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We're swinging in the rain

For ardent lovers of both televised sport and inclement weather, the last few months must have seemed like a beautiful dream. We've had sport by the barrel-load and rain by the bucket-load. The image of the season? A thoroughly saturated ball.

If, however, the very existence of this ubiquitous sport-rain (as I shall now call the hybrid phenomenon) makes you want to crawl into a corner and sob yourself into a state of hibernation, then the summer of 2012 continues to be an unrelenting nightmare. After a sodden June drenched in football, we're now facing into a clammy August, dripping in all manner of Olympian hopping and diving. The space in between has seen its fair share of sport-rain, too.


Last weekend saw the BBC offering (wet) blanket coverage of The Open Championship (aka "The British Open"). The traditional values of golf -- sexism and elitism -- make it a tough sport to love, or even like.

Consider Augusta National, home of The Masters. A rarefied place reeking of "old Southern charm", where blindingly white, all-male members sip mint juleps on a colonnaded club-house porch (probably).

Black golfers were refused entry until 1990, and a prohibition on women members continues to this day. Hell, the "trophy" awarded to the winner of The Masters is a bloody jacket.

The most vomitously bourgeois prize in world sport. Ceremoniously handed over to the year's top golfer in an oak-lined room that's spatially, and philosophically, as far removed from the hoi polloi as it's possible to get.

Such hidebound conservatism is less obvious in the Beeb's coverage of The Open, but traces remain. There's Ivor Robson, the immaculate "tee announcer" whose voice sounds like that of man trying to communicate timelessness and gravitas while sucking on a Werther's Original. There's the ever-present Peter Allis, who riffs (frequently wittily) on this and that in the lofty tones of a patrician "national treasure" who gazes disdainfully on the modern world. The overall mood is one of charming and delightful steadfastness, or at least that's the intention (see Wimbledon for more of the same). It's all rather suffocating.

Which is a shame, really, as stripped of all these layers of reactionary nonsense, golf can be an absorbingly cruel TV spectacle, as Sunday's final round demonstrated.

Four shots up, with four holes to play, and Adam Scott was cruising to victory. Until, that was, his carefully honed technique crumpled and his lovingly-polished game fell to bits. "I don't like to see someone collapsing like that," said Allis, failing to acknowledge that watching someone collapse just like that, is one of the great (horribly captivating) pleasures of sport-watching. Particularly with unblinking cameras there to zoom in and capture every agonised grimace.

Pressure of a different and meteorological kind was the focus of Sunday evening's Weather Permitting (RTE 1), hosted by the perma-winking Gerald Fleming. You might think, after the non-summer we've had, that a programme dedicated to lousy native weather was taking the piss somewhat, but this was pretty amiable and free-ranging stuff.

Taking in everything from the Irish language's numerous onomatopoeic words for rain, to the potential relationship between crappy weather and the Green Party's electoral wipeout. There were memories of monochrome charts with hand-drawn isobars, and little snippets of folkloric forecasting (donkeys are, apparently, great predictors of coming frost).


Former RTE weatherman John Eagleton spoke entertainingly about the "relentless psychological pressure" of knowing that the long-term forecast was usually grim, yet having to be the official face that communicated this unwanted news to the public.

"It'd wear you down", he said.

Bringing necessary irreverence to Olympian pomposity was Sunday's Absolutely Fabulous special (BBC 1).

The gags may occasionally, after all these years, be somewhat laboured, but Lumley and Saunders remain wonderful physical comedians.

Uneven with occasional flashes of brilliance, would be how Gerald Fleming might describe it.