Steve Rider has been a household name in sports broadcasting for over 35 years, with significant tenures fronting Grandstand on the BBC and acting as ITV’s anchorman for their sporting coverage.
But regardless of whichever television channel you may find him on, a common theme that has threaded its way throughout his career has been his passion and enthusiasm for all things motorsport, and it is this that forms the basis of his (part) autobiography – My Chequered Career.
Across its 270-odd pages Rider has compiled just about everything he has seen happen in the sport, some from the perspective of the growing influence of television, and it makes for an entertaining read. Sort of.
The first half of the book is genuinely interesting and insightful. There are plenty of behind the scenes stories which illustrate the great lengths he went to in trying to achieve a stronger television profile for certain categories – setting up the first television deal for the British Touring Car Championship being one of them.
And yet, while Rider is more than a little keen to confess his admiration for the lower echelons of motorsport and those who compete in it, the vast majority of My Chequered Career is given over to Formula 1, its personalities, and his view of the sport.
Which is a shame because this amounts to nothing more than a retelling of everything he bore witness to on-track – and therefore everything most F1 fans have already seen – with little in the way of what was actually happening in terms of television production.
There is, for example, an inordinate amount of pages – 32 in fact – that concentrate solely on the 2007 season and it verges on becoming a mini-review with details of McLaren’s civil war and the ‘Spygate’ fiasco thrown in for good measure.
And the biggest televisual revelation in all this? After a shortage of serious British title contenders, Lewis Hamilton’s arrival in F1 attracted the highest viewing figures in years. Who would have thought it, eh?
Yes, there is the occasional insight into how rights were won and lost, how contracts were argued over, and yes, it does contain humorous anecdotes about some well-known drivers – Nigel Mansell’s oversized Canon baseball cap springs to mind – but unfortunately, these are few and far between.
In summary, it is not the most informative book you will ever read and it seems to lack focus and aimlessly plods along.
Shame, because if it followed the route it set out in the beginning – recollecting the goings on behind the cameras rather than what was being captured on them – then My Chequered Career would be well worth a look. Instead, it merely trundles through the foothills of averageness.
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: J H Haynes & Co Ltd (4 Oct 2012)