Tuesday, 16 March 2010

They think it's all over

On Saturday I listened to the annual "Calcutta Cup" match between England and Scotland on the BBC - not because I'm interested in rugby (I'm not) but just because I could.

I pause to observe en passant that rubgy players appear to wear gay swimming caps and golfing gloves nowadays. They didn't when I was wee. Nor did cricketers wear helmets. Firemen wear helmets. Golfers wear golfing gloves. Swimmers can even be forgiven for wearing swimming caps. But not rugby players. Nor should they wear shirts emblazoned with bits of the periodic table, IMO.

I've digressed - where was I? Oh yes, the BBC. The British Broadcasting Corporation is one of these great British institutions, I would defend to my last breath. Like the monarchy. And Caledonian MacBrayne. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Despite what Brussels thinks. We'll fight them on the beaches (although I'm actually quite pro-EU).

The BBC is funded by what's known as "the Licence Fee". It's a tax on television sets. In the UK, if you have a TV in your house, then you have to have a TV Licence costing £142.50 a year. Money well spent in my book because, in return, you get the BBC free with no adverts. This includes all the top class sport like the rugby (yawn) but also Wimbledon, World Cup, Olympics etc. Most importantly of all, the World Darts from the Lakeside Country Club, Frimley Green, Surrey - a British institution and if that's not public service broadcasting, then I don't know what is.

Above is what I got when did a Google Image search for World Darts. Nobody chucking an arrow at a board, but they know how to have a good time, do darts followers. And while we're on the subject of darts (which we're not really), I must mention my all time favourite live TV cock-up when the host of a quiz show accidentally read out the answer but the contestant still got the question wrong. It was on a show called "Bullseye" loosely based around darts. Contestants appeared in teams of two, one of whom threw the darts and the other of whom answered general knowledge questions. To the latter, the host, Jim Bowen, always said "So you're the brains of the outfit, then?"

Despite my better judgement, I've tried to "embed" a Youtube vid of Jim Bowen on Bullseye - did it work? Anyway, one night, Jim solemnly reads off the card "In which state was President Kennedy assassinated? Texas." and the brains of the outfit replied "Was it California, Jim?"

Anyway, where was I? The Licence Fee causes periodic political hooh-hahs in Britain with some people saying "Why should I pay a tax for two channels of the BBC when all I want to watch on my TV is 321 satellite channels of wall to wall CSI Miami, CSI New York etc., ad nauseam. To which I respond that people who want to watch 321 channels (or even 6 or 7) should have their knees stapled together. Too much choice is a bad thing. The BBC is a good thing - darts and all. (Although Bullseye wasn't on the BBC.)

The Licence Fee is how it works in the UK but abroad, the BBC becomes complicated. The technology does, of course, exist to beam all its content, from the darts to Mr Darcy, worldwide via the Interweb if you've got a broad enough broadband. But, in a sinister "we know where you live" sort of way, a lot of the good stuff is blocked if you try to log on furth of England's green and pleasant land.

(Pic above is what I got from a Google image search of "England's green and pleasant land". From the Daily Mail. Bless.)

I think the argument runs "it's free to the British Licence Fee payer but not to Johnnie foreigner". Which is an argument I'd normally line up behind if it weren't for the fact that I live amongst the JF. But is the BBC not missing a bit of a trick by not making the JF wedge up for the privilege? I'd cheerfully pay £142.50 for a country member's subscription. And that's considering our bandwidth out here is thin enough that all we can realistically expect is radio and even that has to "buffer" (it means it pauses) quite a lot.

The fact that the BBC appears to have missed this marketing trick means I don't feel so bad about having subscribed to Tellyport for €2.99 a month. Basically (but don't ask me how) they disguise my foreign location and allow me to listen online to the stuff normally reserved to onshore Brits. Like the rugby. Top tip to BBC bosses: I'm paying someone else £36 a year to do this "underhand" but would prefer to pay you £150 (or more) to do this legit. Capice?

The score of the Calcutta Cup match, incidentally, was a draw, 15-15. I can't remember why the trophy is called the Calcutta Cup and I'm not interested enough to Google it. I am however very interested in football and come this June shall be watching every single match of the World Cup by turning the Portuguese commentary on the TV down and turning up the BBC commentary through the computer via Tellyport.

Although, if the computer has to pause to "buffer" too often, the game will be over before the commentary is. Could lend a whole new meaning to "They think it's all over ..."         


Kathie said...

The US's rugby hotbed just happens to be in my hometown, at my alma mater, no less!

Homepage: http://www.calbears.com/sports/m-rugby/cal-m-rugby-body.html

Cal's won 24 of 30 national championships!

Back in March 1966, "Sports Illustrated" featured the vaunted University of Notre Dame rugby team on their magazine cover in anticipation of the Fighting Irish's journey from South Bend, Indiana, all the way to Berkeley in order to demolish the University of California Golden Bear ruggers. We all know about that infamous SI cover curse, right?

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the crown -- I was there in Memorial Stadium that fine Saturday afternoon, so can attest that Cal beat the living daylights out of the wee leprechauns (who never knew what hit 'em), and Bears fans partied hearty all evening.

Go, Bears!

Kathie said...

Uh-oh, I can't seem to find any pre-game cover story on that legendary Cal-ND rugby game on "Sports Illustrated" online (a mind is a terrible thing to lose). I did, however, locate this post-game report in SI, for your delectation:

April 04, 1966 - "Gentlemanly Game For Ruffians / Rugby is an old tradition at the University of California, and the Golden Bears approach the game with a combination of verve and casualness their English forebears might not recognize but surely would applaud."

Go, Bears!

Kathie said...

Ooh, a couple more details slipped my mind till I finished reading the article. Wing Lloyd Reist is my 7th(!) cousin on my maternal (no-Portuguese) side.

And I attended that Phi Sigma Kappa kegger after the game, though I didn't go down to "The Rat" (Larry Blake's Rathskeller) afterwards, because I was under 21 (the legal drinking age) and didn't have a fake ID.

Nothin' like a little sashay down memory lane, eh?

Kathie said...

Ooh, a couple more details slipped my mind till I finished reading the article. Wing Lloyd Reist, one of the game scorers, is my 7th(!) cousin on my maternal (non-Portuguese) side.

And I attended that Phi Sigma Kappa kegger after the game, though I didn't go down to "The Rat" (Larry Blake's Rathskeller) afterwards, because I was under 21 (the legal drinking age) and didn't have a fake ID.

Nothin' like a little saunter down memory lane, eh?

Amílcar Gonçalves said...

I bet the California Bears didn't wear swimming caps and golfing gloves!

Kathie said...

Amilcar, tem razão! Nenhum capacete nem luvas.
[You're right! No helmet or gloves]

(pp. 410-413)

(pp. 414-15)

Aliás, Amilcar, a avó paterna do meu pai em Fajã Grande no século XIX chamou-se Marianna Apollonia Gonsalves [sic]. Se for das Flores, acha que temos parentesco?
[My father's paternal grandmother's name was Marianna Apollonia Gonsalves. If you're from Flores, do you think we're related?]

Anonymous said...

Brilliant blog. Just brilliant. The periodic table reference took me a few seconds to work out but I laughed out loud when I got it.

Kathie said...


What's new and exciting on Flores this month? Are you preparing for a grand celebration of 25 de Abril?