Sheffield, Sporting Legends & a blossoming friendship with Jenson!

30th December 2009

URN Sports Team’s very own Ed Tarlton attended this years BBC Sports Personality of the Year, most definitely not due to his performances as goalkeeper for Uni football team but as a paying customer who contributed to the record breaking crowd in the Sheffield Arena, surrounded by sporting celebrities crossing every generation.

The BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2009

Sir Steve Redgrave

As I sift back through my memories of this event from bygone years, the first I can recall clearly is that of 2000, the turn of the millennium, where Sir Steve Redgrave was awarded the trophy for his astonishing feats at five different Olympics. However, it is not because of the nature of his achievements that I particularly remember that year, but instead the conflict I had that night aged just eleven, with my Dad. You see, for some reason, which to this day remains a mystery to me, as far as I was concerned there should be only one winner that night, which was of course Lennox Lewis. Quite why I thought this was the case I still cannot fathom, but to speculate that perhaps it was the year that they showed ‘Rocky’ films for five consecutive weeks on BBC 1. Perhaps I should now consider that mystery solved.

As I travelled up to Sheffield to attend the BBC’s annual honouring of some of Britain’s finest sporting performers over the last twelve months, I was determined not to be as naive as I had been nine years ago. I am now proud to say that I am one of the eleven thousand spectators that made up the largest ever attendance to date of Sports Personality of the year, a title which I can and fully intend to wield over my co-presenters, well for the next twelve months at least. There were indeed in that crowd, sporting heroes in abundance, from a massive spectrum of competitive fields. Aside of the ten nominees, I saw Fabio Capello, Paula Radcliffe, Chris Akibousi, Lord Sebastian Coe, Carl Froch, Jimmy White, Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan, Victoria Pendleton, Eddie Jordan, Neil Warnock, Damon Hill, Dame Kelly Holmes, Frank Bruno, Michael Johnson, Steve Cram, Rebecca Adlington, and Andrew Flintoff, at one point Emile Heskey walked past me and it occurred to me that rarely does one get the opportunity to be in the presence of quite this many legendary athletes.

Prior to the beginning of the ceremony, which it was heavily emphasised was set to be live on BBC one, though the voting figures later showed that the X-factor perhaps pipped them to the post in the ratings war (just by a mere 14 or so million) – the entire audience was invited to participate in a James Corden sketch for next year’s ‘Sport Relief’ event. At this point I’m dubious about how much to give away regarding the content, I haven’t signed anything, but I don’t wish to kill it for you should you tune in to the Sport Relief show, so I will leave at saying imagine the England team sketch meets the GB Olympic team. I hope you enjoy it!

On with proceedings and we gradually recapped over some great achievements from the past 12 months, including England’s practically flawless qualification for the 2010 world cup, the Ashes victories for both the England men’s and women’s cricket teams, the tremendous individual achievements of both Jenson Button and David Haye and of course those of the members of team GB at this year’s world championships. However, it wasn’t just recent sporting happenings , or the famous that received mentions, with remarkable swimming teacher Doreen Adcock, being award the unsung hero trophy, and Major Phil Packer being given the Helen Rollason award (“for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity”). In all, there were many people who were at liberty to feel very proud of their contributions to Britain’s sporting fabric. Similarly, there were honours for oversea’s individuals, with Usain Bolt again winning the ‘Overseas Sports Personality of the Year’ and England coach Fabio Capello getting ‘coach of the year’ while golfer Seve Ballesteros was presented with a lifetime achievement award.

England Ashes Victory 2009

The main talking points, however, came from two of the later presentations. The first, which caused surprise and a certain degree of unrest among the audience, was the ‘Team Award’ – which was presented to the England mens cricket team, when it appeared all other nominees, the England women’s cricket team, the Irish Rugby team and the Brawn F1 team were more deserving. It is of course a matter of debate, though to put it bluntly the biggest debate amongst those in the row I was in was which 30 sporting ‘experts’ had come to the conclusion that England men’s cricket had offered more in the way of team performance than the women’s cricket team, who had won every competition they had entered, the ashes included.

The main award of course, was that of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. In the radio studio on the Thursday, I had posed the obvious question to others on the panel, ‘who do you think should win?’ which met with a flurry of answers in which I think we covered probably every candidate. When the winner was announced, however, nobody was more surprised it appeared, than the winner himself. While most of the crowd had been rooting for Sheffield’s own Jessica Ennis, it was thought that Jenson Button’s spectacular re-birth on the F1 circuit after he nearly ended his career at the start of the season, would surely be enough to see him through. So when it was announced that Ryan Giggs had won, I’m not sure anyone could quite believe it. This was reflected in his gracious acceptance in which he said, “I didn’t expect to win, as you can probably tell from this thoroughly prepared speech!” On reflection, I don’t think anybody begruged him the award, as the longest serving and most decorated player in Premier League history, indeed a member of my all-time Premier League Legends XI, perhaps he was an outside bet. The cynic in me wondered whether all of his hundred and fifty thousand votes were all Manchester United fans, but no matter.

Ryan Giggs BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2009

I reflected upon the evening as we made our way home, it had been a spectacle and I had been in a room with some of the greatest athletes of the generation. However, there was one last hurrah, as we stopped at a petrol station a fairly conspicuous Nissan (conspicuous in the sense it was probably worth about £60,000) pulled up next to us and naturally, out stepped a highly dressed down Formula One world champion, who subsequently stood behind us as we paid for petrol. I didn’t notice him at first, such was the difference in his appearance from just over an hour ago, where he was suited up along with his fellow candidates, a second glance revealed that it was indeed Jenson Button. I didn’t know what to say at first, but he caught my eye so I felt it rude not to offer my sincerest commiserations;

Me: Alright.
JB: Hi.
Me: Congratulations tonight, you should have won it though.
JB: Thanks, never mind.
Me: Oh, and good luck at McLaren.
JB: Cheers.

I had hoped that this new found friendship with me would stop him overtaking us quite so ostentatiously on the way home. Did it ****.

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by Ed Tarlton