Robin Oakley

The turf | 22 June 2017

To what extent must our top sportsmen be touchy-feely in order to win public approval?

Back on the political beat with CNN for the general election, I was reminded how politics is now dominated by personality, or the lack of it. Led by the media, we want our politicians to be authoritative enough to dominate an EU summit yet ‘normal’ enough to know what’s topping the pop charts or who’s in the final of Strictly Come Dancing. It has led to idiocies such as Gordon Brown pretending he listened to the Arctic Monkeys or an ingratiating David Cameron claiming to have voted for Will Young on X Factor at his daughter’s insistence when Young was actually on Pop Idol, which he won before Cameron’s daughter was born. Ever since the death of Princess Diana, and through into our terrorised times, our politicians have been required to be able to emote, to hug and hold and to share the tears of the traumatised and bereaved. Forced by traffic gridlock to listen to nearly four hours of vitriolic phone-ins en route to Sandown Park on Saturday, it became obvious to me that politicians incapable of displaying emotion publicly must now seek other careers.

To what extent, though, must our sports stars, too, be touchy-feely to win public favour? It used to be fashionable for much of the media to moan about Ryan Moore, a jockey whose supreme talent in timing a racetrack swoop or delivering big-race victories with ice-cool aplomb seemed to be matched only by his failure to communicate any sense of enjoyment or deliver cheery one-liners after doing so. At Sandown on Saturday such criticisms could not have been wider of the mark. As he rode into the winner’s enclosure on trainer Henry Candy’s Greenside, a tongue-in-cheek Candy urged him: ‘Give us a flying dismount then, Ryan.’

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