A tribute to John McCririck, by former Channel 4 Racing colleague and friend, Tanya Stevenson.
If horseracing is the canvas, John McCririck was the colour palette. They say all the world’s a stage and if that’s true, Mac would have won multiple Oscars. How do you pay tribute to a legend, my mentor and friend? We shared a strong mutual appreciation of all sport, all facets of the betting industry, politics, news and the will to have fun.
A confident, flamboyantly dressed, unnerved, cigar smoking exterior masked an extraordinarily self-deprecating interior. For me, it part powered the showman in him; the will to challenge our views and decisions with constructive alternatives and say that which we dared not. He drew on experience, knowledge and facts, plus a strong unrelenting opinion. He imparted his intensity, determination and forthright views to us all, especially me. He devoured the news, stripping cuttings from every paper, yet he greeted us with “what’s news?” - surely there wasn’t anything he had missed.
Our unlikely partnership was brought together through laughter, after a brash retort to one of his sharp toned demands, over 20 years ago. I loved that he gave us nicknames and I brandished mine with pride. Constantly I’ve been questioned: “how did you put up with Mac?” My reply was: “how did he put up with me?”
I once quipped: “Mac, were you given a dictionary for Christmas without please and thank you?” Giggles ensued - as actually, nothing could be less illustrative of the truth. He showered me with unwarranted praise together with a motivational: “Get on with it Female.”
Infuriatingly, he pushed my boundaries, as he did racing’s, yet without his help, constructive criticism and praise, where would the sport and I be now - certainly the poorer. Equal respect was given to him by Lords, Westminster and those clambering behind him as the camera rolled. He opened racing’s window to the world and the world looked right back in.
Throughout his life and his illness, his wife Jenny has been amazing - a rock, unperturbed, by time and events.
Knowledge is power and thus he was a superhero - mine and racing’s superhero.