Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Free Olympics - file

Words are cheap and opinion costs less.

There should be a Free Olympics. These words were chosen with care and attention to clarity and meaningful expression of an opinion that is gaining momentum in the international discussion on drug-free sport.

Free from restrictions over which performance enhancing chemical substances can be taken.

It shouldn’t be surprising that this is being suggested, but it is. The hyperbolic War on ‘Drugs’ rationale has clouded the issue in any rational discussion over ethics and strategy on this issue.

A direct by-product of historical McCarthyism this meaningless and ineffectual shadow of political morality has cast almost impenetrably dark clouds over world opinion from the rise of globally dominant American ideology to the present day.

What exactly are the moral differences between the chemicals in carrots and steroids or coffee and amphetamines?

Everything we ingest has a chemical definition and affects us in some way. The pharmacological definition of the word drug lists its functions and doesn’t differentiate between them; likewise the common usage of the word includes medicine and mushrooms.

Even the term ‘natural’ is irrelevant; cocaine is a naturally occurring substance as are carrots, our performance might benefit from the judicious use of carrots or cocaine. And many of the same people who will complain about synthetic performance drugs will be concomitantly slurping on their beef and carrot cup-a-soups.

Whether you agree with recreational or performance drugs or not you should be wary of the politicians’ rhetoric because exaggeration and simplification only brush the issues under the carpet. History proves that prohibition doesn’t solve anything; it doesn’t even provide much of an obstacle.

The basic anti-doping principles of sport were laid down in 1967 by the International Olympic Committee:

1. protection of the athletes' health
2. respect for medical and sports ethics
3. ensure an equal chance for everyone during competition.

There is no reason here to distinguish between performance enhanced sport and non, except that the rules should be the same for everyone. Therefore the codes should be separated; a Free Olympics AND a Drug-Free Olympics.

1. The argument that athletes would risk their lives by taking more and more dangerous drugs doesn’t carry any weight. This article is promoting responsible and professional scientific research, practice and advance not chemical abandonment. Athletes, humans, have always pushed themselves to the extremes. It is the very same fundamental motivation that drives human excellence in all fields, not just sport, and it should be developed and encouraged. Be all that you can be.

2. Enhancing performance safely through transparent scientific research and practice doesn’t challenge any medical ethics and the only sports ethic should be one of equality for all within agreed rules.

3. An equal chance for everyone is not being achieved by prohibition, the only answer is segregation.

It might even be argued that it’s impossible to have a level playing field anyway.

Think of the economic and social disadvantages of a Sudanese to an American and their nutritional and genetic consequences not to mention their appetite for or opportunity to excel at sport. Think of German or Swedish attempts at eugenics…

Nothing immoral in drugs just like there’s nothing sinful about political sympathy, gender, colour or race. It’s all spin; transient politically manipulated morality.

Parity is the real issue here, not drugs or morality. Therefore the solution should address that and not get caught up in culturally unilateral and historically fickle politics. Zero tolerance is an effective strategy in some affairs and it might also be a feature of the Drug-Free Olympics, especially as a Free Olympics would offer a fair alternative to cheating.

Perhaps those who pontificate freely and brashly on this topic would do well to look at their own colleagues and ask who stops journalists from being all they can be by taking performance enhancing drugs. The police?

Is it right and fair that writers, journalists (and other professionals) might benefit from performance enhancing drugs while athletes and sportsmen may not? Particularly when sports are freely described as art…

Hunter S. Thompson, William S. Borroughs, Will Self, Lord Byron; Ben Johnson, Diane Modahl, Thomas Hicks, Festina, Lance Armstrong. Hard to say that these folk were on a level pitch.

Drugs in journalism; also dangerous if unsupervised, also gives an unfair advantage in a competitive field, also changes the nature of the competition, also illegal, also chosen by many despite the risks, ‘immorality’ and illegality.

Ultimately there is nothing different about performance drugs than any performance strategy. If there was an open debate, scientific development and free competition it wouldn’t change the fact that only the most exceptional athletes would win in either code.

Free the Olympics from cheats; celebrate drug-free sport and also explore vigorously chemically enhanced human potential. It will probably be superseded by genetically engineered athletics anyway!






We’ve got more than 40 designs now in our gallery and it’s time to decide

what on earth we are going to do next.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Poll Position - 50KaWeekSub

This week saw the professional passing of Graham Poll – a man I’m sure that many people would love to see the back of – good riddance, hasta la vista, you could even send him send him 3 leaving cards. Poll and controversy have seemingly been bedfellows for eternity with headlines following him as frequently as a Drogba dive. Graham Poll will be remembered, demonised and ridiculed but almost certainly not missed – except that is by me:

Monday night a saw a documentary that highlighted this much maligned figure as a likeable, confident, articulate and surprisingly sensitive human being - how many footballers can we put in that bracket?

One comment (in the doc) that summed up Poll’s profile comes from the effeminate co-com voice of Mark Lawrenson in another piece of inspired journalism, “I’m sure that Graham Poll will have the last word,” when describing an on-field altercation. Nothing wrong in this comment you might say – but why shouldn’t refs have the last word. Why should the Rooney’s, Keane’s, Ferguson’s have sole moaning rights both before, during and after the game. Lawrenson isn’t the only pundit who criticises referees but co-commentators and pundits are typically ex-players with axes to grind when it comes to the men in black and referee barracking is a tiresome cliché even for a washed up ex-pro like Lawro .

Since his “passing” Poll has been criticised in many quarters for having the audacity to question Brian Barwick and the FA with many exposing him as an attention seeker. He has also been described as an arrogant and publicity obsessed whore with no thoughts about the consequences of his hideous personality. If that is the case then what adjectives do we use to describe Jose Mourinho, Joey Barton or career breaker turned new media darling Roy Keane?

Let’s think about Graham Poll - he didn’t start an illegal war on false pretences followed by a farewell tour, didn’t commit perjury - he didn’t even lie. My message to Graham Poll is this: Yes you made some mistakes, yes you liked the limelight but yes you were the best in the profession and for that I would like to thank you Mr Poll and apologise on behalf of the fans, yobs, media, players and managers who abused and continue to abuse you. I wish you a lucrative and long overdue break from the game that you love – you deserve it – unlike many in the corrupt and poisoned chalice profession that is football. You may even have a biography worthy of the name.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Branston Rabids Files x2 - file

The Hound of Baskerville Athletico – Part 2

Previously on Hound of Baskervile...
Jorges Mourir, the ex-Baskerville Athletico manager has just joined Branston Rabids Football Club. It’s a mixed blessing; his track record speaks for itself but so does his air of putrefaction.

The black-eyed chairman Sir Derek Tannic-Stanza has got the first team squad to sign injury disclaimers and Hercules “Eckle” Profiterole, the Belgian centre-half and private detective, smells a fish.

Jorges Mourir was late for training the next morning, leaving Basho Johnson, first team coach and twin brother of Boris, in charge to kick it off.

Ever since an unfortunate touchline run-in with Professor Moray-Arsey, the Gurning Emirs manager, Basho has only been able to speak in haiku or koan.

"Nanny? Nay never.
"Train free young fooballets with
"No Nike nanny"

He said and with a wry smile and a sigh, his eyes returned to the sky.

The players are used to this and take it as a sign to start kicking balls around randomly. Eckle and Warsaw go over to the touchline and start practicing last minute sliding tackles from behind on the slight Scottish winger.

20 minutes later when everyone is knackered and a card game has been set up behind the shower block, they hear:

"Arrr," cough, splutter: "Arrrr, come on Rabids let’s go! Arrr."

Mourir looked even worse than yesterday, his eyes red and bulging and reeking of decomposing moles.

"PASSION!" he spits with venom: "Branston Rabids are all about passion, yes?" he slapped Chris Rocket hard on the back leaving Chris winded and gasping. "Five-a-side eberyone, no prisoners yes?"

They amble, run and then pelt headlessly around the five-a-side pitches, driven by an increasingly maniacal Mourir.

"Arrr, you, numpty. Arrr, run, push, live with your heart and die, DIE!!" he slavered at Warsaw. "Is passion?" he squealed "Passion, PASSURrrghh."

He fell over clutching his throat and foaming at the mouth. He rolled around for a minute as the players gathered for a laugh. Then he calmed down.

"Er…are you alright?" said Eckle: "Would you like some water?"

"Arrgghh, no, no," said Jorges: "Its ok, ok, thanks." He mustered a frothy yellow smile which sent a shiver down the spine of the team. "I was bitten by a dog before I left Portologo and it’s starting to sting a bit."

He rolled up his left trouser leg to reveal his half-eaten calf, festering and fermenting. Eckle saw the bubbling and hissing pustules of frothing flesh and the black and green gangrenous bits and looked up at the pale face of Mourir.

"It’s only a scratch," said the manager: "Mr Stanza want me to start quick so I come, now," CLAP CLAP: "BACK TO WORK, RUN, DIE FOR BRANSTON!"

But when the slight Scottish winger missed the ball five minutes later the Portugazi jumped on him and sank his teeth into his wee pink ear. Like a mad Iberian hound he tore and ripped and gored and then stood over the limp Glaswegian frothing pink bubbles from his mouth and roaring.

The entire midfield just stood and looked at him and before they could think of anything better to do Mourir had passed among them, verily, like a rabid fox in a chicken coup.

Through the spray and mist of fizzing arteries Eckle noticed Basho running away screaming “Aaaah, the sound, the sound of one tooth biting,” and that Warsaw was the only one trying to stop the crazed continental shouting "Red card ref! Red card! Ref?"

Mourir, now crouching and circling, snarling and snapping, was on to him in a fell leap at Warsaw’s neck. Eckle jumped into action and pulled the managers face back and over and down. But Jorges bounced straight back into Eckle biting hard on the central defenders nose, growling.

When Warsaw finally hit him, with all the force of a Trans-Siberian express train, he flew howling fully 15 metres away, still with Eckle’s beak between his teeth.

Jorges was not yet gorged and bounded off to bury his fangs into the fleeing left buttock of the inside right, and then on for a squealing apprentices forearm. The open-nostriled Eckle gave chase, stuck out a sliding leg and tripped his manager into the goal post with a ‘TUNK!’ and a slow downwards slide.

Apart from some groaning it all went a bit quiet after that.

Then came the sirens; press, police, paramedics, in that order.

As it turned out the Authorities were aware that quarantine laws had been contravened and that there was a possibility of a rabies incident, but were inclined to let it slide as Baskerville Athletico were, after all, a very good team.

Despite the pain and the blood Eckle was mostly just worried about how they were going to patch a team together. The big game with Melchester Roofers was only 24 hours away and most of the squad had rabies.

He was eventually lifted into one of the ambulances, clutching his nose in a sock in his hand. He could only breathe through his mouth as his nose hole was stuffed up with blood and bandages but he still saw the pitch haired chairman, Sir Tannic-Stanza, laughing triumphantly into his Bluetooth.

Dodgy, thought the Belgian through squinting eyes, very dodgy…

The Velodrome - byebyebadman

Hugues had been a companion the last time I had seen a rugby match, and the circumstances could not have been more different. Sometime over the Christmas period two years ago we sat in near Siberic conditions at Edgeley Park in Stockport to watch an awful contest between Sale and Bath. The icy wind tore through us, making our teeth chatter in symphony. Who won? Who cares. A chilling experience, in every sense of the word.

I went to visit my sister Louise, Hugues and my new-born niece Emily this weekend in Pelisanne in the Provence region of France. As a surprise a trip to the Velodrome in Marseille had been arranged to watch the semi-finals of the French rugby championship between Stade Toulouse and Montferrand.

At this point I will admit to a little scepticism – not just because of the Stockport experience, but I have always found attending rugby matches, a passionless experience. I have seen Welsh internationals at the old Arms Park, where the pre-match singing and banter was exceptional, but the subsequent hammering dished out to the home team soon sucked the atmosphere dry. I also lived in New Zealand for a year and followed Wellington for a season, yet the abiding memory is one of row upon row of empty seats, in the country where love of rugby is said to be imprinted on the soul of the population. I even saw the All Blacks, thinking that surely was where the hysteria resided, but never has so little atmosphere been provided by so many for so few.

Sceptical as I may be I would never return a gift and this was also sisterly-approved man-time between Hugues and I. We parked by the old port in Marseille and made our way to the Joliette station on the Metro. As our train departed there were a few in the yellow and blue of Montferrand and a couple in the red and black of Toulouse around us. With each passing stop, they multiplied – ten, twenty, fifty, two hundred until each carriage was awash with colour. The rivalry was obvious, with both sets taunting each other, but there was a camaraderie as well; before we reached the final stop of Ste Marguerite Dromel the train erupted with a vibrant rendition of – appropriately enough – the Marseillaise.

As we stepped into the huge concrete salad bowl of a stadium Hugues turned to me and proudly announced ‘You are in the Stade Velodrome.’ I had mentioned several times down the years that I would like to go, but my visits had never coincided with an Olympique Marseille home game. As I caught my first glimpse of the pitch I remembered what had happened there. Francescoli, Boksic, Voller and even our own Chris Waddle had played regularly; Bergkamp scored his wonder goal against Argentina at one end; Platini, Tigana, Giresse et al defeated Portugal in 1984 in one of the epic internationals of all time.

That was football though, and today was about rugby. We were in the Montferrand section amidst a sea of yellow and blue flags. Interestingly, there were I would estimate a dozen different designs at least, flags from different seasons and generations, not the product of some supplied-on-the-day merchandise by the club and the sponsors. I found that heartening. The stadium itself was unimpressive, with cramped rows of dusty blue seats, litter everywhere and perimeter fencing to cage in human beings like cattle. Unfortunately for me a rather rotund French gentleman in the adjacent seat was sat partially on me – on the one occasion he chose to break wind, I could feel the aftershock through his thigh…

This turned out to be a minor discomfort as it became clear most of the match would be spent on our feet. The Toulouse fans made the initial racket, soon countered by a thunderous din from our (I have to be Montferrand; apart from the seating, they wear the blue and yellow of Warrington) end. Two songs in particular were on constant repetition – the cry of ‘TOU-LOU-SE!’ to the 3/3 beat of some deafening drums, counteracted by “Montferrand, allez, allez, allez!’ to the tune of Yellow Submarine. Hugues told me beforehand that these were the two best supported teams in France, and it was already clear that this would be unlike any rugby game I had ever been to.

Amidst the carnival, a game ensued. It had hitherto been a blustery, overcast day but as if to signal the match may begin the wind ceased and the clouds parted, illuminating the now packed stadium in glorious Mediterranean sunshine. The game was tense, tight and, predictably, bogged down in rugby’s red-tape of scrums, lineouts, rucks and mauls. despite the early boon of the first try Montferrand looked pretty ineffective, and by half-time Toulouse had mercilessly kicked their way into a 15-7 lead.

There was a despondency in our end during the break, the general consensus being that Toulouse were too strong, the Montferrand backs bouncing off their defence like flies hitting a windshield. Hugues, who knows far more about rugby than me, saw no way back. Such a despairing situation is an opportune moment for a piece of off-the-cuff brilliance.

Early in the second-half Montferrand’s international winger, Aurelien Rougerie, picked the ball up deep in his own half and ran at Toulouse. He slipped past one tackle, then another, suddenly breaking clear of the red and black swarm. In full flight he gracefully rounded the full-back and touched the ball down despite a thumping tackle on the line. Amazing.

Often a set of supporters will, as one, detect a shift in momentum and ram the advantage home. The noise from the Montferrand fans became overwhelming and visibly, unquestionably lifted the players. A penalty sent them into the lead; a dropped goal increased the advantage. The fans in red and black were barely audible now. Toulouse were gone, and everyone in the stadium knew it.

The game ended farcically, the hooter sounding during a lull whilst a Toulouse player lay injured, then restarted several minutes later from a scrum which Montferrand kicked high into the crowd. At the whistle the Montferrand players went almost as crazy as the fans, doing a lap of honour and then perching themselves precariously on the fencing, singing in unison with their public, shaking their hands, wearing their scarves. Hugues and I stayed to soak up every last second.

We negotiated the Metro comfortably and returned to to the car. As we started to head back to Pelisanne, I asked Hugues to clarify something that had seemed a little strange – were the Montferrand players' celebrations not just a touch excessive, given that this was a semi-final?

“No,’ Hugues replied, ‘they are happy now because when they get to the final, they always lose.’

I laughed – I’m not sure Hugues understood why – and we pulled onto the motorway and left Marseilles and the Velodrome behind us.

Monday, June 4, 2007

"Hurray! Fantastic! We Love it!" - Margin

Londoners have bad taste and judgement. We knew the Palace of Westminster was ugly and needed replacing. Monument was a pointless waste of money. And forks in the Middle Ages were Satan’s tridents.

We hated the neon boards at Piccadilly, derided our large clean bendy busses, and feared escalators were made to kill us.

It is not just that we judge the new wrong – it is that we judge the new so wrong that only Christopher Wren’s cleverness kept us from cancelling St Paul’s Cathedral half way up.

And so it is that the new Olympic symbol deserves great praise.

It reflects dynamism, youth, togetherness, inclusion, sport, integrity, honesty, fluffy bunnies, and double chocolate ice cream. It is a vibrant brand that will bring the world together and will reflect the glory of the greatest sporting spectacle on Earth.

It is not an expensive unfinished jigsaw, nor bland corporate dross. It is not the lazy creation of ad men with no hint at our sporting or cultural heritage. And it is not pretentious tripe shot from a committee’s collective arse.

So in this Londoner’s opinion the new Olympic logo is fantastic – and it is certainly better than the ugly Houses of Parliament and the awful Big Ben that we used as our symbol in 1948.

New logo and launch video here:

Salon des Pseuds’ goes back to the source as the Pakalolo Tavern gets steam cleaned: - Leif

On the rocky shores of the Aegean the white stone steps cascade, down into the salt water and up to a cool grassy glade punctuated by silver birch, soft pine and ionic columns shouldering the night sky.

A cracked stone tablet reads ‘Welcome Traveler’ in Greek.

Alabaster statuettes on pedestals of Khan, King, Gascoigne, Hemingway and Freeman; busts of Budd, Best, Bradman, and Baggio and Fangio all flicker in the waving lights from the hanging golden lanterns.

Ancient Persian rugs flatten pools in the whispering grass, silver chalices brim with the wondering, wandering grass.

There’s a bleached driftwood bar with silver nails and verdigris copper carte de jour and a cave that reaches through the ages to bring us every wonderful shade of elixir ambrosia straight from the poisoned tree of life; scrumpy anyone, calvados?

Sprigs of lavender adorn the birches and twigs of thyme burn slowly in the grate.

Timeless veils of immortal ephemera parade, serenade; our ghosts of Marley, Morrisey, Clarke and Morrison, Cave, Buckley and Bob; a gift from Yortubus, god of context.

Pseuds’ gather like shadows in the breeze, banter, bark and bray, inspiring, exhaling.

Haggling for hearsay with the echoes of Camus, Ezekiel, Thomas and Chief Dan George…

Liverpool - worst fans in the world: Official - Ebren & Margin

Uefa has ruled that Liverpool officially have the worst fans in Europe.

Over the last four years the European football authority explained that fans of the five-time European Cup winners have been involved in more incidents than the fans of any other club.

And that was not the only problem.

A Uefa spokesman said: "Zey are 'orrible, every time zey show up to support their club.

"Other clubs, zey return tickets - this is nice, we invite our friends, they 'ave nice lunches, everyone is 'appy. But zees Scousers, zey insist on turning up.

"And zey are even 'orrible for us 'oo 'ave kept ticketz away from ze fanz in advance. Zey make so much noize, zat we can hardly 'ear ourzelves eat."

A supporter from the LFC fan club responded: "Alright! Alright! Calm down.

"Dey do dough, don't dey, la."

MotoGP comes alive - mimitig

A Glass of water for Mr Parrish, and a handful of Vale (ium) for the Mimi, please.

What a stonking race! The best of the season so far, and now MotoGP really comes alive this year.

I thought I'd be writing a piece tonight on how the Aussies rule the roost (and more later) but what I forgot was that Mugello is Valentino's home turf and he would just never let it go.

As I followed the build-up to today's race, I was in full agreement with the pundits that this is the year when the Aussies are coming. The young guns Stoner and Vermuelen have won most of the races this year. Casey, riding for Ducati, has disproved his crash and burn reputation, and shown great maturity with the Italian team this season. Chris, riding for Suzuki, has taken advantages when he can, and a wet weather win in Le Mans was typical of his opportunistic skill.

Casey and Chris took pole and No 2 on the grid for today's race, and it seemed as though this would be a stroll in the park for a bit of Aussie rules. A great pre-race interview with Mick Doohan explained why they come over here with such a burning desire to win. The Brisbane man said: "It's a long way to go home with your tail between your legs, y'know? Australians always want to have it their way - winning."

Well fine, Mick. We know how the Aussies approach their sport and yes, they do like to leave large footprints in the sand, but up against the master, the Doctor, at home in Mugello and there'll be a fight on your hands!

And what a fight they got! Rossi didn't get the best of starts and in the early laps was down in 8th - not a winning position you would have thought but the Doctor was at home in his surgery and about to deliver a few lessons to his patients, or as commentator Charlie Cox would say - Nightmare in a bubble car for his opponents. Rossi just showed them all why he is Number One in the world of motor-cycle racing. He may not be the reigning world champion or even leading the current table, but he is the best in the world. My heart is in my mouth too often these days when he races, but I keep my faith with him - even at a 60 degree lean, and I trust that he will do the business, and deliver another World Championship for me and all his other fans. Just remember that although he may have been around for ever, he is still only 28 years old.

A postscript for today's race was that the privateer D'Antin Ducati team led the Italian bikes home. Nice one Alex!

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