As festive traditions go, the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award is right up there with feigned delight at another pair of socks (“you shouldn’t have, nan”) and Brussel sprouts as a British Christmas institution.
In truth, it’s more of a corporate back-slapping exercise for the Beeb and their ‘sponsors’, but if you put that on the adverts then there wouldn’t be many people tuning in.
This year’s extravaganza takes place on Sunday, and the bookmakers have already installed Anthony Joshua as their warm favourite – indeed, he is as short as 1/9 in places.
But is he worth taking on? There is an alternative for punters to consider.
Hamilton Poised for Surprise Victory?
The bookies very rarely get these things wrong, and so nobody should be surprised if Joshua does take the crown.
But we have to ask ourselves this question, and it’s certainly one we wouldn’t dare say if AJ was close by: has he really been taken to the hearts of the British public?
We say that because his fights are hidden away on Sky Sports’ Box Office channel, and if you look at the number of sales it’s a fair point. Okay, so the Joshua-Klitschko bout broke all sorts of records (aided by a huge German audience), but the follow up – AJ’s tawdry win over Carlos Takam – saw takings well down on the Wembley showpiece.
It may just be that Joshua hasn’t quite sunk into the consciousness of the wider British public as we might expect.
Boxing has a decent record in the Sports Personality history books, with the likes of Joe Calzaghe, Lennox Lewis and Henry Cooper getting their hands on the trophy, but that pales in comparison to Formula One’s incredible return from the event.
F1 has secured an incredible 14 podium finishes in this competition, with seven winners (Lewis Hamilton, Damon Hill x2, Nigel Mansell x2, Jackie Stewart and Stirling Moss), six runners-up spots and a third place. For whatever reason, there is a genuine synergy with the voting public.
And that’s intriguing, because Hamilton is the 8/1 second favourite this year.
As well as winning this event in 2014, Hamilton also has a pair of runners-up finishes to his name, and while he has a couple of factors that you would imagine might go against him – living in America (hey, the British people voted for the xenophobic Brexit after all!), and the fact his sport is another hidden behind Sky Sports’ paywall.
But you could argue that his achievement in 2017 of winning a fourth F1 world title is the equal of anything he has done in the past, so by that reckoning there is no reason why he shouldn’t be in with a great shout of winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year prize.
It’s amazing that an athlete as decorated as Mo Farah has enjoyed such minimal success in this event.
A solitary third in 2011 is all the Mobot has to show for his efforts, although that is notable given that he accumulated plenty of votes in a non-Olympic year; both 2012 and 2016 were dominated by Olympians.
It’s been a stellar year for Farah, who picked up a knighthood, won World Championship gold and triumphed in the Great North Run. In a scarce field, he must be worth backing at 7/2 to secure a top-three finish.