- 20 Sep 04
Or maybe not. Barry Glendenning on why press reaction to the Irishman’s stint as the BBC’s Olympics anchor was just ever so slightly guilty of silly season sensationalism.
Craig Doyle is an anchor. A compulsive anchor, by his own account, who realised a boyhood ambition when he landed the plum job of presenting Sunday Grandstand, a BBC sports magazine programme that last showed anything of interest to fans of actual sport way back in the annals of time when Craig Doyle was still, well, a boy.
So when the Olympics came around and the BBC needed somebody to talk us through the arcane canons of obscure past-times such as synchronised high-platform diving, archery and Yngling racing, it seemed only natural that the they should call on the urbane Irishman to do a job for them.
After all, who better to big up Olympic disciplines we neither recognised nor understood than a man who devotes his Sunday afternoons to feigning enthusiasm for such thrilling feats of human endeavour as cheese-rolling, wife-carrying and mouse-sniffing - the few sporting crumbs from Rupert Murdoch’s table that the Beeb is still allowed scavenge for?
Craig, needless to say, was happy to oblige, and so the backlash began.
Those who were unfamiliar with Craig’s recent work anchoring Sunday Grandstand (i.e. most of us) watched in bemusement as the Holiday presenter best known for grinning his way down a Belize river in a kayak with Cameron Diaz proceeded to grin his way through the Olympics in an Athens television studio with Clare Balding. Sitting beside a knowledgeable, witty, opinionated, consummate professional like this Ms Jolly Hockeysticks, he never stood a chance.
And so the backlash began.
“CRAIG DOYLE HATED IN BRITAIN,” trumpeted the front page headline of our own Sunday Independent with typical understatement, perched as it was over an article outlining the “hurt” his family were feeling over “a vitriolic campaign in Britain which has pilloried the Dubliner’s performance.”
Now while I understand a newspaper’s need to sensationalise stories, I feel compelled, as someone who actually lives in Britain, to point out that it is something of an exaggeration to suggest that Craig Doyle is “hated” over here. In fact on a scale of hatred from 1-10, with much-loved double Olympic gold medallist Kelly Holmes currently at one end and murdering Soham paedophile bastard Ian Huntley and ginger-bollocked crooner Mick Hucknall jockeying for position at the other, Craig Doyle would probably slot in somewhere around the four or five mark denoting extreme apathy.
And yet, the Irish media would have you believe that throughout Athens 2004, the streets of London were thronged with angry mobs comprised of thousands of protestors blowing whistles, waving placards and shouting obscene anti-Doyle slogans as they converged on the Houses of Parliament to voice their extreme displeasure at this evil TV menace’s vile crimes against televised Olympic badminton.
Trust me when I tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact as far as I can tell from my position as a resident of Britain and a voracious reader of the newspapers published within its shores, the only people with any sort of opinion on Craig Doyle whatsoever are the assorted television reviewers who had the temerity to suggest that he perhaps isn’t the greatest sports broadcaster ever to park his arse behind the desk of an ersatz terracotta TV studio.
And from this we deduce that he is “hated”.
So despised and vilified in fact, that his father Sean felt obliged to “break a decade of silence” to defend his son in the Sunday Independent. Although his reasons for choosing not to speak for 10 years remain unclear, once Doyle the Elder got into his stride on the subject of his boy’s alleged vilification there was no stopping him: “I warned my son to expect a load of crap when he became a celebrity,” he snapped angrily. “They are always looking for the nasty stuff and can’t stand the fact that he is a nice, honest, good-looking guy who has done well for himself. He is brilliant on the Olympics … there is a lot of jealousy involved in all this.”
It was a valiant and touching public defence, which we can only assume that Craig (33) was grateful for. Indeed it brought to mind my own father’s reaction several years go upon discovering The Irish Times television reviewer Eddie Holt had used his Saturday morning platform to describe me as “some prat”. To this day the echoes of his raucous mirth continue to reverberate around the kitchen of our family home and I continue to wait in vain for him to “break a decade of laughter” to come to my public defence.
But I digress. As long as Craig Doyle is sitting in a BBC television studio under the public gaze, he will always have his knockers. The more discerning may even think he’s a bit of a plonker for asking a double Olympic gold-winning middle distance runner if she’s “still stroking the first medal”.
But to boldly state that the entire of population of the British Isles hates Craig Doyle is to spread a potentially career-threatening falsehood, not least because they have yet to be subjected to his interviews with Ivana Trump and Sir Cliff Richard on The Craig Doyle Show.
Then, and only then, will the baying hordes gather