I never was much good at book reviews, the reason for this is two fold, 1-I’m not very good at reviews, 2-I don’t read many books. This was changed for a week when I was given this as a gift after my mother, who knew I was a huge fan of the Radio 5 Show “Fighting Talk”. The show is a sports show on BBC Radio 5 on a Saturday morning during the English football (soccer) season with the show running from September to July taking a 12 week break at the start of July (in fact the current season has effectively finished, with just a special left for the year). The shows basis is as a comedy sports quiz, with the pundits (players) being rewarded points for the funniest or best answers for the questions asked by the host (current host is one of the co-writers of the book Colin Murray).
The show is known for the bizarre answers and sweeping statements (hence the sub-title of the book) with answers including “Filth” as a one word answer for former Tennis player and current sports host Sue Barker. The show has included people like Steve Bunce (Boxing Journalist), John Rawling (Boxing Commetator), Gregg Brady (Canadian radio Host) the immortal German comedian Henning “In it to win it” Wehn, Austarlain comedian Jim Jeffries, journalist Will Buckley among many others. The show was started in 2003 hosted by Johnny Vaughan (the second of the co-writers of the book) before Christian O’Connell did the second series Colin Murray took over then and has effectively been the chair of the comedy counsel.
So enough about the show, the book (as said previously) is written by current host and former host in the vein of Colin Murray and Johnny Vaughn and is effectively a continuation of the show. The book is organised in an alphabetic fashion starting with A and talks about random sports people in little paragraphs. The first one is former baseball super star Hank Aaron and mentions a few things of when he was chasing Babe Ruth’s home run record. The book finished on “Zoo” (the magazine) as they seemed to be desperate for something to write about, but the guyish themes continue through out, and to a fan of the show the 279 pages don’t last long or do they fail to make you laugh.
The book breaks up the alphabet based parts with several other parts such as:
Stats (such as “England World Cup and European Championship Official songs relative to the Tournament Performance”,) to see if there’s any correlation between the successfulness of the songs and England’s performance.
Q & A’s With people related to the show, the first one is Johnny Vaughan’s but the best (by a long way) is the aforementioned German legend who’s answers made me make a complete fool on the train home from work. Every answer made me laugh like some sort of manically insane fool, just as a treat I’ll copy one or two of them here (credit is to Henning Wehn and the books authors).
“After football, what sport do you think makes for the best bits of fighting talk?
British failure in any sport leads to great fighting talk. Referees, playing surfaces, weather…”
“Favourite person in sport?
Stuart Pearce, Gareth Southgate” (Who both famously missed penalties against the Germans)
Fighting talk awards… which are for things like Greatest Jockey and has two nominations (some have 3 I think, I’m not going to check the entire book again but I think 1 has 3). The greatest Jockey one for example compares Lester Piggot who “Fell out with every one of his employers” and called one trainers horse “useless” to Charles Smirke who’s said to have “an inability to take his employers seriously” and had an “overwhelming desire to take the piss out of Sir Gordon Richards”. Though the best award is (for personal reasons) the award for “Tilting at Windmills”; which is about the infamous “golfer” Maurice Flitcroft, who many may remember as the worst golfer ever. The guy who turned up at the Open at Royal Birkdale and…well made a Berk of everyone involved, shooting an amazing 49 over par. At the time he worked at Vickers/Vsel/BAE (whatever it was called back then) at Barrow in Furness, the same place as my grandfather.
The book also sets the reader “Homework” much like the text-in part of the show, in which the host gives the audience a question to answer and they read out the best ones. This is just a bit of fun and has questions like “Can you suggest other sporting people that might fit into a family unit?” and gives a few answers as well. A nice side track to the solid sporting facts of the book.
The book like the show doesn’t limit the sports involved nor does it hold it’s punches with regular jibes at people like former contestant Stan Collymore who was embroiled in a huge scandal involving the act of “dogging” (urban dictionary it if your that interested). As well as several quotes that were humorously added such as Alan Shearers description of winning “A good habit to get into” (though thankfully he didn’t as Newcastle manager last year).
So how is the book now I’ve described what it is, well to a fan of the radio show it’s a guaranteed success with a laugh a minute with references to the show, to sports fans who’ve not heard the show they should find it amusing and interesting, To those with no sports interest I’d advise you give it a random glance in the book shop before you decide whether to buy it or not as you may like the male based humour. The books incredibly easy to read and genuinely enjoyable which makes laughing at what’s in it so much fun.
The humour of Vaughan and Murray shows through out as does the shows sense of free spirited sporting punditry which gives it an often off beat feel. The language for some maybe a little spicy (the occasional bad word here and there, but with little real malice towards the reader), though the book is a blokes book at heart. Not really aimed at girls (though Claire Balding does do a Q & A and is one of the few women on the show).
Overall the books incredibly fun, if a little on the short side, which makes you also want a sequel, but I feel we may be a few years from that, so for the people who are going to give it a look, I’d advise you try and get some of the podcasts from bbc.co.uk and give the show a listen.
Notes: On a check through looking for a quote, there is at least 3 “awards” with 3, and one with 7 nominations (Fattest pro golfer) and at least 4 awards with only 1 nomination.
The quote in the title is taken from the book, it’s Ricky Hatton talking about Roberto Duran Full quote:
“Any fighter at any weight? It would have to be Hands of Stone, Roberto Duran, because you always wonder how you would have got on against your idol. Although I have to say, I think he would have killed me”.
A biographical piece on Duran can be read on the following link:
Summary: Fighting talk…but as a book