The week in audio: Allen Stanford: The Man Who Bought Cricket; Poison; And far…; Athlético Haché | Podcasts
Allen Stanford: the man who bought cricket | BBC sounds
Poison (BBC Radio 4) | BBC sounds
And far … | Audible
Athletic Haché | play.acast.com
In 2008, a black helicopter landed on Lord’s Cricket Ground, an area of grass commonly referred to as “holy turf”. From there emerged Allen Stanford, a great brash American. To say that was unusual is an understatement. It wasn’t just the helicopter, but also that someone who was not a Lord’s member was allowed to set foot on the sacred green stuff. “Trying to get into Lord’s is tough enough,” recalls former England captain Nasser Hussain. “As a captain, I couldn’t walk across the long hall to take a look at the pitch.”
No such restrictions for Stanford. After being warmly greeted by the bigwigs of the England and Wales Cricket Council, he made his way inside the building to a large plexiglass box. There, the gathered media took his picture, as he smiled alongside Ian Botham, Viv Richards and the guys from the ECB. The box was in the front and center, because inside the box, in neat piles of $ 50 bills, was $ 20 million.
Money was not (just) a gimmick. It was a prize. Stanford was funding a unique Caribbean cricket match between England and its own handpicked West Indian team, the Stanford Superstars. The winning team would take all of the contents of the box. “What if you lose?” asked a reporter. “Nothing, absolutely nothing,” Stanford said. Incredibly, the ECB was up for it. “We were just pissed off,” recalls Jonathan Agnew, the BBC’s cricket correspondent. “It’s not cricket, it’s everything cricket isn’t.”
Allen Stanford: the man who bought cricket is the second and much better series in the podcast section of Radio 5 live The weirdest crimes in sport. The first series, you may remember, was about the kidnapping of the racehorse Shergar. This series was narrated by Vanilla Ice. This time our host is more… expected. Greg James, host of the Radio 1 breakfast show, is well known as a big fan of cricket and co-hosts a popular podcast on the subject, Tailenders. And there he is clearly having fun. It’s a nice thing.
Despite its sporting title, we could classify this podcast as a familiar schaden fraud slot machine, alongside other big shows such as The dropout and WeCrashed. They all go like this: a small town joke with a huge ego turns into a huge bullshit that makes its way into a lot of money. Then everything goes wrong. This is the “fraud” side. The ‘schaden’ part is not only provided by the central figure who is downcast, but also by the fact that we make fun of all the important people who are willing to tie their money and reputation to such an obvious charlatan. Fun here is provided by the leading members of the England and Wales Cricket Council. You may have guessed (or remembered) that the connection does not end well.
James is an excellent host, carefully maneuvering between cricket acronyms, FBI investigations and general silliness. His script sometimes over-explains – did we really need a deconstruction of your old “So what attracted you to billionaire Allen Stanford?” ” to joke? – and I would have been happier with a slightly cleaner cut and a shorter series. But these are extremely entertaining things, brought to life by James’s warm interviews and presentation.
Another bullshit man is, unfortunately, former South African President Jacob Zuma. In Poison, a short series in the 15-minute-after-lunch slot of Radio 4, Andrew Harding unveils Zuma’s bizarre obsession with being poisoned. It’s also a very interesting story, but it had the opposite problem to the Allen Stanford story: there were times when we needed more context and explanation. Just a date, or a quick synopsis of Zuma’s rise to power, or what he was being sued for. Perhaps the 15 minute slots were not the right format for this compelling story. He might have had a little more time to breathe.
A little detour: I spent some time in bed last week, and I can recommend, both for this situation and for most others in life, the touching and funny autobiography audiobook of Bob mortimer And far … Mortimer, who reads it himself, has spotty delivery, sometimes swallowing his words, but when he steps into a silly character he’s absolutely hilarious. And for those who might protest that this isn’t a podcast or a radio show (it’s audio, of course), may I push you to the long-running podcast of Mortimer with Andy Dawson, Athletic Haché? I hadn’t listened to it in a while, but it’s still so crazy and giggling, with the couple making made-up stories about “Mr” Sting being tragic about his lute, Jeremy Corbyn being mean about a runner’s medal and more. If you liked the stranger characters of Vic reeves Great evening, then this one is for you.