Rob Atkinson: A mixed bag of midweek TV sport for United and the Rhinos

Betfred Super League.'Leeds Rhinos v Hull FC.'Leeds Rhinos Kallum Watkins scores his second try.'8th March 2018.
Betfred Super League.'Leeds Rhinos v Hull FC.'Leeds Rhinos Kallum Watkins scores his second try.'8th March 2018.
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When the weather’s cold, a little live telly coverage of your favourite teams should be a distinct blessing; the opportunity to keep warm and snug instead of braving the latest unfriendly cold front direct from the Urals.

This week’s double-header of home games for Leeds United and Leeds Rhinos, though, both matches beamed into my cosy living room courtesy of Sky TV (other commercial broadcasters are available), was a mixed bag as far as blessings go. Sure, United’s comprehensive defeat to moneybags Wolves was not entirely unexpected, the six goal margin between the two clubs over this season fairly reflecting a massive gulf in class, effort and ambition. And, happily, the Rhinos got back to winning ways at the half-finished Emerald Headingley Carnegie against a Hull FC side not lacking in grit and application. Results-wise, it was not all bad news.

One annoyingly noticeable thing did emerge from watching United and the Rhinos two evenings running on the box. Those sports commentators do not like our city at all, do they? I’ve come to expect it with live coverage of United. They usually wheel out a reliable Leeds-hater as co-commentator, and every incident is seen through an anti-United magnifying glass. That’s par for the course, and no longer surprising – only the technology has changed over the past fifty years. The jaundiced view of the Elland Road club via the TV lens goes back easily that far. It’s something I’ve noted when watching live coverage of the Rhinos, too. The TV guys seem positively to ache for the opposition to prevail, and great is their woe if Leeds, as per their usual form, out-muscle their opposite numbers for a hard-earned victory. If the opposing side, as was the case with Hull FC on Thursday evening, put up a brave showing and arguably deserve better than defeat, then explosions of grief and rage from the commentary box punctuate the evening, much to the delight of this particular viewer. I must admit that such blatant bias enhanced the victory, for me anyway, over a Hull side that seemed to get the rough end of a few decisions. Them’s the breaks, lads, I thought to myself, smugly. Better luck next time. Meanwhile, the pundits and commentators were glumly wondering out loud how on earth the Rhinos had emerged winners; it was clear that they had not enjoyed the spectacle.

In a funny sort of way, the negative coverage of both clubs evened itself out over the two evenings’ sporting entertainment; irritated as I had been by the gloating over United’s comprehensive defeat, so the wailing and gnashing of teeth that accompanied the Rhinos’ victory calmed that hangover sense of resentment.

Clearly, and this is something I hadn’t previously realised, the ideal therapy after another United loss is a good win against hefty opposition for the Rhinos. Sadly, it rarely works out that way, not on consecutive evenings, anyway. But it was surprising how watching the unlucky Hull lads being trampled to defeat at Headingley eased the pain of another meek surrender at Elland Road by a United side who have clearly not yet absorbed their new coach’s footballing philosophy.

Perhaps the time will come – next season, maybe? – when those of us who follow Leeds in both types of football will be served up with scintillating victories and dominant performances by both of our favourite teams, on a regular basis. That would be quite lovely – not for the telly lads, of course, but we wouldn’t lose any sleep over that. After all, if we’re going to be stuck with broadcasting personnel who can’t abide our favourites, then at least let us lap up and enjoy their discomfiture when the lads win.

That’s what the Rhinos provided for us this past week – so come on, United. It’s up to you now to do the same.