'He may as well be playing elephant polo in Tibet'
IT'S a funny old game, Christmas. It is traditionally supposed to be the time of year when we reflect on our own good fortune and spare a thought for others, yet somehow that has gradually morphed into a festival of self-centred self-indulgence. But when it comes to sport there is a third way. This year I intend to bridge the great divide with my super-indulgent wish list of sporting things I'd like for Christmas; my six of the best demands for 2008 that prove that I'm always thinking of others, if not always kindly.
1 For Dario Franchitti to get the recognition he deserves: Earlier this year the Bathgate speed machine became the first Scot since his hero Jim Clark to win the legendary Indy 500 race. He is good-looking, personable, is married to one of the 50 most attractive women in the world (so says People magazine) and has a take-home pay-packet of around 7m a year, which makes him second only to David Beckham in the British moolah stakes and way out on his own as a Scot. Yet he may as well be playing elephant polo in Tibet for all the acclaim he gets in his home country. The dire state of Super Dario's profile was neatly encapsulated when he couldn't make the cover of Autosport, the fortnightly magazine he read slavishly as a karting-obsessed kid – "actually, the only thing I ever read" – the week after winning at Indianapolis, the magazine preferring to grant that honour to gallant loser Lewis Hamilton. And then, at the Scottish Sports Awards, he placed nowhere behind those other gallant losers, the national football team.
2 Give John Collins the benefit of the doubt: What I'd really like to see is some bookie take John Collins at his word and accept him for the man of honour he undoubtedly is. He says he hasn't talked to Fulham and I for one believe him. The natural consequence of such acceptance would be that said bookie would then reopen the book on John Collins becoming Fulham manager, preferably at his Wednesday price of 5/1, at which stage the Bank of Bath could be swiftly replenished during what is an exceptionally difficult time of year for the perennially cash-strapped among us.
3 For Frank Hadden to smile: Virtually all of the most toe-curlingly embarrassing moments in the Rugby World Cup occurred when our great leader encountered the press, a group for whom he seems to have little time, en masse. Thankfully, Frank isn't a parochial sort and spread his contempt among the foreign press too, bemusing the London and Auckland branches of the journalists' chapel with one-word answers to benign leading questions. Now that he has hammered out a new deal with the munificent Mr McKie, even if it is for a shilling a week with the possibility of termination at a moment's notice, and he has a team of players capable of mounting a sustained challenge for the Six Nations, perhaps he could be as charming and courteous in public as he is in private. After all, if he wants to be the next Lions coach he'll need to learn how, in my grandfather's old phrase, to butter the parsnips (nope, I never understood it either).
4 Hoy to stick two fingers up to the UCI in Beijing: Cyclist Chris Hoy has spent his life specialising in the kilo, absolutely dominating the event since he won gold at the last Olympics. Perhaps that is why the sport's governing body, the UCI, decided to can the event for Beijing. Instead, they have replaced it with the keirin, a weird and wonderful event where a motorbike – no, seriously – joins the riders, leading them around the track at breakneck speed before peeling off to signal the start of a terrifying eyes-out sprint for the line. Hoy had no experience in the keirin and no love of a format so radically different from the kilo that it was widely assumed he would have no chance of adapting in time for Beijing. But the blokes in blazers made a miscalculation; Hoy wasn't to be beaten. Since Athens he has dedicated himself to mastering the format, and has proved as unbeatable at it as he once was at the kilo, winning every single race and becoming world champion. How sweet it would be to see Hoy power off the final bend as that trials bike peels away, burning off the opposition and adding the keirin gold to his collection of Olympic medals. Oh, and sticking two fingers up at the UCI in the process.
5 Mosley to go: Max Mosley, the failed racing driver and 67-year-old head of Formula One's governing body, the FIA, should be handed a golden watch and ushered into the gloaming after expressing this sneeringly dismissive view of Sir Jackie Stewart, a racing legend and the man who put together a highly competitive F1 team within the last decade. "Dear old Jackie, he knows nothing about sports governance," whined Mosley. "Because he never stops talking, he doesn't know much about anything, actually. He just talks. So when people like that say it (that I should resign], you think, 'I just can't'. It's very childish, I suppose." At least he got the last bit right. And if that's not enough, then try the equally sneering views of the patrician toff (he inherited his wealth from his late parents, Sir Oswald and Lady Diana Mosley) on Ron Dennis, the man who has built a fortune of 90m after starting his F1 career as a junior mechanic in the old Cooper grand prix team 40 years ago. "I despise his (Ron Dennis's] attitude to Formula One, when he says that he's passionate about Formula One. That's not true. He's passionate about McLaren finishing first and second in every race, but it's not the same thing as being passionate about Formula One and it's foolish to pretend that it is."
6 And finally: Other things that I hope include Nick De Luca, the most exciting runner to have emerged from Scottish rugby for years, being given a start in the Six Nations; Queen of the South to overcome their early-season slump and slaughter Dunfermline on the last day of the season to overhaul Hamilton on goal difference and win promotion to the SPL; and for drugs cheats like Marion Jones and Floyd Landis to serve jail time for fraud, but for David Millar to be allowed to cycle in the Tour De France because it's Christmas and redemption is divine.