A huge thank you to ITV4

Back in the days before Freeview, the spur for us to buy an On Digital receiver for our TV was Channel 4 dropping their coverage of the Tour de france. over the years I, along with the rest of the Tree family, had become increasingly drawn into the famous cycle race. And the only way of being able to follow the race was to watch Eurosport. A few years later, ITV4 came to the rescue, and subsequent years have seen July booked as TdF month.

However, the good folk at ITV have not left it at that. As well as increasing and improving coverage of the Tour of Britain, this year we have been treated to daily live and highlight coverage of one of the other Grand Tours – La Vuelta a Espana. Whilst it is clear that far fewer resources have been directed at this coverage that at the bigger cousin across the border, it has been delightful to follow – especially as the British Sky team have been running second and third in the race with Bradley Wiggins and the, to me hitherto, unrecognised Chris Froome. Like this year’s TdF, the final stages have been wonderfully exciting, with mere seconds splitting the top two riders. I am really looking forward to tomorrow’s final stage in Madrid.

So a huge thank you to the team at ITV4 for their commitment in promoting a sport which has a growing following in this country. With the Tour of Britain also beginning tomorrow, it is going to be a great end to the season. Thanks, and keep it up for next year.

Sport and parenthood

Cards on the table – I’ve never been a particularly sporty person. It may have had something to do with being short-sighted and wearing glasses from the age of five; coupled with the fact that my limbs never seemed to go quite where I wanted them to go or as quickly as I’d have liked. So I never developed the passion that many others have for football and cricket, either as a player or as a spectator. At school my most enjoyable sporting moments were in the sixth form, when we were introduced to playing badminton and basketball in the new school gym.

In adult life, though, I have developed a passion for watching certain sports, though not the standard British ones. I always loved watching skiing on TV, and a few years ago learned to ski at a (fairly) local indoor slope. In the early 90s I picked up Channel 4’s coverage of the Tour de France, initially for the views of the French countryside but then got drawn into the intricacies of the race itself, thanks to the expert commentary from Phil Liggett, Gary Imlach et al. I had never appreciated the team nature of Tour and its tactics until then. Amongst the other, more personal significances of the month (birthday, wedding and ordination anniversaries), July in our household is now Tour de France month, when catching the highlights on ITV4 is a daily fixture.

The third sport I got into, again thanks to C4, was American Football. I recall as a child seeing snatches of the Superbowl when Grandstand deigned to show very limited highlights on a Saturday afternoon (usually in the dead spot around 2 p.m.). I was fascinated. So when C4 started in the mid 80s and began showing an hour of highlights early on Sunday evening I got truly hooked. It was about the time our elder son was born, and he and I watched while my wife went out to the evening service at our church. Fast forward a couple of years and our younger son joined us both. Again, the thing that stuck me was the tactical nature of the sport, and the way in which different players specialised in bringing particular skills to their teams.

As a result, twenty five years on the three of us remain passionate about the National Football League. Each of us has our favourite team (all different) to follow. Our elder son lives in Canada where he can watch regularly on TV. Two weeks ago we travelled to Buffalo on a gloriously warm Fall day to watch the Buffalo Bills lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Our younger son watches mainly through the internet, but next Sunday we are off to Wembley to see the annual “International” full season game. Good times.

All of which goes to show how stuff we do in childhood, especially with parents, can affect and influence us later in life. What sports are you passionate about and what/who influenced you to be passionate about them? Has participating in sport, or watching it, taught lessons that were transferable to other areas of your life?