Saturday, April 7, 2007

Another Tape has fallen into the hands of Mimitig and MouthoftheMersey

Transcript from the England hotel after the Sri Lankan match on 4th April.

The tapes came through again for us, this is getting spooky because this time, we also received a few pictures and have to preface this transcript by informing you that Captain Vaughan has seldom looked so weary, so wan and drawn.

As he enters, instead of the usual chat and giggling in the ranks, the room is deathly silent. No-one can quite believe that despite all efforts by the batting tail, the match against Sri Lanka was lost on the last ball. MV surveys the ashen-faced squad.

MV: it's just us here today, no psychologist. You all got way too fucking cocky because of some respectable fielding. You believed in yourselves - in an entirely bad way - and you, top and middle order, your batting was crap.

I'm not going to go through it in detail, because quite frankly words fail me. Anyone who doesn't know how he screwed up, stay behind and watch Straussy's video. And Ed: learn how to use the camera and the laptop - it's over to you next time.

Now it's desperate times and we need desperate measures. When I blow the whistle, lads, I want you to surge over the top and it'll be death or fucking glory. If we don't beat Australia on Sunday, and we know we can, then we're basically on the next fucking plane out of here. OK. OK. I wasn't there, but I did plenty of homework on those boys while you were Down Under and this is what we'll do. Bat like fuck, first or second and when we sledge, here's the plan.

Hayden: Fred it's going to be your job to get him and get him fast. The rest of you can help - get going on the recipes. For fuck's sake, everyone knows Aussies are crap at cuisine, so have a look at his bloody book and find some shit-hot one-liners.

Punter should be an easy mark: Saj - I've got you down to york him (aside to Collingwood: he's gotta master that sooner or later, hasn't he?). The rest of you just mutter Garry Pratt, Garry Pratt all the time, it's bound to get to him.

For Gilchrist: Badger over to you, plenty of profanity, and a few comments about Michael Slater will wind him up nicely - mention the unmentionable, you all know what I'm on about.

Symo: we know he can damage us, so chants of "Cardiff, Cardiff, who went home" should unsettle him. A few "Don't rip that bicep, we know you're a Brummie" will help.

Tait: quietly, but all together: "it's a wide, it's a wide, are you Harmy in disguise?"

Stuey Clarke: a simple "You're not Glenn McGrath" should get him riled and if that doesn't work, go for a few estate agent jokes.

And for Glenda herself, I think we can stick with "Been playing touch rugby lately? Where's the ice-bath, love?"

Finally, for Brad Hogg: "Hoggy, Hoggy, Hoggy - you're not The Hogg, you've got no dog."

OK lads? Have you got the message? We can fucking do this, I know we can and if anyone needs more ideas for sledging the rest of them, Badger's got the notes and you can see him in his room later - you won't have anything else to fucking do because it's hotel, hotel, hotel now until Sunday. Yeah, that's right. It's a fucking lock-in - and Fred, that's with no booze.

Tape ends.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Seven Gold Medals - mimitig

In some sports, Great Britain or England winning anything brings headlines on the front and back pages of the print media, and calls for such things as open-top bus tours and gongs for the heroes.

In cycling, the guys and girls come home quietly after a mammoth medal haul at the World Championships and get on with their training.

Track cycling is routinely described as a minority sport, and true, compared to the number of junior football clubs out there, far fewer competitors take part. This is partly to do with facilities, but leaving all that aside for now, one thing is sure. Track cycling is an Olympic sport and one in which Team GB has a more than odds-on chance of success.

Two world championships have just taken place and with Beijing less than 18 months away, I find it hard to understand why the one discipline in which we are really leading the way is not being used by all other Olympic sports as a blueprint. Swimming has commanded a lot of attention with the appointment after Sydney of the Australian coach Bill Sweetenham, and yet most of the print inches have focussed on controversy and the team comes home now from Melbourne with results lacking in any conviction for success in China.

On the other hand, very few people have ever heard of the Performance Director of Cycling, Dave Brailsford. He neither courts controversy with high profile arguments with his senior team members, nor publicity by whining that his success isn't recognised. He has gone quietly about his job of building a group of coaches - with personal success records - who work together and talk to each other and the team members. He has concentrated on seeking out experts who can bring experience and discipline to his squad - Chris Boardman being the most recognised name. He has not complained about the lack of facilities - the swimmers complain about not enough 50m pools, but there's hardly a plethora of velodromes in the UK either.

There is a different mindset about how the multitude of UK Sports' Performance Directors go about their tasks, but I think it's hard to argue with a man who has just brought home a total of 11 medals in his sport, 7 of them gold, and with a team stuffed full of young talent that will not just be riding for us in Beijing, but they'll be competing in London too.

Chanelle and a certain North London Football Club - (as told to Zephirine)

“I first got to be friends with Alisha cos of Arsene Wenger. We were at school right and we had this teacher Mr Fielding and he was talking about football yeah and he said Arsene Wenger believes in training and discipline because he’s an alsatian. So next time old Arsene was on TV I had a look and the day after yeah I said to Mr Fielding I thought alsatian was wrong he looks more like a collie to me. And Mr Fielding did his like I-went-to-university laugh and said oh no, Chanelle, I meant he comes from the Alsace region of France.

“ I was like omigod and I went really red yeah but then Alisha right they used to have a house in France so she knows stuff, she said no wonder Chanelle misunderstood you Mister Fielding isn’t it supposed to be pronounced alsassyann? And old Fielding took his like I’m-popular-with-the-kids smile off his face and snapped into default teacher grumpy mode and said he was using the Anglican version thank you very much Alisha and stomped off.

“So that’s why I’m friends with her because that’s what you want right, a friend who sticks up for you when you’ve embarrassed yourself instead of taking photos of you on their phone and showing them around. Well I know that’s what we did to the England cricket boys but they got arsey with us so that’s different.

“If I know anything about any football team right which isn’t much yeah it would be Arsenal because when I was about fifteen I was like so so so in love with Thierry Henry I was like, Thierry will never be mine so book me that cell in the convent now. I still think he’s pretty cute to be honest but I try not to have crushes on footballers these days cos I’m supposed to be growing up and stuff right, I mean I can say I wouldn’t kick Owen Hargreaves out of bed but I’m not like pining cos there’s no future in it.

“I don’t mind football but sometimes I wish it wasn’t like totally the most important thing on the planet yeah, I mean if you see a bunch of blokes shouting at each other it’s either football or politics right and 99 time out of 100 it’s football, but that’s the way it is yeah so you have to like survive in a football-obsessed world. So you have to have a few remarks up your sleeve right like, Arsenal have never really replaced Patrick Vieira have they, and with any luck you can throw that one into the conversation yeah and then the blokes won’t stop talking for about a week and you can have another margarita and get on with your life.

“I have a question about football right, which is this: when foreign players come over here right and they’re like, I ‘ad to get used to ze English game because eet ees verry fast and verry physical, yeah, do they really mean that they think all our footballers know how to do is run up and down the pitch a lot and kick the shit out of each other, but the money’s good so they’re staying?

“I put this question to Karl who was this boy I used to go out with yeah he was sweet but he was like the football anorak of all anoraks it could get embarrassing. And Karl looked dead hurt and offended and said it’s a matter of style and ethos right and I said well either they kick the shit out of each other or they don’t and excuse me, I watch TV. So then he decided I didn’t like football yeah and it was like this major problem in our relationship so you see what I mean yeah football has too much influence in the universe.”

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Woodcutters Revolution - nestaquin

There is a myth that has penetrated the media that the International Cricket Council are the custodians of cricket. This fancy waxes that the ICC, from their majestic ivory towers, dispense their wisdom to all the cricketing world. The benevolent bureaucrats rule and the cricket family humbly obeys. Leather hits willow and we all live happily ever after, picnicking under a shady pavilion on a field of green.

What poppycock and cowpats. If the spinners at the ICC ever took up cricket, batsman would find them unplayable. Corporate giants may sit at their feet paying tribute for little more than a big name tag, a few nibblies and an airconditioned box but many in the cricketing world know better.

For those that still hold to the myth, the current World Cup serves as a reminder to its fallacy. Without going into details, it is obvious to most that the ICC have little compassion for the good cricketing folk of the Caribbean. Ridiculous ticket prices, draconian rules of stadia entry and disrespect for the local cricket culture all serve as evidence of the ICC’s true agenda. To feather their own nests and be damned with the cricket. Entrusting the smart suited, tax evading bourgeois of the ICC to care for cricket is akin to permissing mining companies the right to veto environmental legislation.

“Tis an outrage, mon,” shouts Jimmy Mackintosh above the cacophony of traffic in Factory Road outside the splendidly titled Recreation Ground. “Here in Saint Johns cricket is as natural as breathin’ de air.” He pauses and stares with fiery bloodshot eyes as a truck rumbles past and then shouts: "Ja Ja give us all de air we need. We have bats and balls. We need no ICC. We join with our brothers an’ sisters not de oppressor.” The seabreeze blows a rope of salt and pepper hair across his face and he moves closer. “Listen to me when I tell you mon, Babylon will fall when da revolution come.”

Jimmy knows a secret. The revolution has begun and unsurprisingly has its roots in the seemingly quiet hamlet of Franklin, Tasmania. The art of civil disobedience runs strong through families in the area and has been practised for near on two centuries. Thoreau’s Walden is a popular bedtime story and many a house has a picture of Mahatma on the back of the toilet door. Considering that nearby Port Arthur was a keener nineteenth century version of Guantanamo Bay, the art probably has Celtic origins which the prisoners mischieviously transplanted upon arrival.

The headquarters of this new revolution is in the solar powered, weatherboard clubrooms of the Woodcutters Cricket Club. The Green political movement accidently began its journey in the same clubrooms in 1968. At the season ending presentation dinner, under a banner that read, ‘POSSUMS ARE PEOPLE TOO!’, Dr Robert Brown, the flamboyant pediatrician and slow medium trundler presented the riddle that still remains unsolved: “We use the air as a sewer and piss in the water. We enthusiastically poison the earth. We destroy a forest and a desert appears. So where the fuck is a tired possom supposed to kip?”

The Woodcutters as it is commonly known was established by the brothers Flynn in 1824. During the early decades of the colony, the population in the Channel was sparse and predominately male. Denied the opportunity to compete for mates, the brothers, during one particuarly boozy and sexually violent evening with a crew of whalers, wisely decided to express their manliness with bat and ball. For twenty seven long months, with axe and pick they cleared the ancient Antarctic Beech forest beside the Huon River at Franklin, and created the Woodcutters Cricket Ground. The ground’s dimensions remained intact until 1975, when the southern boundary was shortened to accommodate a permaculture garden to provide fresh salads at the lunch interval. The Woodcutters are fiercely independent and have had numerous run ins with the ICC since its invention in 1909 as the Imperial Cricket Council and it would seem, they are finally fed up.

Peg Milkinghorne, alpaca stud owner and current club secretary explains: "Our troubles with the ICC go back along way.” Methodically searching through a battered, olive green filing cabinet she produces a yellowing document and sighs, “here it is”. She sits at her sassafras desk: “This was the first letter we received from London. It is dated the sixth of May, 1910. It basically says that the king has appointed the men of the ICC as the guardians of cricket and that we must follow their direction. It ends with the phrase For King and Empire.” A little giggle escapes Peg’s lips, "Always get a chuckle around here", smiling she continues: “England is a fair stretch from Franklin, love. Did you know that outer space is closer?”

Between satellite video calls to Antigua and Barbados, Peg gave me a summary of the many disputes The Woodcutters have had with the burghers of Lords. She told of the axing of the back foot law and how it ignited an umpire strike and caused more than a few retirements. “It was a terrible time, dear. More than one match ended unfinished in fisticuffs.”

The season in which field restrictions arrived caused even more confusion and consternation. “They have no respect for the conventions.” Peg explained how the Woodcutters still used the ‘Code of 1744’ for cricket related measurements. “We have a Gunter’s chain to measure the pitch and use an ell-wand for other measurements. We could find no Saxon measuring implement that was the required length for the inner circle. Despite many letters back and forth to London and more recently Dubai, we still have no resolution to this problem.” She sheepishly added: “The ICC eventually sent a measuring tape and a box of white Kookaburras. The tape was quite useful for indoor bowls and renovating the club kitchen but the white balls proved difficult to see against the sightboard. The club donated the balls to the widow Bella Hunt.” She paused to look through the window at a flock of Red Breasted Black Cockatoo descending on the outfield before continuing: “Her husband Ted was an opening bat in the tragic premiership winning 1964/65 team that was decimated by conscription and Vietnam.” Another mournful peek through the pane. “Anyway, she had plenty of room in the shed and wrote the club a lovely thankyou saying how useful they were in training cattledog pups, growing tomatoes and drowning feral cats.”

The recent law change that restricts the number of bouncers per over produced such outrage within the Woodcutters that counselling sessions with Helen Evenstar, the local aromatherapist were made available. Fast bowlers like Bluey Thomson were even more angry than usual. “The bats have helmets, what’s their problem?”. He spat on the ground and rubbed the congealed saliva into the dirt with his sole. “My old man Nobby, who took 426 wickets for the ‘Cutters would be rolling in his grave. I’m pissed off. Helen gave me a lavender pouch to put under my pillow but all it does is make my dog sneeze all bloody night. I had to chain him to the ute. I can tell you, it’s bloody cold in bed without Max.”

Action was needed. In fine democratic tradition the Woodcutters lobbied their rival clubs’ fast bowlers and stacked the Channel Association election. Their charismatic former champion all rounder Hugo Churchill stood as a candidate. Hugo quoted Edmund Burke ad nauseum and won the top job in a landslide. Immediately, the restriction on short pitched bowling was scrapped as was the free hit for overstepping the crease. Other changes soon followed to even up the battle between bat and ball.

Whilst travelling the state classing wool, mulesing and comparing Merino scrotums, Hugo convinced others to thumb their nose at the ICC. Using the slogan "If it wasn’t for bumpers Hilfy would be bricklaying”, he convinced every Association on the island to reject the ICC missive. Soon mainland associations joined the insurrection. Kalgoorlie was first and Cootamundra, Wee Waa and Mullumbimby soon followed. Antiguan Jimmy Mackintosh, a cousin of Curtly Ambrose and brother in law to Andy Roberts, heard of the grassroots campaign against the ICC at the Cornerstone Roots reggae festival and quietly convinced the Saint Johns cricket association to get on board. Similar grassroots campaigns are beginning to take root in Matabo, Stanley, Bridgetown and Invercargill.

The Tasmanian Cricket Board elections are slated for May 2007 and Hugo with team of burly fast men, is standing. The word around the traps is that Hugo is becoming a megolamaniac that will win hands down. The suits are worried and currently they are running a series of unprecedented political propaganda advertisements between overs during the World Cup. Whilst images of Tasmania’s win in the Sheffield Shield final flitter across the screen, an insincere voiceover informs of the inspiring work the current administation are doing. Incredibly the commercial finishes with Ben Hilfenhaus clocking Simon Katich with a bouncer!

The Woodcutters expect that they will have control of Cricket Australia within the decade, not from violent resistance but from stacking elections with disgruntled fast bowlers. As an opening batsman I find this political situation a bit like taking strike on the first morning of a match. Disturbing and yet thrilling. The thought of the unknown always is.

The ICC have failed to heed the first lesson that cricket teaches. Watch the ball. Or as Hugo Churchill so eloquently puts it: “The good shepherds of the Weald invented the grand game of cricket and not one member of the ICC has ever sheared a sheep. It’s a bloody disgrace. Their days are numbered. The revolution has begun."

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Battle of Japan - mimitig

The Formula 1 season is about to get under way and two Japanese giants are going head-to-head, again. But it won't be to see who wins the World Championship.

Toyota: the epitome of Japanese corporate thinking. Honda: famous for winning in motor sport.

Between them, they spend more on competing in the premier class of motor racing than any other pairing of teams. Both have both illustrious histories of achievement but for some reason, success in the modern era of Formula 1 has eluded them and, particularly in the case of Honda, fans are wondering why.

In the past, Honda achieved huge success as an engine supplier to the British "garagiste" teams of Williams and McLaren. Frank Williams was the first to coax Honda into modern F1. The founder of Honda, Soichiro Honda was himself a motor sport fanatic and his spirit was inbued into what would become the Honda Racing Corporation. After years of winning in motor-bikes, they took a chance with Frank and supplied him with engines from 1983. In 1987 Piquet won the titles for Williams and Honda, but with Frank in a wheel-chair following his life-threatening car-crash near Nice in 86, maybe Honda had doubts about the future of Team Willy. The next year saw them start the season on board with Britain's most successful Formula 1 team: McLaren. OK, Bruce was a Kiwi, but by the late 80s, former mechanic, Ron Dennis was very much in charge at McLaren and he was more than ready to go all out to win, and win brutally. With the Ronster in charge and Honda engines, McLaren re-wrote the record books and in 1988 the MP4/4 won 15 out of 16 races, Prost and Senna the world-class pedallers.

1992 saw Honda withdraw, not to return until 2000 when they partnered British American Racing, buying the team in 2005 since when they have garnered just one win.

Toyota have no such wealth of Formula 1 history, but they have Mikkola and Sainz who gave them wins in World Rallying. In the late 90s they became a major force in US motorsport. Juan Pablo Montoya gave them their first ever open-wheel racing win at Milwaukee in 2000. They were a welcome entrant in the Le Mans 24 Hour race and with Brundle, Boutsen and Katayama at the wheel came perilously close to a win in 1999 before a breakdown scuppered their chances.

They entered the piranha pit in 2002 aiming to be the new team proving all critics wrong and achieving a win in their first year. They have still to win, or even mount a serious challenge, despite having one of the biggest budgets in Formula 1.

How then, can we come into the start of the 2007 season, not placing bets on which of these 2 will win the most races, simply wondering if either will live up to their dreams. Will Honda or Toyota win the battle of the Japanese giants?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Midweek drinking - by Greengrass&Offside

The Pakalolo Tavern is empty with the exception of a defrocked vicar, a hungover Greengrass and his formerly well-hung hound. The hound is wearing a bewildered expression and an oversize bandage around what was, until recently, its oversized hindquarters. Prior to imbibing yet another pint of Fernet Branca, Greengrass leans over to have a word in the vicar's ear:

- A word in your ear, vicar. Ingrid sez to me, she sez that this place were teemin' wi' foreigners all bloody neet!

- My good fellow, your language, please!

- Teemin' wi' 'em, it were - like flies round cow... ...muck. It were that froggy bloke fetched 'em in - 'im wi' t' Tarzan gear on 'im. They come from all over t'show, she sez -Argentina, Froggyland, Scotland... ... there were even one reet bonny lass wi' a funny name - Marbella or summat. T'pubs never shut where they come from, tha knows - life is one eternal lock-in. Done for my dog, they did, wi' their performance-enhancing pills. 'e's never performed better in his life, an' 'e'll never perform again. Ah were thinkin' o' matin' 'im wi' Ingrid's chihuahua - quiet, Nebuchadnezzar, lad! - but...

- He will be in my prayers, of that you may be assured. Should we get down to business? I've written this - eh - "rap" poem that I'd like us to recite at next Sunday's service. The verger's son has promised to provide us with some "beats", as he calls them, and I think it will be just the thing to attract more young people to our church. Here is your copy!

The vicar hands Greengrass a sheet of paper, stands up, and starts reciting - only to break off after a few lines.

- Greengrass, you're supposed to take part! I'd really appreciate it if you would stand up, move around, point at the flock now and then, and join in at the end of every line - defrocked, dead shocked, half-cocked, head-knocked, etcetera. Make an effort, man!

At this moment, a scantily-clad man with a French appearance enters and shambles to the bar. Greengrass leans over to whisper a word in the vicar's ear.

- A word in your ear, vicar. That's 'im!

Offside goes straight behind the bar and starts pulling himself a pint of the black stuff.

-Hi Greengrass, how's it going? Ingrid still off, is she? Oh, hello, vicar.

Greengrass looks askance at the intruder.

- My lad Ingrid sez 'e'll be back as soon as she gets out o' t'clinic.

Offside saunters o ver to the juke-box and chooses 'Je te pogue, moi non plus', sung by Jane McGowan. The vicar eyes Offside's attire. The cream rises. Offside fixes the vicar with an icy stare.

- Tell me, vicar, you wouldn't be from the London Missionary Society by any chance?

- Why?

- Well, if you were, I might want to have a word with you about your fellow priests' actions in the South Pacific a couple of centuries ago. Like, why would you tell people who live in a hot climate that they have to cover themselves for the sake of decency, or why tell them they should stop rolling around in the grass all day and get to work, you know, stuff like that...

A panicked expression creeps across the vicar's face. Pint in hand, Offside walks across and finds himself a stool. He sits next to the vicar and slaps him on the back.

- Just kidding, vicar, just kidding. I know you'd nothing to do with it yourself. Hey Greengrass, I heard a good one today, listen to this. In a game of football, how can a player score two goals without setting foot on the pitch?

Greengrass and the vicar exchange a look of disbelief.

- It's impossible, says Greengrass

- Maybe, divine intervention...

- No, no, none of that crap. Just a normal football game, and well, ok, a slightly unusual set of circumstances...

Offside stops dead. He's suddenly spotted the dog and now stares at the beast, wide-eyed.

- Jaysus, Greengrass, is that a hyena?

Greengrass fixes Offside with any icy stare (n.b. not the same one that Offside used earlier).

- No, it's not. And that's a good thing fer thee, cos (eyes Offside's loincloth) them 'yenas eats dead meat.

A sound is heard from outside.

It’s not just a game - Paulita

Being born to a xeneize family, I don’t recall ever having a choice about football: we like football but we love Boca. And that is that. Never have I wished it to be otherwise, except for a couple of slippery seconds during the Boca - River, River - Boca semifinals of the Libertadores Cup 2004.

I found myself doing what most football fans do at extreme distress, I tried to persuade myself that everything was alright and no matter what fate had in store for us, it didn’t matter anyway because it was just a game.

Actually, two games, and a 1 - 0 win at home is a small advantage. Nevertheless, there I was, bouncing at the rhythm of drums, trumpets and chants such as ‘Boca is the people, the carnival, Boca I carry you in my soul and every day I love you more’.

After a week of shy exchange of mockery with some gallina friends, I was ready for the second leg. From River, ex footballer, by then Astrada’s assistant, Hernán Díaz, less cautiously stated “we will win 3 - 0”. From Boca, Bianchi answered with his silence “We’ll see”.

Authorities had decided that only local audience would be allowed so we all sat at our preestablished seats at home, the same we’ve used for other glorious victories. A neutral Racing fan is well received but not another certain person. Not that we believe in magic, amulets or anything like that, but it’s no time to tempt fortune either.

I’m determined not to celebrate before it’s over. River wins 1 - 0 but has one player sent off for insulting the referee. Hernán Díaz, conspicuously nervous, is sent off too. And in the 88th minute Carlos Tevez, also a congenital bostero, scores not only a nice and what we thought to be a defining goal, but also gets two yellow cards straight on. Taking off the shirt + aping a chicken (gallina) = early exit to the changing room. But we shout anyway and we hug in a fete noisy enough to irk some neighbors.

I have not told you but I live in a gallina crowded area. Especially during the summer, when most windows are open, you can tell with no need of a census what kind football fans surround you. It’s quite an easy thing to establish because all of them are just as loud. In my case, I’m stuck between River fans, they celebrate River goals as loudly as they celebrate the ones that Boca´s opposition scores. Forget about the radio (or meditating), you’ll find out the scores whether you want or not.

The thing is, with still some insults echoing in between the buildings, Nasutti scores for River. A packed to the rim Monumental explodes in a tempestuous joy and so do my neighbors.

Penalty shootouts it is.

Now I’m determined to stay calm, Abbondanzieri is an expert and, besides, I’m sticking with that of it being just a game.

River goes first. Chilean Marcelo Salas scores. Lucho Gonzalez, Montenegro and Cavenaghi score for River. In a fearless move, Bianchi sends two juvenile debutants (Ledesma and Alvarez) to shoot. That is fearless for him because I’m having trouble getting the necessary oxygen. They both score. The same, Burdisso and Schiavi.

We are 4 - 4. I stand up for having a numb foot but the condemning looks of my clan make me take sit again. It’s Maxi Lopez’s turn and Abbondanzieri lives up to his fame. Villarreal seals the victory scoring the fifth penalty.

Boca’s players seem to celebrate in the cone of silence.

I giggle, partly because I’m happy and partly because my body, set on the alert mode, refuses to believe it’s over.

All of a sudden, the dark blue sky is scribbled with fireworks, proving the existence of another island of bosteros. It makes absolutely no logical sense but the feeling is of supreme completeness.

The following day, Buenos Aires would be wallpapered with taunting posters. Again, you could easily tell who was on what side, only this time by the look in their faces. We, Boca’s fans, walked along with a sentiment of pride, as if our input had been decisive, as if it was our merit. River fans were mostly left without words, assuming within the defeat.

Before I forget to tell you, the Libertadores Cup 2004 was finally won by Once Caldas from Colombia. But that was really just a game.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Sports and Authority (Escape from Alcatraz) - Guitougoal

Monday’s Matt Scott column about European football clubs holding talks over a potential breakaway from Uefa and Fifa sounds like the remake of an old Clint Eastwood film: ”Escape from Alcatraz”.

Does that sound like there is trouble between the rich and the richer? Next step we learn the players decided to have their own team and the coaches claimed the right to choose the referees who don’t mind being insulted by the athletes. Are the inmates taking over the asylum or the elephants running the circus? No, but disrespect for authority is at an all time high in sports. Respect for authority has eroded. It’s not with the managers it’s with authority figures across the board.

“Authority” of course depends on the author. Authority got mad as we have seen in the world and should always be questioned. The crew of the Bounty had good reason to mutiny but authority for the good of the group is another matter. It was probably the Romans who created the modern notion of authority. And they built aqueducts, formed military chains of command and built a great civilization and brought discipline where there had been chaos. They designed a blueprint for the world.

What has this to do with athletes insulting the referees? Just this: all sports, like Caesar’s Gaul are divided into three parts: players, managers and owners. They have to work together under the supervision of their league. You render to Caesar things that are Caesar’s. Otherwise dysfunction and individualism are overrated, as we see it today, if we don’t like the rules we disqualify the maker of the rules. No laws, no bosses then no progress. Blaming the victim has become a national pastime.

Examples, good or bad, come from above. Some clubs driven by economical need or just pure greed are attempting to challenge the federations in control. By doing so, they are setting an unprecedented challenge to a legal authority. The lesson at work here is that what once constituted authority is in full, mindless retreat. The owners have to be reminded that to breakaway is like to run away from the law. Any attempt by the clubs to escape should be perceived by the public as an illegal challenge to the authority and as a bad example for those who are looking up to them.

Where Are We Now? - Greengrass

Ebren was highly dubious about publishing this piece, as he doesn't wish to appear self-congratulatory. I, however, do not mind congratulating you on making this forum possible. Nor do I mind congratulating all those who have given me such wonderful entertainment on here. Do I thereby slap my own back? Hardly! My appreciation of this forum is a matter of taste. I think this is better than other sites; others will disagree - good luck to them!

This is a completely off-topic article - it's not about sport, it's about a jewel called "Pseuds' Corner". What a long way we've come in such a short time! I've read a lot of very good work on here, and seen a good number of comments and ideas that are worth discussing.

Pseuds' Corner has resulted in a sea-change in my habits. I used to get a fair bit of flak from Mrs. Greengrass because I was hooked on the GU Sports Blog. Once upon a time, I started my day by reading the morning paper. Then I started my day by reading the Guardian on-line. One day, I had a look at the blogs. Then I registered, and started posting. What a wonderful world! As time passed, certain other posters became familiar - I started looking forward to their posts. We were accused of being a clique - well, we did have a quiet evening in a taproom once - and I almost made the Clique First XI. I was hooked! Then I was banned!

After a period of reflection and revolutionary rumbling, Ebren let this forum see the light of day. Now I get a fair bit of flak from Mrs.Greengrass because I'm hooked on Pseuds' Corner. This is what I read first thing every morning these days, if I'm anywhere near a computer. Why? Because the best reading around used to be GU, and this is better.

I find much of the writing on here far superior to most of the writing on GU, and some of the pieces far better than the Big Blogger harvest. What do we get to read on here?

Some "articles", perhaps, but I would prefer to call most of the contributions "pieces" - writings which the writers want to share with others in order to provide enjoyment. A variety of pieces, featuring everything under the sun that has something to do with sport, from bare-faced truth to honest lies. Sometimes I feel deeply moved, sometimes I feel deeply moved to laughter - there is far more humour on here!

What sort of writing community is this? Well, it's not a School of Creative Writing - our pieces are not processed on here, they are up and running when they arrive. It's not a nursery - generally speaking, the pieces on here are far too mature for that. It's a warm forum with open arms - "like my piece or lump it; I hope you enjoy it!"

I seem to recall some voices calling for more criticism, but I disagree: this is an open forum, and criticism - however well-meant! - might scare some potential contributors away.

There is one idea I would like to float: playing the journalist! Andy Bull was recently praised on GU for a wonderful article on the state of Zimbabwe. Soon after, he was criticised for an article on betting odds. This highlights the plight of the journeyman journalist: he/she can't always write from the heart. On here, we can write from the heart -or choose not to write. Some of us have, on occasion, been accused of being wannabee journos, jealous of the real hacks; judging by the pieces on here, that is simply not the case. It could, however, be fun to play at being hacks: the editorial board could surreptitiously give one of us a subject and a deadline, then publish the result. No tricky subjects to trip us up, but an honest gig! I wouldn't mind a shot at that!

Apart from that, I wouldn't change a thing. This forum is prospering, with new voices continually popping up for our mutual entertainment. And humour burgeons - not least in the form of Cricket Tapes and Alisha & Chantelle. There's even a taproom where I can seek sanctuary whenever Mrs. GG's flak gets too much for me!

Keep on writing,


More Fun than Avenida Revolución on College Night. Maybe. – honolulu

The Mexico-Venezuela friendly in San Diego was the first of a five-city tour for the Mexican national team in the United States in 2007 and despite the location, it was a Mexican “home” game and a fiesta for Mexicans, Chicanos, Latinos, and even Gringos. Celebrating the “local” boy Fernando Arce’s goal, Andrés Guardado’s exciting play on the wing, supporters returned home basking in the glow of an otherwise inconsequential win by reserves and unknown youths. Some returned to Tijuana (TJ) in cars with Baja California license plates, but the great majority remained north of the border.

Beer and souvenir vendors spoke Spanish without hesitation to clients wearing Mexican green or ponchos proclaiming allegiance to Chivas de Guadalajara, Cruz Azul, and Club América. Tonight, Spanish was the language used to introduce the teams, Spanish was used to conduct the half-time entertainment (boys’ teams from San Diego and Tijuana took penalty kicks for a prize, their nationalities indistinguishable by facial features and skin colors), and Spanish was the main language, but not the only language, of the conversations around me.

But it wasn’t the Spanish that the local sport columnist commented on; it was the noise. The noise, wrapped tightly in a burrito filled to bursting with clichés explaining why soccer is so foreign, pointing out, that noise merely punctuates great play or scoring in American games before otherwise quiet, American crowds. Ironically, the stadium was quietest when the Mexican national anthem was sung- looking around, I saw no one singing.

To simply call it “noise” relegates it to the background and “it” was the most significant player in the car park and stadium- loud and relentless. The sound was at times harmonious, like the mariachi music that would periodically rise above other sources, the orchestrated, rhythmic pounding of plastic-tube noisemakers, and “Mexican” waves. Mostly, the stadium sounded like a giant party, a quinceañera with 64,000 (second highest attendance for Mexico in the US after a game played at the Rose Bowl last year) guests: random noisemakers, shouting, horns, singing, and the conversations of friends and extended families including many soccer moms and abuelitas.

The international attention paid to LA Galaxy and the astronomical figure attached to David Beckham has poetically overshadowed local rival Chivas USA, the self-proclaimed “immigrant team.” Galaxy has few “Latino” players and with Landon Donovan and Beckham, embraces the “surfer” image and Hollywood glamour- both predominantly white. The Chivas USA roster is more diverse and the team markets itself as a true Angeleno team, reflecting the population of Southern California. The combined metropolitan regions of Tijuana and San Diego have barely a third of Los Angeles’ population but with the semi-permeable border, San Diego is easily accessible to a large Mexican city with no top-level team of its own. Owners Jorge Vergara and Antonio Cue should have put Chivas USA in San Diego, as a “Californian team.” It might not seem the most lucrative market but it would have been a lot of fun, if this crowd (Mexican, American, Mexican-American, whatever) were any indication.

Tweet it, digg it