Tuesday, 13 January 2009


I was saddened by the death of David Vine, who was the longtime host of snooker, popping up when I desperately was looking for something to watch late at night. But I remember him best as the presenter of BBC's Ski Sunday. I used to watch them put the show together at some of the events I would do for ABC Sports in the 1980s, and I always got a kick out of seeing the finished product when I was back home in London.

That was because of David's knowing commentary, always added after the programme had been edited together. Remember, this was in the days before continuous splits on screen, but David would always be able to 'sense' that someone was having a 'fast' run: and that person would inevitably wind up one hundredth of a second faster than the fastest down the hill thus far.

The top skiers always go down the hill first, usually the first 15. So you knew that, if the BBC were showing someone who started 26th, or 39th, or 55th, there was a reason. Sort of like when I do the football highlights, and we show a kickoff, you know there's either a great return or a turnover. Except those are acknowledged as highlights.

If, when the coverage jumped from skier 15 to skier 26, and David said 'so and so hasn't had a great season thus far, but I have the feeling he's got a fast race in him today' you knew he would fly down the slope and wind up in (or near) the top three. Then when it jumped from number 26 to number 55, and David said, 'he's had a lot of trouble with this hill in practice' you called in the family to watch the inevitable crash.

Those were the glory days of TV sport, when mainstream channels chased the best events in all kinds of sports, all over the world, rather than throwing all their money at the biggest domestic ones, and relegating the rest to niche channels and occasional Olympics. There were great broadcasters with the knack for translating these sports to general audiences, and David was one of them. Even if the delay to Sundays gave him some help! He'll be missed.

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