Poor old Sir Bradley ‘We are the Mods’ Wiggins. The chronic asthma sufferer and champion of the Paul Weller haircut, which Paul Weller himself can’t carry off, has had a kicking this week over his cultural choices in a magazine interview.
It turns out, you can take a cyclist to water but you can’t make it drink when it comes to all things arts and theatre dahlings. Wiggo’s bicycle chain came hurtling off in a classic Q&A style interview, like they used to have in the football magazine Shoot where direct questions were asked with no preamble. Footballers would answer “Steak, Lager and Diana Ross” before young fans headed to the record shop to buy her self-titled 1976 classic album in the soul-disco genre section.
In the interview, Bradders, Wiggo, Sir Bradley? – gave a straight “no” when asked his “favourite play/playwright” while “My favourite author or book” was met with a frosty “I’m not really a reader. I haven’t got the attention span. Skip the books.” Fair play – reading while cycling seems tricky. He went on to say he only watches First Dates on telly before appearing to hanker for the days when Chas & Dave had their own TV Christmas special. This was met with a flurry of Twitter comments, the best being “I can see why he won Sports Personality of the Year”.
Now I’m no fan of Wiggins and find there’s a strong whiff of the weirdo in the elite cycling game but I’m moved to defend him here. The Q&A was likely arranged to promote his current ‘An Evening With’ speaking tour.
But the whole fiasco raises the question - who decides what culture is anyway? So what if Wiggins’ favourite film is Platoon, starring 1,000-yard stare merchant Charlie Sheen in his breakthrough movie before the pornstars and coke took hold.
He talks honestly about Only Fools and Horses being his all-time favourite TV series because it’s a “romanticised vision of where I’m from – of a time and a community that doesn’t really exist any more”. This is both touching and sad – like a lot of the Q&A which has been taken out of context. These are the words of a man who feels his best years are behind him talking about watching a television show – that would most likely not get made today – at his ‘nan and grandad’s’ in Kilburn. A second-generation kiddy Mod who hasn’t grown-up Wiggins still can’t get over The Jam splitting up – get in line there’s thousands of us.
He predictably mentions John Lennon as one of the two people he’d have at his fantasy dinner party, the other being Bobby Moore, but says he’d leave them be because he wouldn’t want to bother them. Bless.
He also reveals he’s having therapy on the back of a John Lennon lyric he wished he’d written: “People say we’ve got it made/Don’t they know we’re so afraid?” Jesus wept, those nights out with Team Sky must have been a hoot.
But he seems like a man who has fallen from a great height – adored by a grateful nation at London 2012 to having to live with the lingering suspicion that he’s no better than drug cheats who found a home in the twilight world of professional cycling. This stems from a report last year by MPs which found that Wiggins and Team Sky “crossed an ethical line” by using drugs “to enhance the performance of riders and not just to treat medical need” even if it was within World Anti-Doping Agency rules.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee said it was “not in a position” to state what was in a “jiffy bag” delivered to Wiggins at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine. But it added there was no “reliable evidence” to back up Team Sky’s claim the medical package contained a legal decongestant.
The report also said Team Sky used the anti-inflammatory drug triamcinolone to prepare Britain’s most decorated Olympian for the Tour de France, which Wiggins won in 2012.
Wiggins may be judged the victim when history casts its eye back over the Team Sky years, as far removed from Corinthian spirit as you’re likely to get, but maybe I’m being too kind.
I laughed out loud when I first read Wiggins interview then checked myself for being cruel. A couple of trips to the Prado and I’m Billy-Big time.
For a lot of people creeping into middle age things like Punk, Mod and Northern Soul is their cultural bag.
I was brought up thinking BBC2 was a strange hinterland inhabited by vegetarians who wore cardigans. Then there was the pre-internet “I don’t watch television” brigade who couldn’t tell you quick enough that they never had a set and spent their evenings painting.
But there’s nothing wrong with still loving the likes of Paul Weller, Oasis, Stone Roses or Northern Soul although there’s a good reason why those records, the precursor to sporadic outbreaks of line dancing, are obscure.
Culturewise, I reckon I’d have struggled to name three paintings - before taking a passing interest in art, and some of my mates would struggle to get past the Mona Lisa and the one with the flowers. So what?
At least Wiggins was honest and didn’t say what he thought people wanted to hear.
Politicians are the worst when it comes to this, apart from Nicola Sturgeon who loves her favourite book – Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon – which she may have mentioned in passing. And we shouldn’t forget Arctic Monkeys ‘fan’ Gordon Brown or David Cameron declaring his love of The Smiths?
Then there’s the quiet man of Scottish politics, Labour leader Richard Leonard and his top ten tunes. The 57-year-old Modernist had gems such as The Third Bardo and their catchy “I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time” (if only and yes I’ve no idea who they are either). He followed this with Paul Weller featuring Robert Wyatt “She Moves With The Fayre” (Villagers Remix) which has had 237 views on YouTube to date. But if our cultural choices tell a little of who you are and where you rank on the cool list then, in my opinion, the few people I know with zero presence on social media are at the tip of the iceberg.