Sport

Theatre of Crushed Dreams

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…

Bad sports

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.

The game they play in heaven

I’ve been enjoying the thread of discussion started at Al Bain’s blogParadoxically Speaking – and the follow up threads on Simone’s… here, here, here, and here.

They’re about a favourite topic of mine – objectivity and absolutes – particularly with relation to aesthetics and if I’m understanding correctly how we can objectively define beauty based on the promise of the new creation.

Simone’s gambit in her first comment essentially nailed her definition to the proverbial mast…

“Something is beautiful if we sense (see/hear etc) in it something that reminds us of something we’ll know in eternity.”

I’m not sure I completely buy in to this argument. I think there’s beauty in things that don’t last, but it’s a temporal beauty (obviously) and there’s something about the fleeting moment that can be appreciated. Singularity is beautiful in a way that eternity can not be. I used the example of sport in particular. Because I don’t know/think that sport will be a huge part of the new creation, and while it should reflect honour and the best parts of human nature that will carry over into heaven – it actually is fun for reasons that are less eternal. The thrill of competition. The adrenalin rush that comes with a tight finish. A well executed play. These things are a meaningless chasing after the wind in the eternal scheme of things.

Will we all have equal athletic prowess in the new creation? I guess I’ve always just assumed so – but I haven’t done much thought on the matter.

If we’re all super athletes then sport is going to be a frustrating blend of perfect attack against perfect defence. An irresistible force against an immovable object. How boring. There’ll be no winning. So what’s the point. This is why I’m not worried if they play Rugby in heaven – it seems fitting. Rugby is full of boring stalemates.

Bird’s eye view

We’ve been watching a lot of tennis lately. Tennis is one of those games that you watch and find yourself thinking “it doesn’t look that hard” which progresses to “we should do that for a job.” The answer to those statements is “it is” and “we shouldn’t”. 

I did have tennis lessons as a child. I spent more time running punishment laps of the tennis court than holding a racquet – and subsequently don’t know my forehand from my forehead. Robyn is much more proficient when it comes to the skills involved but I’ve got the edge on brute strength and am prone to hitting the ball as hard as I can male, so we’re pretty evenly matched when we play. The Australian Open inspires a renewed vigour for the game every year – last year we bought racquets so maybe this year we’ll buy some sweat bands or something.

But I digress. I wanted to mention Hawkeye – which is an interesting case of technology driven by television companies being integrated into sport. Traditionally television companies interactions with sport have been to the detriment of tradition – eg World Series Cricket, Super League and 20/20 cricket.

Progress is not always good. Especially when it comes to eliminating human error in judicial administration of the rules of the game.

Cricket coverage lead the way in terms of calling umpire’s decisions into question – snicko, cricket’s hawkeye for LBWs, and hotspot – not to mention ultra slow motion repetitions of run out decisions.

The bane of Rugby League watching in recent years has been the time taken for video referee decisions.  

The desire for accuracy is in my mind an imperative based not on ensuring the players get a fair go – but insuring that the punters do. I mean punters in the literal “gambling” sense – not just fans. The amount of money riding on every game of professional sport could fund the bailout of a small financial institution so it’s increasingly important to get things right.

Robyn is all for Hawkeye in tennis – she says it encourages players to boldly aim for the lines – knowing they can make a challenge if a call doesn’t go the right way. I’m not sold, and neither it seems are the players. Particularly after hawkeye was thawrted by a bit of shade today.

Two final comments on this long post – firstly – did you know Hawkeye was invented by a man named Hawkins? I always thought the name was based on hawk’s legendary optic capacity and the fact that you’re getting a “birds eye view”. 

Secondly, I think Birdseye’s decision to sponsor Hawkeye was a brilliant piece of product endorsement. 

Here endeth the lesson.

Political Football

I was pondering things last night, deep and meaningful things. I’ve talked before about our cultural idea of loyalty and how its a concept that’s dissipating throughout society. Divorce rates are sky rocketing, careers, cars, houses, allegiances, promises – everything is disposable. There was an article in yesterday’s SMH talking about the restructuring of wedding vows to do away with “till death do us part.” The only allegiances that seem to be held to are those to a football team. Which has interesting ramifications for other ill conceived allegiances – and particularly those to a particular political party.

With no real research, or anything to back up these figures, I’d say the electorate is divided into three types of voter – the party member, the swinging voter, and the uninterested (otherwise known as the stupid masses). Swinging voters will decide their vote on the issues in a campaign (or the personalities involved – which I believe is more likely but what voters see is how a candidate handles the issues that the political theorists have decided should be the election issues… which generally works out to be financially motivated), the uninterested masses will either donkey vote, vote for the most visible candidate, or vote against a candidate they have an arbitrary dislike for. These people don’t really interest me – well not when it comes to this post anyway. I’m wondering what it is that draws people to a political party to begin with. Ideology must play some part but there are other factors at play – from personal experience I decided which parties I support in principle before I knew what each particular party stood for. Anecdotaly other people choose their party alliance based on who’s in power (or not in power) in their electorate when they have to start voting. Rabid support of a party based on the party identity only is an interesting beast. Toeing the party line as a supporter lacks rationality – toeing the party line on an ideological basis is just as irrational – there’s no real underlying ideological differences between the major Australian parties these days. Elections are now fought on who will govern best based on implementation of economic policies rather than based on who has the better ideological policies. Economic rationalism and a stance as close to the political centre as possible seems to drive both the Labor opposition and the Coalition government more than any stance on social justice, industrial relations (including traditional union movements) and this is the current government’s great strength – by bringing the opposition on to their platforms they should be able to beat them in that particular fight at any given time. Rudd seems to be trying really hard to move away from that with his policies on education and the environment. I’ve spoken to a couple of people about how they decided who to vote for and traditional family pressures comes up as a reason quite frequently. The problem with that model is that the traditional positions of the major parties no longer exists because the political and socioeconomic climate has changed (ahha haha ha – climate change joke). Why anyone chooses to be a party member or support a party any further than the ballot box these days – without a vested interest in a party getting to power – is beyond me. At the same time, I’ll still probably vote the same way I did last time just because they’re the team I support. And that puzzles me.

I’d be interested to hear, without anyone having to proclaim their particular position – why you’ve chosen who to vote for in past elections – or who you’ll vote for in the future. I have a feeling that for the majority of educated people heartstring loyalty gives way to purse string rationality while for the dumb masses its a matter of the candidate who runs the most impressive public relations campaign who’ll get the nod.

Stress Fractures

Professional sports people are finally catching up to the rest of the world when it comes to the concept of stress leave. It seems the Poms can no longer handle a bit of spirited competition with their fragile emotional psyches preventing them from partaking in competition with the Australians. Marcus Trescothick has just pulled out of the Ashes tour due to stress related illness. His trip home came close on the heels of British Rugby League half back Sean Long’s decision to give the Tri-Nations tour the flick heading home due to “emotional fatigue and exhaustion” – at least he had the excuse that his wife is heavily pregnant and about to give birth. These poor fragile sports stars. How tough life must be for them with their million dollar salaries and their fancy cars, fast women and rigorous playing schedule. Yes that’s right folks. Sport is hard work. All that running around is enough to give you heaps of emotional baggage. And the constant sledging must surely take a toll on your soul. Joel is right, sarcasm can be hard to pick up in text – so here’s an emoticon :P. When will these sports stars stop being so precious. Despite the pressure of having a nation’s hopes and expectations riding on your shoulders, at the end of the day sport is only a game. While people may not be prepared to forgive and forget when a player cracks on the field, and is sent off, possibly costing his team the World Cup (ala David Beckham) – the nature of sport means that new targets will constantly present themselves (ala Christiano Ronaldo – playing right wing for Man Utd is a position fraught with danger). You’d think Trescothick and co were trying to solve the North Korean nuclear crisis, or tackling climate change, or trying to work out exactly how they get the shells onto a smartie (which I’m researching for a later blog). At the end of the day these sports people are meant to be competitive mentally and physically – it’s not a matter of getting out of the kitchen when you can’t hack the heat – you shouldn’t be there to begin with. How can a player get to a position where he’s representing his country and bail when it all gets too hard? All the talk about how tough it is being in the spotlight, having to be a role model, training too hard – it’s all part and parcel of being a sports star – the cushy day job and good pay don’t come for nothing… at the end of the day these players have pretty much buggered up their team’s chances before a ball is bowled, or the whistle blows – so good on ‘em for that.

The “it’s only a game” perspective is in danger of completely falling by the wayside – Shaun Berrigan is set to miss being best man at his brother’s wedding just to play 80 minutes of football. I’ve never heard anything more absurd. 92% of people who responded to the Courier Mail survey said Shaun should miss the game. Coach Ricky Stuart said no. Coach Ricky Stuart is in danger of becoming Phil Gould’s successor as the most annoying person in Rugby League.

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