Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's a Funny Old Game

Creased up recently when I spied with my little eye a letter to the Editor in the EDP from a fellow Wroxham-ite, a Mr Potter of Hartwell Road (that's the posh part of Wroxham for you out-worlders) writes under the title: This boring game should be banned.

Although the accuracy of his assertion is questionable, his sentiments are to be applauded. Brian believes that football is a minority sport which enjoys an enhanced reputation chiefly die to the employment requirements of the nation's football journalists.

I sympathise. I've been banging on for ages about the pathetic standard of journalism surrounding football in the local press. Brian's advice to families to keep their children away from football matches if they want them to grow up to be decent citizens is hard to argue with.

Two anecdotes to illustrate the point. Charlton Athletic versus Colchester United at the “old” Valley was the first professional match I ever saw live. Students of the “funny old game” will know that the Valley could hold 100,000 spectators on the massive old terraces. There were only about two thousand of us present for a mid-week Division Three match.

What struck me was the language of the players. We are all used to lip-reading the antics of the foul-mouthed pros paraded on out TV's every week. In person, with only a few bored spectators between you and the players, the language bordered on the criminal. I thought, “What kind of a game is this where the object seems to be to out-filth the opponents and officials?” It's still the same today.

And, over my garden fence, my next door neighbour, who attends most of the Wroxham F.C. matches, recounted a football moment that illustrates the sort of people who play. Apparently, in a recent reserve team match, one of the Wroxham youngsters was smacked in the mouth by an opponent. Broke his jaw and removed a few teeth. Referee was trying to sort out a fight somewhere else on the pitch and didn't see anything. Luckily the referee's assistant did. Young lad is going to sue said thug. So he should. Hope he goes to jail. But, of course, the real problem is the game itself. Brian from Hartwell Road says that “ a few hundred thousand obsessed morons and drink fuelled idiots make the game a real pain in the butt”. Hard to argue with that.

Descent people don't go to football matches.

Brian reminds us that football started in the Middle Ages as a game for local ruffians in the streets of English villages. Not much has changed then.

I like his comment that football is boring and repetitive. He contends that for most of the game nothing much happens. Hard to argue with that.

When Brian insists that more people go to museums at the weekend than attend football matches, I presume he means professional matches. Otherwise he is telling “stretchers” (I'm sure you'll remember “stretchers” - that's what Mark Twain attributed to Huckleberry Finn as a replacement for lies – Huckleberry insisted he never lied – he just stretched the truth sometimes!) Perhaps Brian is a Twain scholar.

I like Brian's style and substance. His peroration that football is likely to die a well-deserved and early death - were it not for the obsequious attentions of the media - is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

The real solution is down in the grass roots. Why parents allow children as young as eight to play football is a mystery to me? Yes, let them kick a ball, but organise them into leagues, have cup competitions and endless fitness sessions? It's madness. So's the game.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Rooney, Woods and Petersen

Spoiled Brats?

What sounds like a rather high-class firm of solicitors from South Kensington is, in reality, a disturbing bunch of spoiled brats and poor role models.

We live, for better or worse, in a society where hype is not just important – it is everything. Disregarding the talent required to be a top sportsman, what is important is a good press. Some talent is good, but you don't really have to keep it up – a few good performances will do – then you can take it easy, for the media will continue seek you out and build you up. The result? Spoiled brats.

Rooney is a classic. More than Beckham he appears to have difficulty in stringing two sentences together. He has a face like the north end of a south-bound skunk. His only “talent” is on the football pitch. Unfortunately, he has forgotten what he is famous for. And, he is increasingly being “found out” by opponents. Instead of trying to compete with him on the pitch the opposition finds it far easier to wind him up. He spends most of the game arguing with either the officials, the opponents or both. He leaves little time to actually play football. Only Sir Alec Ferguson seems able or willing to get him top concentrate on football and keep his mouth shut. In Europe, or wearing an England shirt he is a liability. He is a talented muppet.

Tiger has lost the plot. Watching him “lose” the Masters reminded me of his character flaws. He is so universally acknowledged as the greatest golfer ever that he has begun to expect that the golfing gods will do exactly what he wants. When they don't, he pouts, cries, gazes plaintively at the heavens and throws his clubs about. Watching him fling his putter into the air on the sacred Augusta greens makes me wonder if anyone else did it would the members ban them? There are many less illustrious clubs where he would not be welcome.

It's a strange world when the best rapper is a white guy, Eminen, and the best golfer is a black guy, Tiger. Some of Tiger's petulance is the result of the media hype which he has begun to believe as gospel. He will win many more majors. I wish he was a better role model for young golfers and young people in general. The temper tantrums have no place in golf. I'd like to see more black people in golf. Maybe then Tiger wouldn't feel so “me against the rest”. In any event Tiger is only half-black. He's Asian on his mother's side.

Petersen has been reading too many of his acolytes press reports. He is a talented player. It's been rumoured before that he is not a “team player”. I'm beginning to think this is the case. He plays for Kevin, not the team. Yesterday was a good example. When the England innings stalled on the way to something near 300 – which might have been a winning score – our Kev decided that his quest for a one-day hundred must take precedence. A favourable position was thrown away as he pushed and prodded painfully to his century.

Likewise like our other two heroes, he has perfected the incredulous look when he is out. Commentators comment on his arrogance when batting. Less arrogance in his demeanour might not go amiss.

It's a shame when three talented sportsmen lose the plot. Let's hope they find it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

World Cup Woes

Surrender Anyone?

Cricket fans are a forgiving lot. Most are realists when it come to England's chances in the World Cup. Discounting the media-hype which surrounds almost all international sport now-a-days, knowledgeable fans will realise that the team is just not very good, or, perhaps just not good enough.

Nevertheless, it is important if any progress is to be made to understand why and where improvements need to be made. England have more professional cricketers than any other nation. This can be a blessing. It can also be a liability when selecting teams.

The fact is England seems to be the only country who picks a specialist one-day squad and ignores the Test team. Yesterday's defeat to Sri Lanka abjectly illustrates this policy.

All morning the news was afloat with rumours that Andrew Strauss would be recalled to the team as opener. Ed Joyce had failed and failed again. Strauss is a proven Test opener who “suffered” some very bad umpiring decisions and some “unlucky” dismissals in the one-day series against Australia. Joyce was his replacement and had only amassed a few decent scores. Pretty much a no-brainer there. Strauss to be recalled – Joyce to be dismissed. What happened? Nothing. Whoever was spreading the Strauss recall rumours ( maybe it was his Mum? ) shut up. Joyce played. Scored a few. Got out.

His opening partner, Michael Vaughan, faired little better. Cricketers and commentators all agree that when you are caught down the leg side you are a bit unlucky – particularly with the keeper standing up to a medium-pacer. Unlucky or not that's exactly what happened to Vaughan and his run of very low scores continued. Result? England on the back foot. Vaughan provides his own conundrum. Captaining the side expertly he engineered a gettable Sri Lankan total to chase. His own contribution to the cause was woeful. Unlucky or not.

Ian Bell flatters to deceive. The photo of him standing with his bat well-behind the popping crease and neatly poised a few centimetres above it should be pasted on every school notice board. Watching him bat is like watching a disaster unfolding. He may get a score – but it's not likely. When all that was need was for one top-order batsman to survive most of the innings and get 80 or 90 – he failed again.

Kevin Petersen is supposed to be the number one one-day batsman in the world. Crazy. He does score large hundreds, but mostly when they are not needed. Pressure? Don't think he handles it well. Murali slipped him the doosra, and Petersen lobbed it back to him. I don't like cricketers who behave like footballers. When they make a mistake or choose the wrong shot they should accept it. Petersen nearly cries. Or mutters an obscenity under his breath. Completely unacceptable. He's beginning to look like a prima dona – without the requisite talent and temperament.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Collingwood is a good county pro. He is neither a Test batsman nor a one-day specialist. If he's the best number five we have in England then it will be a long time before there is any improvement in results.

Flintoff hasn't recovered from the pedalo yips. I remember when he was a batting all-rounder who bowled a bit. Now he bowls but has forgotten the basics of one-day batting. He should be sentenced to watch his dismissal over and over and over. Attempting to slog a slower ball with two runs to your name and your team relying on you to salvage the match makes Freddie look just about as stupid as you can on a cricket pitch.

So it was left to Bopara and Nixon to get England close to the total. I was beginning to wonder what Bopara was doing in the side? I thought he would be bowling – but Collingwood does all that ( fairly ineffectually! ) and he never got a chance. At least he was up for the fight. If he is to make an impact next time around he needs to be bowling and batting. Time will tell if he's good enough.

Nixon will not be around long. He's too old and it that respect it is churlish to begrudge him a few days in the lime light. He did very well, but England should be playing a younger, more long-term keeper. If he was Duncan Fletcher's choice, then Dunc should follow him into honourable retirement.

It's possible that events may overtake my gloomy forecast. I hope so, but I doubt it. After the Aussies hammer us on Sunday, it should just be a matter of a few days before the lads come home.

Some joined-up thinking by the selectors and administrators in time for the next World Cup might not go amiss.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Climate Change Fascists

Who's Counting?

Watching a interview on television about climate change is as easy as turning it on. They are everywhere. Just turn the TV on – rather like buses there's bound to be one on the way. Whether or not it will make any sense of course is more problematical.

Fascists get a bad press. Deservedly. Queuing up to rubbish other folks ideas can be boring. Much easier just to label them or their ideas as fascist and save a lot of time. The climate change messiahs are getting to be bores in this regard. Their tactic: anyone who doesn't agree with their view is either incredibly stupid or on the payroll of the oil industry – and everyone knows what fascists they are.

One charmless chappie was on TV a few days ago arguing that anyone who didn't believe, as a matter of faith, in mankind's responsibility for carbon-based climate change was either a moron or, worse, a dangerous ideologue. These extreme views stifle debate. It's not a numbers thing. Just because many, or most, or a majority of scientists take a certain view does not make it correct. You can't have a vote on scientific principles. Either a theory has merit or it doesn't. Ask Galileo or Copernicus. Their minority of one proved to be the “correct” answer.

What's dangerous about these Ubermenshen is the virulence with which they present their arguments.

There are responsible scientists who genuinely believe that the major factor in global warming is burning carbon-based fuels. Some of them are open to an examination of their theses and a debate on the validity of their evidence. I have no quarrel with them. Their views are genuinely held and have some logical basis.

The climate fascists are in a different league altogether. They will not allow that there can be a debate, much less engage in it. Their language is meant to denigrate and ridicule the ideas they don't agree with. This is not only dangerous but downright evil.

What's so surprising is that so many people are taken in by this pseudo-science. In the name of science (but only climate-change science) only those who parrot the party line are in receipt of the research grants. Only those who think Al Gore is a prophet are allowed to roll the barrel or get their snout in the trough.

Not only is this bad science – it's bad for the future of the planet and the carbon-based units currently infesting it.