# Social net working: football ratings 2.0

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Rating player performance in football (soccer for you Phillistines) games has always been a fairly arbitrary affair. It’s difficult, unless you’re going to count every pass, tackle and off the ball run, to get a fair measure on the contribution of players not directly involved in putting the ball into the back of the net – and what about all those build ups where a striker fails at the last hurdle?

Now, Luís Amaral, a “complex-systems engineer” at Northwestern University in Illinois, has applied social networking styled analysis to the interactions between players that lead up to shots on goal.

An avid soccer fan, Amaral wanted to measure team and player performance in a way that takes into account the complex interactions within the team and each player’s contribution. So he turned to an unlikely source: social networks. Applying the kinds of mathematical techniques used to map Facebook friends and other networks, Amaral and colleagues created software that can trace the ball’s flow from player to player. As the program follows the ball, it assigns points for precise passing and for passes that ultimately lead to a shot at the goal. Whether the shot succeeds doesn’t matter. “There’s lots of luck involved in actually getting it in,” Amaral explains. Only the ball’s flow toward the goal and each player’s role in getting it there factors into the program’s point system, which then calculates a skill index for each team and player.

The results:

When the researchers used the program to analyze data from the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship, the indices closely matched the tournament’s outcome and the overall consensus of sports reporters, coaches, and other experts who weighed in on the performances.

# Separated at Birth: the World Cup game, and Steven Seagal

The World Cup has been producing ample fodder for one of my favourite games (which is probably pretty frustrating for other people) I like to call it “hey that guy looks like…”

Here’s an example. The Dutch manager Bert Van Marwijk looks almost exactly like former WWE wrestler Ric Flair…

In unrelated television – Master Chef regular Neil Perry looks exactly like Steven Seagal.

Especially when the latter plays a chef in Under Siege:

Here are Neil Perry’s knife skills on display (in text form) from a Q&A on taste.com.au:

“I love the way you cook and no matter how I try I can’t chop herbs fast or very fine without cutting my fingers. Can you give me some tips on how to chop as well as you do?”

The main thing to remember is to use a slicing action with your knife as opposed to a chopping action. By this, I mean keep the tip of the knife firmly glued to the board and cut/slice in flowing movements. Also, keep your finger tips tucked out of the way at all times. Use the middle knuckle of your fingers as a guide for your knife to lean against and make sure that any part of your fingers below that knuckle are tucked in.

And here, for your viewing pleasure (though it’s probably M rated) are Steven Seagal’s knife skills on display.

And, in a bizarre twist, St-Eutychus has a world exclusive linking the two men, and perhaps establishing that they are in fact the same person…

Neil Perry is the leading Australian endorser of a Japanese brand of knives called Shun knives. Shun knives are made by the Kai Corporation, who in America trade as Kershaw Knives, who just happen to be the manufacturers of the knife Steven Seagal designed.

That’s right. Same knife company. Same hairstyle. Same face. Same Asian flavour. Same person… you be the judge…

Do you have any World Cup lookalikes for me?

# New South Wales State of Origin Player Ratings

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Out of ten:

1. Jarryd Hayne: 1
2. Brett Moris: 3
3. Beau Scott: 1
4. Matt Cooper: 1
5. Joel Monaghan: 1
6. Trent Barrett: 1
7. Mitchell Pearce: 1
8. Michael Weyman: 0
9. Michael Ennis: 1
10. Brett White: 3
11. Nathan Hindmarsh: 0
12. Ben Creagh: 0
13. Paul Gallen: 1
14. Tom Leoroyd-Larrs: 1
15. Luke O’Donnell: 2
16. Kurt Gidley: -10

I can’t even remember who the other player for New South Wales was. He must have been invisible. If more than three of these players are picked next year we’ll lose again.

# Vuvuzelas and how to boost Australia’s 2022 World Cup Bid

Ahh, the Vuvuzela. What a profound choice to be the symbol of this World Cup. When we forget the teams that come 2nd to 32nd we will remember them. Their atonal sound (or b-flat tonal apparently – my wife used her iPhone piano to figure it out, and wikipedia confirms it)drowns out every other memory I have of any on field action in the six games I’ve watched so far.

The wikipedia article is in the throes of comedic vandalism as fans turn to the web to vent. Here’s what was in the description when I visited a few minutes ago:

“Vuvuzelas have been controversial.[1] They have been associated with permanent noise-induced hearing loss,[2] cited as a possible safety risk when spectators cannot hear evacuation announcements,[3] and potentially spread colds and flu viruses on a greater scale than coughing or shouting.[4][5] Commentators have described the sound as “annoying” and “satanic” [6] and compared it with “a stampede of noisy elephants,”[7] “a deafening swarm of locusts,”[8] “a goat on the way to slaughter”[9] and “a giant hive full of very angry bees.”[10].

The sound level of the instrument has been measured at 127 decibels[11][2] contributing to football matches with dangerously high sound pressure levels for unprotected ears.[12] A new model, however, announced on 14 June 2010, has a modified mouthpiece which is claimed to reduce the volume by 20 dB(A).[11]”

Here is an excerpt of Wikipedia’s description of their sound:

“BBBBBBBZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ”

Some culturally sensitive numbskulls are suggesting that the Vuvuzela is a cultural icon. It’s not. There’s nothing uniquely South African about an annoying plastic trumpet that only plays one note. It’s not old enough to constitute “culture.” Claiming that the Vuvuzela is the epitome of South African culture is the equivalent of claiming Justin Bieber as the pinnacle of US music.

But look out – the vuvuzela has been given out to so many people free of charge that it’s probably going to be making its way back to your home country, where it may invade your favourite sport. If I were Australian Customs I’d be adding them to the dangerous goods list…

What Australia needs for its 2022 World Cup bid is an iconic national instrument that barely anybody plays, that requires little effort to pick up, and that would make an annoying noise if played en masse. I propose the wobble board. It’s cheap, readily adaptable for commercial purposes, and has an element of cultural cringeworthiness attached to it. Rolf Harris could be the face of our bid.

That’s culture.

It’s even in our national museum. It’s not some fly-by-night pretender to the cultural crown.

# A Beginners’ Guide to Enjoying the World Cup

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Ben is considering jumping on the World Cup bandwagon. I thought I’d lend a brother a hand with my guide to enjoying the World Cup. I’ve played a fair bit of football in my time, and watched as much, and played video games (including the boring ones where you manage a team). So I consider myself an expert. I was once almost a sports journalist too… if that counts.

So here’s what you’ll need to do (please note, several of these can be easily faked in order to convince your colleagues that you’re into the World Cup).

1. Know the format. The World Cup has 32 teams, arriving after an extensive qualifying campaign. These teams are arranged into “groups” of four. These groups play each other once (so three games) and two teams from each group go through to the knockout round of 16, then there’s the quarter finals, then the semis, then the final.
2. Know that the World Cup is a big deal. It’s the biggest event in the world. It has history. We’re just late to the party.
3. Call the game “football” for extra snob points, and insist others do the same.
4. Know your team. Presumably you’re an Australian. So picking the team you’re going to support has only been this easy twice before. Australia plays a pretty physical brand of the game, low on skill (arguably) high on passion (read “aggression”). We’re marathon runners, not sprinters. It’s tortoise and hare stuff…
5. Decorate your office, your cubicle, your car, and your home. If you want to avoid awkward conversations with colleagues that might reveal your ignorance the more over the top the better. Framed jerseys on your cubicle wall are a great idea. Nobody will talk to you if you appear more fanatical about it than they are. Green and gold streamers are the order of the day. Soccer ball hair cuts are also pretty good.
6. Practice your cliches. This is sport. Puns about foreign players’ names are fair game. Sporting cliches are a must.
7. Know the rules of football, or at least the ones where people commonly yell at the ref and debate points of order. The offside rule is a big one. Before someone passes the ball the player they pass to must have two players between them and the goal (usually one is the goalkeeper). The people responsible for upholding this law are the linesmen (or referee’s assistants). Yell at them whenever they make a call, or don’t make a call, whichever one is in your team’s favour. Any time a player from the other team does something that looks a little nasty to one of your players yell “CARD HIM” at the TV. It doesn’t help. Yellow cards are called “bookings” they’re a warning, though if you get enough you get suspended. Red cards are send offs and automatic suspensions. Two yellow cards = a red. Anytime one of your players gets tackled in the box in front of the goals yell “PENALTY.”  That box is the 18 yard box – it’s marked with lines, there’s a second, smaller box, the six yard box, that only indicates where goal kicks are taken from. Goal kicks are taken when an attacker kicks the ball over the back line.
8. Pick your second team. Lets face it. It’ll be a miracle if Australia make it past the group stage. They’ve got probably the second toughest group in the competition. I’ll include a guide to teams that might win it (because who wants to back a loser?) below.
9. Practice pronouncing foreign names credibly. There’s probably a pronunciation guide somewhere.
10. Pick a third team, a likable underdog. It’s not us. We’re not likable. We’re bullies and whingers. Mostly. African teams get bonus likability points this time around because the cup is in South Africa. New Zealand are likely to go very badly. Honduras is my third team.
11. Remember that the games are televised at 12am and at 4.30am. Familiarise yourself with the TV schedule, don’t try to watch two games in one night if you have a day job. Unless you can get your boss into it.

The ten teams I think might have a chance of winning (in no particular order)

1. Brazil – tend to win every couple of World Cups, it’s probably their turn.
2. Spain – they have two great strikers (Torres and Villa).
3. Argentina – they have the best player in the world (Messi) and a couple of decent attackers. Otherwise they’re pretty average. If Messi fires in the big games they’ll be right.
4. Portugal – they have Cristiano Ronaldo, who some believe is better than Messi. They came fourth last time around.
5. France – finalists last time around, winners in 1998, don’t have Zidane this time around.
6. Italy – the reigning champions
7. The Netherlands – play a nice brand of football.
8. C’ote D’Ivoire – I had to pick an African team, if Drogba, their striker, is fit, they’ll be a tough team to beat. But they are in the group of death – with Brazil and Portugal.
9. Greece – they won Euro 2004 six years ago, but are really only in this list to pad it out to ten so that I can then insult England by leaving them out…
10. Germany – they’re in our group, they have no superstar but a bunch of 8/10 type players who work with German efficiency.

Don’t back England. They never win. They show such promise, and then are rubbish. Players have brain explosions and get sent off, their strikers forget how to shoot, Murphy’s law applies to England in World Cups.

# Theatre of Crushed Dreams

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Ahh. Sport. Home to such brilliant examples of myopic legalism…

Did you hear the one about the guy who pitched a perfect game on Wednesday (US time) – except that an umpire missed a pretty obvious out on his final play, calling the batter safe and crushing the dreams of the young pitcher? No. Well, the Major League Baseball administrators had to consider whether or not to overturn the decision giving this kid an achievement as rare as hen’s teeth (there have been 21 in history – but three in the last month), and they decided not to. Check out the story.

But better than that… The World Cup comes around once every four years. It’s the biggest event in sport (despite what the Olympic PR machine might say). North Korea (who probably should have known better), decided that the arbitrary three goalkeepers in a squad of twenty-three was excessive. So they named two, and picked a young striker to double as a goalkeeper, in the unlikely event that his presence between the sticks was required.

The catch is, that this player must play in goals. I didn’t know that was a rule. I thought goalkeepers could swap upon notifying the referee… but a 27 year old from a nation that isn’t a guaranteed qualifier for any future World Cup, ever, has had his dreams have been crushed by sporting administrators applying the letter, not the spirit, of the law. Brilliant. Here’s hoping the other two keepers get injured forcing him to make a stirring, Hollywood style debut between the sticks, only to win the World Cup for Korea. Then, in the celebrations, Kim Jong Il will adopt him as his heir. It could happen…

# How to give Melbourne something to play for

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So the Storm are thinking about appealing the decision to not allow them to earn points this season. Fair enough. I have an idea that will add drama to the Storm’s season and give them something to play for. Put them on negative 30 points. Let them play for the standard two points per game. But make it double or nothing. If they don’t reach 0 points by the end of the year, kick them out.

# Godwin’s Storm

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It didn’t take long for the Storm to be compared to Adolf Hitler. It’s just a shame the Downfall parody videos have been removed from YouTube. Hitler’s reaction would have been typically irate.

“To put yesterday in perspective, the Melbourne Storm fraudsters have achieved something that Kaiser Wilhelm couldn’t achieve, nor Adolf Hitler nor Hideki Tojo. The list of rugby league’s premiers runs uninterrupted through the two world wars they triggered and should have run proudly into infinity. But, as of yesterday, two breaks appear in that noble lineage, for the years 2007 and 2009. Now the words “No Premiers” appear where previously the Storm had been.”

Quality journalism from the Australian.

# Storm in teacup

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So the Melbourne Storm were cheating the salary cap. Hands up who was shocked by the news that a team boasting so many representative players was rorting the salary cap…

No hands?

Didn’t think so.

I guess this makes the Might Manly Warringah Sea Eagles back-to-back champions.

# It pays to pay attention

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If you’re a sporting correspondent keeping viewers up to date with the happenings in a match – it pays to know more than the show’s anchor who’s crossing to you about the happenings of the match you’re watching.

# Mad Skillz: Kutz on how to play international roller hockey

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Of all the people in all the blogosphere Kutz is the only person I have lived with in Brisbane. Tim also blogs, and Mattias used to. I also work with Kutz. And go to the same college. And we play futsal together, and very soon we’ll play football together.

For a guy who almost staged a coup on my only claim to presidential authority (QUT Christians in 2005) we get on surprisingly well and spend a lot of time together. Kutz is a deep thinker, who I think sometimes thinks so deeply he gets lost in his own thoughts while trying to articulate them. Lots of people know Kutz – both online and in the real world. His two greatest personal achievements are convincing his wife to marry him and playing international roller hockey – that’s my assessment not his. How many sporting internationals do you know? I can count them on two fingers. While the cynics out there might think that picking an obscure sport to play is kind of cheating – Roller Hockey is hard core (I watched a tournament once) and Kutz was a standout.

Anyway, here are his tips on how to be awesome at Roller Hockey. He gets extra points for diagrams – though I suspect he was making them when he should have been writing a sermon.

I’m Kutz and I’m an ex roller hockey player. Hoquei em patines, for those Spaniards among you.

Roller hockey is awesome. You take 5 steps, and then all of a sudden you’re already going fast. Seriously. You don’t need to keep running. You just roll. Your legs are still. And yet you’re still going fast. A beautiful concept. Add to this the feeling of smashing someone into the wall, flicking a ball into the top corner (probably on the keeper’s stick-side) and getting to hit a ball (and, on occassion, other people) with a stick and how can you go wrong?

Now, I used to play with a team of guys: Michael, Les, Dion, Matty, Serge (my bro), Chris, Peter and some others.

Michael’s top 5 rules were:

Rule #1 – Hit Dion
Rule #2 – Hit Dion
Rule #3 – Hit Les
Rule #4 – Hit Dion
Rule #5 – Hit Les

Fun rules they were too. They aren’t, however, mine.

My Five best* tips for playing roller hockey. (And these are genuine, and hence will interest only a very few of you.) (They will also mostly be team, not individual, principles. That’s because that’s all my dad taught me.)

1. In negative sports**, a strong defence that puts some pressure on the opposition is the key to winning. So defend tightly, and communicate well.
2. Don’t give away the ball close to the halfway line. Breakaways goals are imperative to avoid.
3. If you’re trying to score, the hot-spots to skate to are here. (see diagram)
4. When defending man-on-man (ie, you’re marking a specific player, not defending in a zone) skate in straight lines, roughly parallel to your penalty box lines. Skating in straight lines gets you there faster than skating in curves.
5. Try to make your team-mate look good. If everyone on the team has this mentality, hockey is a beautiful thing.
6. 6. (Unofficial, but vital) Don’t drop the soap in the showers.

Nathan’s asked me to tell you now how applying these 5 tips will change your life. I would suggest that after intense thought and application these principles will simply confuse you if you try to use them while learning to play hockey. Our coach Eduard Karayan (ex-pro in Italian league) just let us go and have fun. So we did. :)

* May change after more than 10 minutes of contemplation.
** A ‘negative sport’ is my short-hand for a sport where in any given attacking phase it is more likely that the attacking team will not score than that they will score. Ie, football(soccer). A ‘positive’ sport would be something like basketball where the expectation is that more likely than not the attacking team will score from their attack.

# On entertaining violence

Craig’s UFC post has opened up a philosophical can of worms. The discussion continued in real life at our Queensland Theological College weekend away with quite a few people seeing the debate in black and white terms based on their personal gut feel. The naysayers don’t see the debate as a matter of conscience, the blood sport apologists don’t see a Biblical problem with the sport, the debate is at an impasse.

For me the debate begs a broader question about violence in entertainment. How many of the anti-UFC types are anti-UFC because it is real and not fictional? That seems to me to be an odd and somewhat arbitrary distinction to make. If the problem is bloodlust then surely the problem arises for those who enjoy violent movies and video games. If I can watch UFC to appreciate the technical side of things (and I watched my first intriguing bout last week – I believe this is possible, like it is possible to enjoy League despite the violent collisions not because of them) and don’t glory in the violence does that appease the anti-bloodlust lobby? Some in the debate say that it is a question of ends and means. If the end is testing to see which martial art is superior, and which fighter is superior – I don’t see how this by necessity equates to the end being violence.

But the begged question remains – can you position yourself against ultimate fighting while also enjoying Fight Club? Can you be for all intents and purposes a pacifist while watching war movies for enjoyment? Can you tell people that their love for mixed martial arts is Biblically unjustifiable while shooting people in a computer game?

I don’t think so. I don’t feel any pangs of remorse about enjoying the Hitman game series – the object is to be a sneaky assassin killing victims with a wide range of weapons. I don’t feel like there’s a distinction between enjoying the violence of Judges (like the story of Ehud) and the violence of whatever David Baldacci novel I’m ploughing through… In this case it would be hypocritical of me to take a stance against those who enjoy a sport that I have not, in the past, enjoyed, simply on the basis of violence. And much of this debate smacks of hypocrisy. I did speak to one Godly brother on the weekend whose aversion to violence (as a conscious conscience based decision) now extends to the war movies he enjoyed in his youth. At that point the issue is surely a conscience thing rather than a Biblically mandated aversion. If you can not, in good conscience, enjoy the spectacle of any of these elements of culture then do no. It’s a pretty easy decision.

All line drawing in these issues – other than being dictated by conscience – seems to be pretty arbitrary (unless it’s clearly spelled out in the Bible). When it comes to computer games where do we draw the line. Is it ok to kill Nazis (Wolfenstein) but not to kill police (when you’re an assassin)? Why is it almost universally ok to chomp on a ghost in Pacman or stomp on a walking mushroom (a goomba) in Mario?

I always feel bad when I kill a civilian in a game (and hope that I always do), and it seems that there’s an ethical line when you kill someone not expecting it as part of their job (in a game that is) – which is why I think the fact that highly trained UFC competitors are involved in the sport of their own volition (as opposed to gladiators in Rome and anyone featured in “bumfights” an online sensation where people make homeless people fight for money).

Here’s a post I just read about how video game developers seek to dehumanise bad guys so that we don’t feel bad about popping them in the head with whatever weapon we have at our disposal. Their tactics include featuring zombies, vampires and nazis as universally recognised bad guys – and if in doubt – masking the antagonist so that you don’t confront their emotions. The writer’s conclusion is this:

I believe that developers have come to realize that, while violence is often a necessary part of the action in many games, most people feel put out at the prospect of ending other peoples’ lives, even digital ones. While there are plenty of games that don’t adhere to the general categories I mentioned, most do. It’s the action and excitement of a scenario that draws us in, death is usually just an unintentional byproduct, but even so some effort is made to separate the gamer from what would be the terrible consequences of their actions. Developers do this because we are, despite what so many political blowhards and half-wit news anchors would have us believe, sensitive to violence in the real world.

I don’t get why as Christians we’re so keen to point the finger at our brothers and sisters to suggest that their enjoyment of a sport is due to some sort of sinful appreciation of unabashed violence. We should give one another the benefit of the doubt on matters like this shouldn’t we? It doesn’t surprise me that the vast majority of people commenting in support of watching UFC have some technical training or appreciation of the sport that they enjoy. These people aren’t the type to get excited about the misapplication of violence outside the context of sport or the pursuit of justice. They just happen to like a sport that is open and honest about the fact that violence is part of the game.

# Some holds barred

Did you know that the term “no holds barred” comes from wrestling? Not the fake stuff. The real ancient art.

I’ve been reading a bunch of articles and discussions online recently surrounding a Christian response to cagefighting. Craig started it in his column at SydneyAnglicans. He suggested we should be coming up with an articulate position on what appears to be a pretty divisive matter of conscience populated by two unbiblical extremes…

For many, their first gut reaction to the sport will define their position. But it may be worth spending some time to work through the issue properly. I predict this sport will become enormously popular in Australia over the next few years, especially amongst young men. If this happens, it will be good if we have done some proper thinking on the subject beforehand.

Now everywhere I turn on the interwebs I’m reading the debate.

Ben commented on it yesterday, the NY Times ran a story about cage fighting churches, Justin Taylor quoted this rebuttal to the kind of Christianity modeled in the times piece and Mark Driscoll has been banging on about UFC for years. Cage fighting is well and truly established there and I haven’t read a middle ground response from the Christian community – you’re either in the Jesus was a cage fighter camp or the sissy pacifist camp… which led to this quote.

It discourages and mocks godly men who aren’t macho. There is an undercurrent of disdain in all of this. Proponents of this testosterone Christianity can’t help but take shots at guys who wear pastels and drink cappuccino. You might not like guys with manicures, but there’s absolutely nothing morally wrong with it. A reserved, quiet, well-groomed man can be a good Christian. Believe it or not.

I think the debate is pretty silly and out of all the Christian interactions I’ve read or experienced they descend in to ad hominem non-arguments the quickest (though arguments about Genesis 1 and alcohol consumption are up there).

From the NY Times:

The goal, these pastors say, is to inject some machismo into their ministries — and into the image of Jesus — in the hope of making Christianity more appealing. “Compassion and love — we agree with all that stuff, too,” said Brandon Beals, 37, the lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church outside of Seattle. “But what led me to find Christ was that Jesus was a fighter.”

Some of the arguments for cage fighting are just stupid. Jesus was not a cage fighter. No matter how hard some of the Americans want to believe that to be the case. Being a cage fighter does not make one a man, it does not even make one more manly. If this is just a correction to the feminisation of the church then it’s an odd and ill directed attempt to get more men along – but Craig was right. This is a discussion we need to have. Cage fighting is huge.

While I think some of the extreme positions on the pro fighting side are silly I wonder how much of the bellicose criticism coming from the anti-violence side of the debate is just ill-conceived grandstanding.

Gentleness is a good thing. Sure. And Christians are called on to turn the other cheek. But to suggest that a sporting endeavour where two combatants engage in a competition with agreed upon rules and parameters is somehow definitively ruled out in the Bible just seems odd to me. It’s a conscience issue – surely.

I’m not out to change anybody’s opinion on this matter – if you think violent sports are wrong then don’t watch or take part in them. I watch boxing. I enjoy WWE (which isn’t real). I haven’t watched much UFC – but I don’t have a problem with it – really. It’s just not my preference. I’d rather watch a bunch of other sports. I love the violence and physicality of league. Anybody who says they don’t watch league for the collisions is just a touch football fan in disguise. Does this make me a bad person? Anybody who thinks that league players don’t go out of their way to “hurt” others has never seen a forward make a tackle or a hit up (and they certainly haven’t spoken to any successful league players).

Why are we pain averse? I don’t understand why causing other people pain it’s clearly expected and mitigated by rules is possibly wrong? Is it less good than not causing them pain? I don’t know… but lines drawn in this debate seem completely arbitrary. League is ok (or perhaps Union), UFC is not – where does the line fall? How do you decide? As an aside – in the comments on Craig’s post Kutz suggested we need a doctrine of sport. I like that idea.

The clincher (for me) came up in the Sydney Anglicans discussion. I love the stories of violence in the Old Testament – I don’t glory in them (too much) – but I see them as pictures of justice and of the struggle between good and evil. The Bible contains more violence from righteous men than UFC will ever produce.

If it comes down to a question of “purpose” and violence not being suitable for entertainment then I wonder how many of the brothers coming out against UFC enjoy violent movies or TV shows? How can one affirm the quality of the Godfather while decrying a sport?

If it’s a problem with the unholiness of the entertainment then what about every TV show that contains sexual immorality… if it’s that the sin is real and not imagined then what about game shows where contestants are motivated by greed?

I don’t see why the objections to this passion or interest are so heated and so different to the reactions to anything else – except perhaps for a declaration that one considers the earth to be billions, not thousands, of years old or the suggestion that beer is one of God’s best ideas.

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It’s Australian Open time (which you should know – unless you’ve been living under a rock). I like tennis – and I’m hoping that A-Rod does me proud this year.

I like that tennis players are really gentlemanly (or ladylike) and do the little courtesy wave thing they do when they hit the let cord during the point.

But I don’t get why they feel the need to. If I was a tennis player (which I’m not) I would practice hitting the ball into the let cord with enough topspin that it would trickle over every time. It seems like an awesome strategy.

Also, while I’m on the subject of cool sporting strategies – if I was a Rugby League coach I would tell my team to kick field goals at every opportunity. It works for Rugby Union. You really only need to get to about the forty metre line each set and blast the ball through the posts. Then you get the ball back.

When playing pool with friends I like to wait until they get onto the eight ball, wait for it to be behind the D that you break from, and then sink the white ball. You can’t hit backwards from the D and a foul shot on black is an automatic loss.

When I play indoor soccer I like to defend. I like to stand just inside the person running towards me so that they move towards the side netting – and then I like to step into them so that they run into the net. We played our last game of mixed indoor in Townsville (possibly forever) tonight. I have a bruise.

Have you got any dirty tricks for winning at sport? Share them in the comments.