BBC Sports Personality of the Year: how to survive the two and a half hour marathon

An epic evening of montage and live sporting back-slapping with Gary Lineker, Clare Balding and Gabby Logan. Are you ready?

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It’s over two hours of primetime TV filled with shiny floors, sweaty palms, shifty arena audiences and awkward interchanges. No, I’m not talking about Thursday’s BBC Music Awards… I’m looking forward to Sports Personality of the Year – another marathon, not a sprint. 

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So, while Gary Lineker, Clare Balding and Gabby Logan keep the sporting love-in on course, here’s what to look out for – and how to keep awake until the big reveal.

Snacks… lots of snacks

Forget isotonic drinks, this is proper TV marathon territory, so you’re going to need sustenance to keep your head from lolling back onto the sofa. How about those little netbags of chocolate footballs? You can play keepy-uppy across the room during the long march through the arena to collect the awards.

Montage overdose

At the very least you’ll need a drinking game to get through the dewey-eyed sporting slow-mos. Backing music by Elbow? One drink. Footage “borrowed” from Sky Sports? One shot. Eddie Butler quoting Shakespeare? Down it!

Actually, let’s be frank: montages are the meat of Sports Personality, the only time when we don’t feel like we’re watching an X Factor/Question of Sport Cassetteboy mash-up. Remember this summer’s World Cup roundup? The bar has been set pretty high.

Laugh at the footballers

The beautiful game has always been badly treated by the SPOTY public. Only five have won the big glitzy camera since the awards started in 1954.

The players who do turn up tend to look a little embarrassed to be there. England stars especially will be burying their heads into their tuxedos or tapping sheepishly into their phone after their meek outing at the World Cup.

Follow the fashion

This is the one time of year when sports stars don’t have to wear a combination of corporate-branded tracksuit, padded lycra and flame-proof baby grows – and they make full use of it.

Whether anyone can match Sir Bradley Wiggins’s awesome double-breasted velvet number from 2012 remains to be seen. Lewis Hamilton will be all dapper dubs and Dubai bling, Max Whitlock will demurely cover his gymnast’s guns, while equestrian star Charlotte Dujardin could be the darling of the Daily Telegraph’s picture spread come Monday morning.

Awkward acceptance speeches

The world of professional sport is so slick, so perfectly puckered for the corporate sponsors, that it’s surprising how bad athletes can be when they actually open their mouths.

It should be obvious, really: even suave actors turn into mushy wrecks at the Oscars, so why should people who spends their entire lives trying to be a teeny bit faster than their opponent be any better? 

The BBC’s end-of-year knees-up has had some seriously ungainly moments over the years, especially since it turned from the quaint Sports Review to the massive arena show that is Sports Personality. 

Remember Zara Phillips saying how “amazing” it was to win – over and over and over again? Or Andy Murray’s painful video link in 2012, when he was caught staring at the third place trophy on live TV while Lennox Lewis waited for his cue? Savour these moments: it’s what you sat through all that gentile applause for.

Moan about who missed out

No Sam Burgess? Do me a favour! The man fractured his eye socket in the biggest rugby league match of his career. 

What about 16-year-old gymnast Claudia Fragapane? How many gold medals do you have to win to make the list?

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These arguments have been droning on since the shortlist was announced, but they’re worth reigniting on Sunday night. And, when the final result does come through, feel free to fight it out with your nearest, dearest and angriest Twitter trolls. #TeamHamilton or #TeamMcIlroy? You decide.