What has Steve McClaren got in common with Bruce Springsteen's arse?
When discussing the reasoning behind the iconic cover of Born in the U.S.A, Bruce Springsteen merely said that "in the end, the picture of my ass looked better than the picture of my face, that's what went on the cover". It is an anecdote illustrative of how something epochal can be created entirely unintentionally. And that is often how great TV moments are conjured. 2016 was a year rich in magnificent sporting TV moments, with Shteve's fate-tempting analysis of England/Iceland among the best. But where did it rank? Let's find out.
Welcome to the Balls.ie Weekend TV Review's countdown of the best sporting TV moments of the year.
18 - Sky Sports News get pranked #1
Sky Sports News have a lot of time to fill, so if you think that they are unlikely to turn down an offer of an exclusive live interview with a Premier League footballer, you are absolutely correct. But if you also think that they would at least make sure that the interview is real, then you are sadly mistaken.
Earlier this year, Jack Butland picked up an injury that forced him to miss Euro 2016, and Sky bagged what they believed to be an exclusive with his teammate Shay Given, only to realise that they were talking to an imposter halfway through.
17 - Sky Sports News get pranked #2
Donald Trump's election has awoken the world to the dangers of Fake News, but anyone with an interest in football media was well aware of this danger well before the election of America's Agent Orange.
George Weah's Cousin has dedicated years to outing the biggest idiots in football by photoshopping false quotes in a bid to see who will fall for them. Included in his work this year was a photoshopped Sky Sports graphic about the Lincoln Red Imps, the Gibraltar-based part-timers who drew Celtic in the Champions League.
Fucking Hell Celtic pic.twitter.com/JDjmECrcaT
— GeorgeWeahsCousin (@WeahsCousin) July 12, 2016
Incredibly, Sky Sports of all outlets fell for it, reading out on air something they had assumed they had broadcast previously.
Sky once again accidentally provide one of the best sporting TV moments of 2016.
16 - Proof that Eamon Dunphy will use anything to criticise Ireland
Eamon Dunphy has never been the League of Ireland's greatest fan - he once referred to it as the "chicken league", and his plans to have a Dublin-based team join the Scottish league led to him saying that "the idea that the League of Ireland could be rendered any less credible than it is, is amusing not to say audacious" - but he suddenly became Dundalk's greatest fan during Ireland's struggle at home to Georgia.
Dunphy says that Dundalk are "absolutely superb", and praised their passing and their "good coach", before returning to the idea that Ireland could and should play like that.
He makes a fair point about Dundalk, but his exulting in the domestic league is a new phenomenon for Dunphy.
15 - Sky Say Goodbye To
Upton Park The Boleyn Ground
West Ham owner David Sullivan made his fortune by making porn films, but this May's farewell to
Upton Park the Boleyn Ground may be his gaudiest and most needlessly long production yet. West Ham fans said goodbye to their precious stadium in a weird, Sky Sports-curated phantasmagoria of flashing lights, excruciatingly forced crowd interactions, and Marlon Harewood. The highlights included Bianca Westwood asking Paolo Di Canio to salute the crowd. No, Paolo, not like that! Read a fuller review here.
14 - The Return of Timmy McCarthy
The Olympic games meant the return of RTE's hearty band of obscure commentators, including the wonderful Timmy McCarthy on basketball. McCarthy's catchphrases (including DOWNTOWN and BOOM-SHAKA-LAKA) are the stuff of legend, and he has used them so often at this stage he has pretty much created his own language: a three-pointer that lipped out during a game brought a 'oooh, it was almost a boom-shaka-laka' from Timmy. We'll see you downtown in Tokyo, Timmy.
13 - Brian Kerr rips the FAI a new one on Soccer Republic
The FAI's unique brand of Public Relations was out in force earlier this year, after Saint Patricks' Athletic rejected a €5,000 grant from the FAI for the development of a strategic plan. (Derry rejected it too, although seemed to matter less to the FAI). Fran Gavin was wheeled out across a number of different media outlets, including RTE's Soccer Republic. It was here he was met by Brian Kerr. As Gavin spoke, Kerr was shifting uncomfortably in his seat, in full Scrappy-Doo 'lemme at him' mode. Kerr then let fly, saying that the plan was " a load of bunkum", questioning the FAI's leadership.
12 - Mark Lawrenson says penis on Match of the Day
Lawro hasn't been seen on Match of the Day very often this season. Pity, because last season he provided one of the show's great moments in accidentally saying the word penis on air. (Look, the bar is fairly low on Match of the Day).
It capped quite a weekend for Lawro, as earlier that day, the BBC broadcast his appearance on Pointless, where he put forth his theory that Alaska is a country.
Ex Liverpool player Mark Lawrenson on 'Pointless'. pic.twitter.com/iPShjHIvTq
— EPL Bible (@EPLBible) January 10, 2016
11 - Ronnie Wood's barking dog interrupts Eurosport's Snooker coverage
Up against the cosy institutional might of the Beeb, Eurosport need to bring somewhat of an edge to their snooker coverage. This year, they achieved exactly that, as Colin Murray, Jimmy White and Ronnies Wood and O'Sullivan drank whiskey on air after being interrupted by Ronnie Wood's restless dog.
10 - RTE's ridiculously excited commentary on Annalise Murphy's Olympic medal
Annalise Murphy's Olympic silver was one of the stories of the Irish summer, and boy, were RTE aware of the significance. As she laser radialed her way down the final straight, the commentator exulted 'they'll write poems about her, translate them into Irish, and teach them on the Leaving Cert!'.
— Mark Farrelly (@MarkFarrelly131) August 16, 2016
So move over Queen Maeve, Grainne Mhaol, and the protagonist in An Triail whose name this column can't remember, there's a new Irish heroine in town!
9 - Apres Match do TV3
It looked for a worrying moment that RTE's Euro 2016 coverage would not feature Apres Match, but thankfully, everybody saw sense and the comedy trio were on hand to skewer the championships. As always, they were at their best when parodying broadcasters. In this case, however, it was not RTE who felt the best of their wrath. Nope, it was TV3:
8 - The Premier League can't handle Didi Hamann's truth
England/Iceland proved to be among the most fecund sources of #content in 2016, and it makes a couple of entries on this list. After the game, Didi Hamann confronted English football with the truth on RTE: that the Premier League, for all its hype, isn't really that good, saying that the 'Premier League is a fraud', and that 'they've sold a Skoda for a Lamborghini for 15 years'.
7 - Farewell to a Good Football Man
Euro 2016 brought the curtain down on RTE's three amgios: Ryle brought Excalibur down on RTE's camelot, with John Giles taking his leave of his punditry chair in Montrose after Portugal's surprise final win over hosts France. Giles' pushing out the door at RTE caused some controversy, and Dunphy obliquely referenced this in his on-air farewell to his friend, saying that there is "no past tense here", before calling him the greatest football man this country has ever seen.
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) July 10, 2016
6 - Jim Beglin's Ferrethead
What a year for RTE: they were on hand to capture some of the best sporting TV moments of the year. While this is a natural spin-off of their having the rights to the most important events, some of the more underrated games brought some of the great moments. One such example is the Champions League tie between Roma and Real Madrid. Belgium midfielder Radja Nainggolan is a bit of a mouthful, but Jim Beglin had a quite brilliant way of circumventing such a tongue-twister:
Very much looks like a ferret, doesn't he?
Watch it below:
Brilliant. Jim doubled down on this when Belgium met Ireland at the Euros, in further proof that Hamilton and Beglin are the best commentary duo in the business.
5- Robbie Brady's post-Italy interview
What a night in Lille. It's the game that will always be won, and the man who did the winning gave the perfect post-game interview to RTE. Take a bow Robbie Brady.
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 22, 2016
4 - Paul O'Connell nails impossible answer on Question of Sport
The great man left his watch last year, but he has merely found new outlets to assert his dominance. Paul O'Connell appeared on storied BBC quiz show A Question of Sport this year, and somehow managed to nail 'Borussia Monchengladbach' based solely off two letters to send the BBC studios into raptures. Have a look:
Spectacular. We've done a detailed analysis of his performance across the entire show here, for those interested in judging Paulie across the whole performance, rather than the highlight.
3 - Neville Maxwell breaks down in the RTE studio
The O'Donovan brothers seized a nation's hearts in their television interviews during the Olympics, but they toyed with Neville Maxwell's emotions in the act of winning. A minority sport winning an Olympic medal is a vicarious victory for all of those who have gone before and to see Maxwell break down in RTE out of sheer pride of recognition and justification was an astonishing moment.
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) August 12, 2016
2 - The Eternal Haplessness of Steve McClaren
England losing to Iceland to exit a European competition the week they voted to leave the European Union should hang in the Tate Gallery as an example of A Joke. The entire thing was such an absurdly hilarious event that mere written jokes do not do it justice (England allowed foreigners the freedom of movement of their penalty area, etc). but thankfully, Steve McClaren was on Sky Sports to record the comedy of the night for posterity. His fate-tempting analysis is just so bloody perfect. Here it is. It will never not be funny.
1 - Michael Conlan and the Interview Heard Around the World
Michael Conlan's apocalyptically enraged interview following robbery to Vladimir Nikitin at the Olympic games was phenomenal television, and hit the headlines in virtually every major news outlet around the world. It set an unsurpassable bar for swearing on television, forced serious questions to be asked of Amateur Boxing, and sealed Conlan's status as a bona fide star.
Fair play to RTE for not flinching too hard at such prolific pre-watershed swearing. Conlan washing his hands of the entire organisation rather than wallow in self-pity was oddly soothing for the jilted viewer. Stunning stuff, and one of the most iconic sporting tv moment of this, or any other year.
Thanks to all of you for reading this column across 2016. Happy Christmas to you all, especially to anyone out there who wants to prank Sky Sports News, for you are a nation's underrated heroes.