The Questionnaire: John Inverdale

John Inverdale, the BBC television and radio presenter and Daily Telegraph columnist, answers the SJA website’s Questionnaire, and reveals a hitherto unmentioned awareness of holes in the road and an admiration for Jonny Wilkinson’s hairstyle

What was your first sports journalism assignment?

Spending the day with Eric Morecambe at a Lords Taverners’ cricket day at Sleaford in Lincolnshire for the local evening paper, the Echo. I was his batman for the day and at the end of which he gave me a couple of quid for my train fare home.

What has been your most memorable or enjoyable assignment during your career?

The Rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg in 1995. A moment when you
thought (briefly) that sport really could be a force for good.

What is the latest task you have been working on – was it good, bad or indifferent?

The Open golf at Hoylake. It was more than good, and provided the moment when Tiger Woods suddenly won over everyone when he burst into tears at the 18th. Those who’d seen him as an ice-cold metronome in the mould of Sampras suddenly realised there was a human

If you did not work on sport, what do you think you might be doing?

I’d be a groundsman or a gardener, anything not to have to be in an office.

Which colleagues or managers have been most influential or helpful in your career, and how?

My first editor, Ron Wilkins, was a major influence. He had a catchphrase which was: “A good journalist is a man who walks down the street, sees a hole in the road and asks ‘Why?'”

What has been the best sports-related book you have read recently, and why?

Am currently reading Harry Thompson’s book Penguins Stopped Play about taking a band of reprobate touring cricketers around the world. Amusing and perceptive.

Name your greatest sporting hero, and why.

My dad. Otherwise I might never have been interested.

What changes in the business during your career have you most welcomed …and what changes in the business do you really dislike?

Progress just happens around you and it’s the nature of the beast. I’m a bit of a traditionalist in some things though, and I find the inability of people to spell turns me into a real Victor Meldrew.

Which sports journalist’s work do you look for first, and why?

Me. Because when you read your copy in the paper, it’s always different to how it looked on the screen. And it’s never good enough, and you wished you’d done it differently.

Jonny Wilkinson or Charlie Hodgson?

Jonny. Better hair style.