This is a page where I express my thoughts in more detail, sometimes leaving it open for you to discuss. Feel free to contact me about them if they've particularly hit a nerve.
If you want to catch up on previous thoughts on this page, then you may want to take a look at this lot:
Thought 4.36: 29 July 2011: The Wrong Formula, BBC!
As you may have heard in today's news, the BBC have re-negotiated their contract for Formula 1 rights for the UK - and it does not make very happy reading whatsoever. In a joint move with Sky Sports, the new deal now means that Sky Sports will get all the F1 races live and that the BBC will get to show half of the year's races including the British Grand Prix and Monaco, and with highlights of every race in the evening afterwards. On paper, that deal will have appeared to have saved the BBC a considerable amount of money and meant that they could at least show some of the races from next year onwards.
But wait! There's much more to it than that and in a lot of fans' views, the BBC have clearly been sold the wrong formula. The current BBC contract when they started re-broadcasting F1 in 2009 after twelve years on ITV was that it was a five year deal for all races to be covered by them on free-to-air television, ie: to the end of the 2013 season. As it was the BBC could have waited it out a fair bit longer, as the Concorde Agreement which controls things such as who does what in the sport and how it's commercially marketed was up for renewal from next year onwards, and this could have meant a further binding agreement to ensure that free to air was at a fair price given the current economic climate. Instead the BBC have literally cut and run which hasn't done anyone any favours.
Only showing half the races of a whole season is like telling half the story, especially considering last season's drama which went right to the final race and indeed this season so far, even with Sebastian Vettel leading by a fair distance has had plenty of stories to tell which may have been missed if it was one of the races not covered by this new agreement. So many fans stayed with the Canadian Grand Prix with large viewing figures despite the long wait for the rain to stop and when they did they were rewarded with a fabulous race with Jenson Button's epic win, but you could have missed all that if it was one of the races not shown on terrestrial television.
In an age where there's an increasing number of fans being turned on to the sport and who admire the skill and bravery of the drivers behind the wheel, as well as the award winning coverage that the BBC had to get behind the scenes, speak to the senior team bosses (just last week we had Martin Whitmarsh, Christian Horner and Stefano Domenicali for example) and manage to get plenty of information together to bring the fans closer to the sport and all its drama, the timing of the announcement is truly awful, especially consdering the current scandals involving one of Sky's related companies, News International. You'd think that right now the BBC would want to keep away from such a deal, or perhaps it was an opportunity to get a deal done on the cheap whilst stock was low.
Whichever way you look at it, it's a very sad day for Formula 1. The coverage of all the races over the years has only helped to increase the popularity of the sport and it's thanks to the likes of Murray Walker with the late great James Hunt and then Martin Brundle, James Allen etc that it's become a household sport to watch, particularly in the UK. Most of the teams are also based here in the UK too and I'm sure plenty of them are not best pleased that their hard work won't be getting the coverage it would have had previously.
And what part has Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula 1 rights holder had in this? Only a couple of months ago he said that selling any rights to a non-terrestrial broadcaster would be nothing but commercial suicide. He must have seen what happened when Sky had a hand in covering the ill-fated A1GP series. No one took interest in a series that was on during the F1 close season (when you'd think it would have had most coverage) because no one would watch it on a pay to view channel. And yet now he's turned his back on this and brokered this deal in some way. Not good enough.
I can only hope that the powers that be that form FOTA (the Formula One Teams Association) flex their muscles and express their severe distaste at this deal and do what they can to have it stopped. I'm sure from McLaren's point of view, seeing two British drivers not get their coverage they'd deserve would be a bad move for them, and similarly for Red Bull, particularly as Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber have a good fan base here. But not just that - for them it's about the team owners getting as much coverage of the sport so that it's talked about, people want to come to races and the money keeps flowing in the sport. So to the likes of Martin Whitmarsh, Christian Horner, Stefano Domenicali, Ross Brawn et al, do what you can.
Thankfully it also seems like some of the BBC team are disgusted with the deal, particularly Martin Brundle. He's really taken the lead commentator role with gusto and really shown his knowledge to be second to none and gets you closer to the action. With him not under any contractual obligations, he could very well walk away from the BBC if he's only going to half the races live and doing the other half from a TV studio somewhere (admittedly Murray Walker used to do that in the early days of BBC coverage but you'd like to think things have moved on since) or even move to Sky. Either way, not pretty to be honest. It's a scandalous decision and the BBC's head of F1 coverage and director of sports coverage should do the decent thing and resign.
Thought 4.35: 27 June 2010: The Wake Up Call English Football Needs
It's been a couple of hours since England were humiliated by Germany in the 2010 World Cup second round stage game, and there are many questions that have to be answered. I just couldn't believe how poor the England team performed, and how gutless and spineless a lot of them seemed to be when they needed to show their skill, pride and passion at the highest level. I could effortlessly rant on about that but it was clear to me that the last few England games were a precursor to this sort of performance happening, and on the biggest stage at that.
It was clear to me that several of the England players believe that their ego and their club far outweighs any sort of pride that should automatically be there when playing for your country. There's too many egos, too many overpaid salaries and a hype and belief that they feel that they are world class players. Let's be perfectly honest about this: at least eight or nine of the England team out there today should in my view hang their head in shame and if they believe that the performance was any good, then they are absolutely kidding themselves.
It's almost a disease of epidemic proportions that there's no sense of reality, pride and passion within the team. Compared to Ghana's win against the USA, the Ghanains wanted to battle, wanted to get stuck in and wanted to wear the shirt with pride, and their efforts and skill were in my view rightly rewarded. Playing against Germany should mean that hardly any incentive is necessary to get out there and show some pride in the shirt. Yet some of them don't even seem it fit to sing the national anthem. I don't care if they have views on the monarchy and don't believe in them. It's the national anthem. You sing it with your heart. Yes, Wayne Rooney, that especially means you.
Compare the squad of overhyped talent to the 1990 squad and you'll see the difference: back in 1990 they weren't all world class players (apart from Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne at his prime), but what they had instilled was pride, passion, never say die attitude. Lineker's scoring record at World Cup finals is second to none. How many has Rooney scored? Exactly. Lineker even had a bandage on his arm when he got his hat trick against Poland in 1986, and he played through the pain barrier. Couldn't see many of today's squad doing that.
What really does upset me is that for many of them, it's okay to do it at club level and get the whacking great salaries, but all that the money does is demean what should be a higlight in anyone's career: playing at the World Cup. For England. Too many players felt that they could walk the games in the group and were given a rude awakening when players for the likes of Algeria showed that with real pride and passion, they could perform. And yet it was abject. The England players were then complaining and John Terry's outburst was ill-conceived and egotistic, and all it showed was that he thought that he was better than anyone. Not on today's performance he wasn't, he showed exactly why he shouldn't have just had the captaincy dropped from him after his cheating affairs of the heart.
It also showed that they didn't adhere well to discipline that the manager tried to instil into the players, and although many will question the tactics and man management of Fabio Capello, is sacking him the answer? Well, it may be, but it may also not be. If the players don't like a strict regime and don't understand what it means to play for England, then they shouldn't make themselves available for selection and shouldn't also wear the shirt either. Give it to someone who would dearly love to pull it on and give their all for their country. Someone who would love to score and show, just as Lineker always did, how much it means for you to play for your country. Even David Beckham understood what it meant.
Now is the perfect time, post World-Cup, to actually look at the national team and make fundamental changes. Germany have been doing so, and a fair number of their Euro 2009 winning Under-21 squad are in the national team, and it was most of them who outplayed England today. Rather than use the same players every time, it's now a time for development and change, and give some of them a go who are chomping at the bit to represent their country, and let's get behind them. I would seriously take a long hard look at the players who underperformed today and question whether they should play for England ever again. And no, it's not a knee-jerk reaction. Today is the wake up call that England as a national side need. We now need to start again, as Germany did, and look at ourselves long and hard and see how it goes from there.
One thing's for sure: if the likes of Wayne Rooney, John Terry and Frank Lampard can't be bothered to turn up every game and give their all, they should be dropped from the England team until they can prove that it actually means something to them to play for the national side and be able to do it on a consistent basis. Give the caps to the players who are hungry. Who want to win. And above all else have it instilled into them what it means to play for the national team. If it gives one of those overpaid primadonnas a harsh lesson in the realities of life and football then so be it. Look at what happened when Beckham was dropped, he fought his way back to the squad and showed he still had it, and that's exactly what might be needed right now.
All we've done for some time is paper over the cracks and now there lies a gaping chasm. We were tipped, maybe over realistically, to reach the semi finals. The truth of the matter is that until the players realise that you have to perform like a team instead of their own inflated ego, then in my view, they're not fit to wear the shirt, and we as England supporters (especially those who went out to South Africa) should make their feelings known at the highest level.
Thought 4.34: 16 December 2009: Why We Must Rage Against The X-Factor
As some of you may have seen in the UK at the moment, there is a concerted campaign to try and prevent the X-Factor's winning single (namely Joe McElderry's "The Climb") from gaining the Christmas Number One single. In a day and age where downloads count for a fair chunk of the singles market, and that no one knows who number one usually is because of the demise of shows like Top of the Pops on the TV, there's still some prestige about being Number One at Christmas, something only Simon Cowell and the mass media know too well, which is why for the last few years, it's always been their winner's single that's hit the top spot.
Last year, it was the Jeff Buckley version of "Hallelujah" which almost won out against Alexandra Burke's overproduced, sickly sweet make me want to throw up version due to an Internet campaign. The same campaigners are at work this time, only now they've chosen Rage Against The Machine's legendary anthem from 1992 "Killing in the Name" as their weapon of choice. Part of their reasoning is that as a bona fide rock classic of the modern era, those that like their rock and metal music will buy it, but also those that appreciate real meanings of songs will buy it too.
Let's compare notes: "The Climb" was originally a song by Miley Cyrus and as such performed in the Hannah Montana series of movies. As such that already makes it sickly sweet enough, and to take on a lame song in the first place in an even more lame way that the X-Factor has really does take the mickey - it's not even an original composition as some of them at least were in previous years. Compare that to "Killing in the Name", an anti-racist anthem that clearly explains some of the ills of the society that they had to put up with, and now you're under control, you'll do what you're told - hence the dose of anarchy and anger at the end with the immortal sixteen lines of "**** you, I won't do what you tell me" which grow more passionate and more laden with anger with each delivery.
There's no contest really. I remember listening to RATM's album in 1992, and let's be honest, it was one of the most important records of the 1990s. Its influence is still being felt today, and they put their money where their mouths are, battling against injustice and supporting those who seek it, as well as having one of the best-produced albums too - in fact some hi fi magazines still use the likes of "Take The Power Back" from that album as good system tests to make sure your kit is all working. It's also everything that X-Factor isn't, it's about real music played by real musicians with real instruments - and an innovative guitar player in Tom Morello as well too.
Simon Cowell has called the campaign "cynical" and that it'll hurt the X-Factor artist. Oh really? Well, maybe there's enough people out there who are sick of being force fed the trite that is the reality TV show and want to make their own minds up, for a change. Maybe people just would like some real music in the charts to counteract the endless tosh that comes out of the production studios of Syco Music. And maybe, just maybe, it's a case that the public themselves in enough numbers will realise that the over saturation of the UK market by tosh such as X-Factor is actually killing the UK music industry in the first place.
If you're an up and coming artist, and you want to get noticed, what chance do you have against the mass exposure that X-Factor gives you by being on the telly for almost four months? I'll tell you - none. In an age where it seems to be instant success or else you get dropped, the industry needs to wake up that we, the public, actually want to listen to proper music, where it's played properly and that when you go to see them live, it's no fancy stage trickery, it's just them doing what they do best, and playing to an audience who'll appreciate back. If only that could happen.
Well, let's make it happen people. Check the Rage Against The X-Factor website, its Facebook page, and use the download links to download the song and make it make a difference. Even if it doesn't make number one, the fact that there's so many people who want to really nark off the whole X-Factor thing, and what it represents, says a lot about the real music fans in this country. And the official campaign Facebook page is down right now - conspiracy by the powers that be or is Cowell himself worried that the campaign might actually succeed? Well that's just another reason to go download it. Now. And make a difference.
Thought 4.33: 02 March 2009: See The Person, Not The Disability
In the last few days, there has been considerable furore and fuss in the media, and it's all down to a presenter of BBC children's television channel CBeebies. Parents are up and down in wrath and rage in the country saying that the presenter will scare their children, and that they are boycotting the channel in protest. Now, all that would make you think that the BBC has employed someone with a track record of something a bit less savoury, but it's nothing of the sort. Oh no. They're kicking up a fuss because the presenter happens to be slightly different from everyone else.
The presenter, Cerrie Burnell, was born with one hand. Her other arm only goes so far - and that's it. She was born that way. She's managed to live her life to the full, graduating with an acting degree, appearing in many BBC Drama series along the way, before being one of the successful applicants to be one of the new presenters of CBeebies. I'm sure that for most women, achieving all that would be a goal to be proud of, and certainly it is the case here. She got the job on merit, because she's actually good with children (she works in a school with them and is a parent herself, as is her co-presenter Alex).
So why the parents need to feel ashamed or embarrassed, claiming that "Cerrie is scaring my children" is something that I just can't grasp, to be honest. Most children I am sure would just see her as her, and if she's able to get the children to play, sing and be happy, then it's job done. Or so you'd think. The kind of language and vitriol spouted forth on several sections of the Internet has shown it to be a witch hunt of modern day proportions, and from parents, whom quite frankly, should know better. So what if she's different? Aren't everyone individual in their own way? And if the children like her, and see her as a friendly, amiable person on the telly who they can see having fun and making them happy, then that's that really.
It's almost as if parents want to brush disability under the carpet and not expose their children to it. Why? Surely actually treating that person as just another person and allowing them to let their natural talent shine should be the way forward? If the child asks questions, then answer them honestly and truthfully and explain what happened, and say "but that hasn't stopped her from getting where she is today, and nor should it stop anyone" and be proud that Cerrie's not only overcome prejudice over the years, but been honest and open about herself and not hid herself from the cameras or the children.
I completely agree with an article written in the Guardian a few days ago, and I can add to that. What about the disabled children out there watching CBeebies? If they see someone make it into the world of television, that can only serve as an inspiration even more so, and that if the child then says "I want to be on telly like Cerrie!" then that might help break down more barriers. One of the recent campaigns about disability was to see the person, not their disability, and I couldn't agree more with that sentiment. I see Cerrie as she is, a bright, bubbly presnter with a big smile and a big heart, and who with Alex is going to be a great team for the little children out there. The more parents who come out and speak in support of Cerrie give me hope that we have moved on from the Dark Ages of how we treat disability.
Thought 4.32: 26 August 2008: One Hundred Years' Best Of Performance
I can't help but feel mighty proud to be British today. I've been looking back at the last two weeks of competition in the Olympic Games, and to say that any goals were surpassed was a bit of an understatement. No one expected the British to do so well, as the often misused phrase of "Team GB" was overdone by the BBC presenters, but it was almost as if every day brought about news of another medal and indeed another performance worthy of note. In an era when often some sports are all about money rather than actual glory, I don't know about anyone else but for me to see sportsmen and women compete and actually want to win for the pride of their country above all else was such a refreshing change to see.
Take, for example, the cycling team. They've set the standards for other British sports to follow now, surely? By basing all the cyclists at the world class facility that is the Velodrome in Manchester, it means that they all train and work together as a team and push each other on to new goals and even better performances and times, and that spirit and cameraderie between the team was plain to see. And did it pay dividends? Oh yes, on the track the cyclists were immense, easily winning the most gold medals of any nations and Chris Hoy landing three to boot, with heroic performances wherever you went. Indeed seeing two Brits against each other in the sprint finals was just poetry and showed just what can be achieved. If Chris doesn't get BBC Sports Personality of the Year, I'd like an inquest why.
Mind you, he'll have stiff competition. Rebecca Adlington's two golds in the pool were wonderful, she was expected to do well in the 800 metre freestyle, but no one expected her late surge in the 400 metres to snatch gold virtually in the last metre and with her team mate Jo Jackson in Bronze, that was a good start. And then she didn't just win the 800. Oh no. She only went and smashed the oldest swimming world record in the book and indeed one set when she was born, if that gives you any idea of the level of achievement. Her cheery personality with proper local accent (she's from Mansfield by the way) made for such enjoyable viewing, and her and Jo hugging BBC's Suzanne Dando is one of those moments to remember.
And staying with water, what of Ben Ainslie? Three golds in the last three games is a level of consistency only matched by Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent really. Sailing might not be a majority sport, but the level of dedication with most of their team based close by to each other also paid dividends, and I'm sure that they'll all be training at Portland in Dorset between now and 2012 to make sure that they are ready for all conditions that will be thrown at them there. Not just Ben though: the three Yngling girls (Sarah Ayton, Pippa Wilson and Sarah Webb) did the business, as did Paul Goodison in the Laser and Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson in the Star. The togetherness there showed in their end of event party, a real sense of family.
And maybe that's what track and field athletics needs to take from the sailing and cycling - the will to be as a team and indeed perform that way. Would have certainly stopped the baton dropping antics and indeed underperformance from several athletes tipped for medals. Christine Ohorougu aside, who did superbly, as did Germaine Mason in the high jump, what else did we really have to cheer about in the track and field? We despartately need performances here - it's the most high profile of all the Olympic sports on offer and one we need to really push on in.
But let's not dwell on that too much - that's for the future. What was great to see was lots of young talent giving their all and being rewarded, Louis Smith's bronze in the pommel horse being a case in point. If we can keep these sort of talents nurtured and fit for 2012, then we will have a chance of doing just as well at home. And if performing in front of a home crowd to your best isn't enough incentive, I don't know what is. It's good to see that the British idea of concentrating on sports that we're good at and targeting medals there I'm sure is part one of making sure we do well in four years' time. The second part is now to push on and make sure of more glory.
To put things into perspective, the performance at the Olympics was the best Britain have done for one hundred years, and back in 1908, the nation won medals by default in some sports because it was the only nation competing. In terms of numbers of competitors and competiton out there, this is by far the best we've done as a nation. The dedication, devotion and determination of those who've achieved should be an inspiration to those who want to take up sport and indeed be as revered as the heroes and heroines are now after their arrival home. It feels like something special did happen out there and I am sure that Nicole Cooke's early gold in the road cycling would have served as perfect fodder for inspiration and got everyone feeling that spirit together.
Suffice to say that it's not often you can say that Britain has done so well, but it's something to be proud of. And if those who've performed can do so again, then there's a chance that the nation might have something to celebrate come 2012. Just ask the English athletes in Manchester what it meant at the Commonwealth Games to be in front of the home crowd, and they'll tell you exactly how it felt, and having that sort of buzz is just what we need. Bring it on, and let's bring home the medals!
Thought 4.31: 01 July 2008: The CD Single Is Dead, Long Live Seven Inches
Just a musing really but I couldn't help but notice that even some of the diehard record shops in the centre of Manchester are deeming it more and more fit to declare the single officially dead. Well, okay, not quite so true in terms of the seven inches of vinyl, as you can still pretty much get those and if anything, the stock of the ubiquitous vinyl has increased in stock locally over the last year or two. However, it seems to me that the CD single seems to be getting more and more difficult to find, get hold of and purchase, and indeed play.
Inevitably downloads have played their part, and the one silver lining is that there are at least enough people out there paying for single downloads now to at least give the record industry some much needed impetus and the major players far too much cash. When you consider that the overheads for a download single are inevitably much lower than the CD single (no shipping or packaging for one thing) you'd think that the consumer would pay less, and indeed be able in some cases to get some of the B-sides as well, except you can't. Which then means that the real diehard fans lose out anyway as they'll inevitably buy the single for those B-sides.
It's surprisingly the CD single that's taken the most knocks though. Lots of bands and artists along with their record companies seem more content to use the maximum three formats for a single to make it up with two seven inch singles and a mere one CD, rather than the opposite trend many years ago. And indeed most CD singles are just two track affairs now than three or four tracks as they used to be - meaning value for money also inevitably drops somewhat. But it also makes you somewhat wonder that the vinyl singles are being bought mainly by indie kid diehards who are keeping the format much more alive - and with some aplomb.
In this crazy world we live in, the consumer is really not impressed with the CD single as a format anymore because it doesn't give as much value as it used to (dance singles had 4 or 5 mixes on the same CD, and many of my favourite artists would make the CD single a 4 track affair) and for the price of the difference between the single and B-side, it's much more convenient for them to just download the track that they actually do want. But I can't help feeling that some record stores have accelerated this death because the profit margin on that is much lower than a CD album - which is where the real money seems to be these days.
So, the CD single seems dead, but the seven inch single seems to be staying alive rather nicely. As someone who still adores the latter format just as much, it's good to see that some music traditions are at least alive and not all the world is going completely digital obsessed, it's rather reassuring in an analogue kind of way.