TV View: Blessed relief as humans replace potted plants for Bowls showpiece

‘Razor’ Gillett serenaded by the happy throng as he finally conquers the world

Les ‘Razor’ Gillett: after losing four previous  World singles semi-finals,  he  finally prevailed, the crowd roaring “I’ll be riding shotgun underneath the hot sun” in celebration.

Les ‘Razor’ Gillett: after losing four previous World singles semi-finals, he finally prevailed, the crowd roaring “I’ll be riding shotgun underneath the hot sun” in celebration.

 

Cripes, what a difference a year makes.

It was precisely 12 months ago that the World Bowls Championships were played in front of an audience of potted plants, the BBC even hiring a fake-crowd-sound-operator to inject some atmosphere in to the Norfolk venue hosting the tournament.

Despite all the precautions, though, the players even sanitising their bowls, one of the quarter-finals was wiped out after both contestants tested positive for Covid, the BBC rather quirkily soundtracking the montage for the surviving semi-final with Something In The Air.

After a while, all of this seemed perfectly normal, even to the point where competitors waved at the potted plants as they entered the arena, but now we’re back to the old normal and for this year’s championships the same venue was packed to the rafters with actual humans.

Very excitable they were too when England’s Les ‘Razor’ Gillett, the best nickname a man can get, arrived to the tune of George Ezra’s Shotgun to take on Scotland’s Alex Marshall, his entry song not recognisable but sounding a little like what Azerbaijan might have entered in the Eurovision Song Contest 10 years ago. It contained the line ‘can you feel it?’ – not the Jacksons’ version – and the crowd evidently could. Frenzied.

After losing every World singles semi-final he was ever in (four before Saturday), Razor finally prevailed, the crowd roaring “I’ll be riding shotgun underneath the hot sun” in celebration. It was quite a sight.

It’s not that sport has been entirely crowd-less the last while, of course, it’s been getting back to normal-ish in most places for months now, but even Australia is allowing people watch tennis this weather, even if they’re not actually allowing everyone play it.

“What was it like for you tonight playing in front of this magnificent crowd,” Jim Courier asked the peerless Ash Barty after she barely broke sweat in a straight sets win over Amanda Anisimova.

“A lot more fun than last year,” she beamed, which was quite a contrast to Daniil Medvedev’s verdict on the locals after he beat Nick Kyrgios.

“Break point, second serve and people are cheering like you already made a double fault – that’s just disappointing . . . those who are doing it probably have a low IQ.”

Daniil, then, probably wishes the stands were filled with potted plants instead of humans, but most others are chuffed to see the end of reduced capacities and such like.

None more so than the basketball people as the roof in the arena in Tallaght was nigh on lifted to the heavens by the capacity crowds for their cup finals. That little fella we saw asleep in his Ma’s arms during the men’s final would most probably snooze through an earthquake.

TG4 commentator MacDara MacDonncha spotted something quite unique during the presentation ceremony on Saturday evening: the lesser spotted handshake.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen them after a final in any sport for quite some time,” he said, which was indeed true.

There is indeed something in the air, normal-ish-ness, which is why Premier Sports’ Eoin McDevitt was so grateful to those of us who tuned in for Saturday’s game at Old Trafford.

“Today of all days we appreciate you being here because with the restrictions lifted the world is your oyster – you could be doing just about anything this Saturday afternoon,” he said, which was kind of a polite way of saying ‘get a life’. Neil Lennon and Shay Given looked a little aggrieved, but at least they were getting paid.

United won despite having McFred in midfield, the pair entitled to thumb their noses at Paul Parker who noted earlier in the week: “Everyone talks about Fred and McTominay working hard. They do because they have to, because they’re chasing all the time.”

Which called to mind Dave Jones’ comment about Carlton Palmer during their time together at Southampton: “We reckon Carlton covers every blade of grass – but then you have to if your first touch is that crap.”

Ooh.

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