Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock since Sunday afternoon or simply so engrossed in the commercial season, sorry I mean festive season, you will know that a certain motorcycle racer from Norn Iron was the runner-up in the BBC’s annual Sports Personality of the Year.
SPOTY is nothing other than a popularity contest voted for by the viewers - anyone with access to the internet or a mobile phone…and yes we do live in the era where Brexit and Trump actually happened so allowing the public to vote for their favourite is not necessarily a recipe for disaster but nobody, absolutely nobody, should be surprised by the results. And that makes the national ‘shock’ headlines even more laughable.
I’m flippant about it. I like all motorsport and a pinch of cricket, golf, football and so on, so I’m happy to duck in and out of watching the show. But with the added interest of one of ‘our own’ this year, the first time since piano-playing James Toseland entertained ten years ago, then I was definitely going to watch Mr Rea’s segment. Fortunately, it began just as I tuned in…
…and I felt proud watching our glorious sport being featured so prominently, even though the fizz of World Superbikes has long escaped. Nevertheless, the explanation about his achievement was short, punchy and a little disappointing. Kawasaki UK’s top brass must have been whooping throughout as their race replica ZX-10RR featured heavily. Cut to the studio and Jonathan Rea is introduced; riding down the aisle and onto stage on the 1000cc sportbike with suit, shirt, tie and helmet. He gets to the stage and bumps up before putting the non-race spec side-stand down. I’m enthralled. It’s like watching your wedding video back.
Former Liverpool footballer Kenny Dalglish was charged with reading the top three in reverse order so when the third-place envelope was opened and the Scotsman began reading, “In third place, Jon…”, then it went in slo-mo as I admittedly thought “is it? could it possibly be?”
“..nie Peacock”, his sentence continued. Oh well, I’m sure that chap deserves a place on the podium. Well done, Mr Peacock.
Dalglish went on, “Runner-up, Jonathan Rea.” Eh? Come again? Holy moly. The camera pans towards the three-time Superbike World Champion who (at least on the camera shot we saw) ignores his wife, beams and heads to the stage.
The betting men had boxer Anthony Joshua as their 1/7 favourite. He came in 4th, just 11 votes behind Paralympian Peacock but the most remarkable result of the night was made even more awesome when the results were announced and it turned out that Rea was just 3,000 votes shy of winning it - and had amassed more than 80,000 votes of his own! Can you imagine the uproar if that had happened? “Fix”, Twitter, national rags and sports ‘experts’ would have shouted. I mean most of them threw a wobbly when 50-1 outsider, four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah, freshly into retirement, took the trophy.
Well, I was delighted and my twitter feed was rammed with a collective warm embrace from motorcycling as a whole, the 3-time WSB champion was the King of two-wheels for an evening as every fan, influencer, media outlet and Northern Irish-habitant gushed with delight. As a motorcycling industry representative, I was chuffed. Of course the national headlines ever since have focused on the lack of Joshua voters or what Paula Radcliffe’s husband is supposed to have mouthed when Farah’s name was announced which is a shame but motorcycling has had its national day in the sun thanks to a ‘Rea of sunshine’. What if he wins his fourth title in a row, though?
Then we’ll all be voting again.
Congratulations to Jonathan Rea and his all-conquering Kawasaki team.