect, who had never heard of half of them). ‘Who will win this year?’ is the question that has supposedly been debated in pubs and clubs across the land. Maybe it has, I don’t get out much.
But as we settle down to watch this potted summary of the sporting year presented by the BBC at its self satisfied best, is it heretical to ask, what exactly is the award meant to be for? Is it, as the name suggests, the biggest sporting personality of the year, or just recognising someone who’s won a lot of stuff? For every Henry Cooper, David Steele or Gazza among past winners, there has been Nigel Mansell (so boring his car came a close second), not one but four ice dancers, and Nick Faldo, who is dull even by the standards of a sport where you only have to wear a pair of checked trousers to be lauded as a great character. And for anyone who put the 1971 award going to Princess Anne as the sort of cringingly deferential thing that couldn’t happen any more, there was a shock when the 2006 award went to her daughter. And again for success in an event that is open to 0.003% of the population.
In fact, in recent years the main award seems to have been particularly odd, going in 2009 to Ryan Giggs presumably on some sort of Nectar points basis, then in 2010 to A.P. McCoy thanks to a block vote by Ladbrokes customers. This year the red hot favourite is said to be Rory McIlroy. Sure he’s had a successful year, but is he a personality? Maybe he will reveal himself to be one in a gracious acceptance speech, before he jets off to rake in another sack of winnings in Dubai or somewhere.
My pick for this year’s award didn’t even make the shortlist, which just shows how outrageously unrepresentative it is. In a year in which his character has truly transcended his sport and dominated the headlines like no other, who else but Kevin Pietersen? No one said it has to be a likeable personality!
KP - still optimistic of a recall to the shortlist, apparently