Magazine article The Spectator

The Glory of Rory

Magazine article The Spectator

The Glory of Rory

Article excerpt

I watched Rory McIlroy win the Open Golf last weekend (it was on Sky, so there was no Peter Allis and his reminiscences of clubhouse banter past; to my surprise, I missed him). What sportspersons need is ANF - attraction to non-fans. You might be a great admirer of, say, Ashley Cole, but his ANFrating is near zero. Whereas David Beckham and George Best are way up there, appealing even to people who hate football. We try to like Andy Murray, but his ANF is poor, whereas Roger Federer is a near-perfect ten.

Muhammad Ali had a terrific ANF, something no other boxer can approach.

Colin Montgomerie, who was commentating in the Peter Allis slot for Sky, has a low ANF, whereas the new US Open champion has it in spades, being young, good looking, resourceful, seemingly modest, and blessed with a talent that appears to defy nature. This quality goes beyond sport and becomes magic. You feel that if his ball landed in a tree, McIlroy's next shot would land within two feet of the hole. Miracles, that's what television likes.

And miracles are what it didn't get with Penn & Teller: Fool Us (ITV1, Friday).

Sometimes television executives bewilder me. They're like the people who play that pub game Richard Boston described. You have a beer mug filled to within an inch of the top, stand with your back to the bar and flip a coin over your shoulder. Then top it up with whatever you hit. Boston said the game ended in his pub when someone had to add liquor from a bottle of whelks.

That's how they must have put together this show, at random, but with only one inch of beer and lots of whelk juice. 'Gentlemen, in Penn & Teller we have booked probably the greatest magic act in the world. Penn Jillette is also a funny, commanding and experienced MC. So let's get someone else to MC for him - how about Jonathan Ross! He can tell his trademark jokes, such as "Backstage someone made my watch completely disappear. But I found it again - on eBay!" ' That'll get 'em going!

'And instead of having Penn & Teller perform their astounding illusions, we'll get amateur magicians from around the country. They can do creaky, old-fashioned turns involving magic cabinets, silk scarves and card tricks. Oh, and we could give P&T one short trick at the end. . . ' (Gosh, card tricks are dull, like recorder recitals. …

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