Posts Tagged ‘sports’
I’ve put down some words of advice for nervous London Marathon runners. It’s so indispensable it will probably be read out over a loudspeaker on the start line on Sunday. Regular readers will recognize it as a amalgamated revival of some posts I wrote a year ago. I would say about 50% of the text is new so you may just want to read every other word. Here it is.
I ran a marathon once. This is what I learnt:
1. The immediate pre-race preparations are vital. The difficulty lies in achieving the delicate balance between taking on board the requisite fuel and not turning your stomach into a disused cement mixer. Eat as early as possible on the day and then evacuate yourself at your leisure in your own lavatory. You’ll then avoid the sensory degradation of the oncourse portaloos. There are things I saw and smelt in the toilets in Barcelona that will pollute my eyes and nostrils forever. If you are overcome after you’ve arrived in the starting area, be warned that loo roll may be sparse. I had to use two facewipes. Miraculously it worked. It was the anal hygiene equivalent of the loaves and fishes.
2. Don’t be afraid to change your race strategy. My tactic was to start slowly and gradually build up pace throughout the duration. My execution of the first part of the gameplan was magnificent. I started slowly. But then maintained the same speed before slowing even further before the end. It wasn’t so much running a marathon. More mincing one.
3. Being last out of 15,000 is funny at least. And you won’t get overtaken from there. Don’t fret if Rupert the Bear/plump women in bras/a man pushing a piano whizz past you. You’ll overtake your rivals later when proceedings resemble less of a foot-race and more a slow-moving queue of sweaty desperation.
4. Make the most of the end. It’s the only bit you’ll enjoy. Get shitfaced on Powerade, molest a steward, prance around in one of those tinfoil pashminas they give you. If you’ve got the energy.
5. Wear your medal. Everywhere. At work. In the shower. In bed. Wear it until an unsightly welt appears on your neck. You’ve earned it.
It’s been a better World Cup than four years ago. Nobody has died this time. Nobody has been wrongly accused of murder. Nobody has been wrongly accused of being murdered.
The cricket has been marginally better. Hardly the grandest boast. The ICC could have squeezed more entertainment out of a month of me mindlessly twatting a tennis ball against a garage wall than what transpired in the Caribbean. To be fair wall-twatting kept me amused for hours on end as a child, if not getting the neighbours flocking over to watch the action. That wall proved to be a tough but respected opponent but also became a cherished friend. Perhaps my only friend.
The greatest distinction between the two tournaments lies in that ring of people gathered around the edge of the pitch. They make noises. Wave a flag or two. Get a bit shirty if they can’t get a ticket. They care.
It definitely adds a little something to the atmosphere when the referee has to toss the coin again because no-one heard the call over the crowd.
So the Harris Sportsthoughts Twenty20 World Cup preview grinds to an apologetic halt on the eve of the tournament. Group D, you’re up:
We are now able to add Twenty20 cricket to that tedious list of sports that England invented and are now a bit rubbish at. Built in the image of the national football team, England only perform as well as the opposition put in front of them. Hence last year, England were shamed by the Dutch, before defeating defending champions India and future ones Pakistan. If they could courageously exit in the semi-finals on penalties to Germany having had Kevin Pietersen sent off, then they surely would. Currently undergoing an operation to become fully South African, which means they are even more likely to plummet out of the tournament in hilarious style. Has anyone seen England and South Africa in the same room? Oh yes, today in Bridgetown.
The West Indies are the home team, which counted for not very much during the last World Cup in the region when most of its support was loitering ticketless outside the grounds trying to listen to what was going down. Might be amazing, might be awful. Which is an improvement on last year’s Champions Trophy, where a second string side were only going to be awful.
Ireland have recently made a habit of taking a scalp in the preliminary stages of major tournaments, before clogging up the second phase with their mediocrity. Quite capable of repeating the trick (see England above). Are destined to be forever plagued by strange men in synthetic orange beards.
The Ashes is nigh. And with it comes the nauseating realisation (as if I didn’t know before) that I will ingest approximately 60% of the action through a 5cm wide blue oblong at the bottom of my monitor at work, probably dwarfed by a large spreadsheet whose cells contain information on lip gloss stock or wrinkle cream sales or something. If the make-up of my computer screen was directly correlative to my actual interest then the cricket score would be projected out in cinematic technicolour and the sales figures relegated to a single tiny pixel.
I should consider myself fortunate: sales administrators in the olden days were unable to follow the deeds of Grace, Larwood or Bradman on their abacuses or typewriters. And I can seek solace in numbers. Come Wednesday, clerical factotums all over the country will busy themselves with the surreptious pressing of the refresh button, cravenly looking over their shoulders for a suspicious boss.
In 2005, the Guardian online coverage nourished the collective appetite with the over-by-over updates. As a side dish, they served up choice contributions from readers, so that the frustrations of office-bound cricket watching became a shared experience. A support group.
The other crumb of comfort is that if it all starts going hideously awry for England, say we’re 96-6 chasing 619-4 dec at Sophia Gardens, then I can make it all go away with one click of my mouse. Watching An Aussie Goes Barmy on ESPN Classic this week makes me glad I’m at a reasonably safe distance from potential humiliation. The show follows an Australian as he watches our last catastrophic tour Down Under from the enemy ranks of the Barmy Army. As England slink to another defeat at Melbourne, the ashen faces of the Army say everything: as if their very souls are being pulverised to oblivion with every swish of Andrew Symonds’ bat.
Bring on the blue oblong.
Musical chairs is an boisterous game mainly played at children’s parties. And, in the recent weeks, the ITV studio. It seems that Steve Rider and Andy Townsend have swapped seats, eschewing the traditional anchor-pundit line-up. During the coverage of Saturday’s Cup Final, Townsend was pushed to operate wide out on the right with Rider taking up a more central role. Which meant that when Rider addressed the other guests on the left of the screen, he could not help but turn his back on his faithful colleague.
Now there was a echo to this unusual tableau, the origins of which became clear to me some time after the final whistle. It resonated with the memories of an infamous occasion in 1981 on the Russell Harty Show, during which the host was attacked by the terrifying disco diva Grace Jones. She complained that he was ignoring her as he swivelled his seat to face his other guest.
I am not suggesting that Townsend was about to start slapping at Rider’s back like a deranged kitten, but I did feel a little sympathy for him: I half-expected him to raise his hand and cough loudly when he wanted to wrestle the easy Rider’s attention back from the other pundits. And it seems unfair on the Rider, a man whose politeness has ascended to legendary status, to force him into the invidious position of freezing out his cohort from the conversation.
Townsend probably doesn’t give a crap: anywhere, including the cobwebbed extremeties of the commentary box, is better than the blessed Tactics Truck. If Townsend was the guinea pig in this hideous football punditry experiment, then the Tactics Truck was his grotty undersized cage.
A rumour went round in television circles that Townsend refused to leave the truck and at one point locked himself in. When worried producers managed to prise the door open they discovered him hiding under his desk, blinking at the natural light. They concluded that he had turned slightly feral and allowed him to stay there, but not before putting old newspaper down on the floor of the truck. Wierdly, the punditry improved.
It’s coming to that time of year when one of those metaphorical gap-toothed ratty-tached fairground folk cranks up his engine and the transfer merry-go-round whirrs into dizzying life again.
It should gather pace in quick order: there is no international tournament to delay proceedings. Managers like to mooch and browse around the summer finals searching for a bargain like a schoolgirl choosing bangles in Top Shop. They should heed the caveat that a player’s form over handful of games in July for his country is not representative of his actual talents. Particularly if one of those fixtures is against England, who have the unhappy knack of making crap look like Cruyff.
Hence the questionable skills of the likes of Stephane Guivarc’h, Salif Diao and Karel Poborsky were hired to dilute the quality of the Premiership (although in fairness to Poborsky he proved his class in later spells with Benfica and Lazio).
So what can we expect from this summer’s activity? In most years, managers gather around the relegated teams to see what titbits they can scavenge. A bit like when the tramps fall upon the black bags on the pavement outside Pret A Manger to dine on their discarded sandwiches. This season that analogy probably does poor service to Pret’s estimable baguettes: there are slim pickings on offer from Newcastle, Middlesbrough and West Brom. It’s largely Benjis fare. With the odd exception: Stewart Downing probably, Obafemi Martins potentially, and David Wheater certainly. He’s apparently attracting covetous glances from Rafa Benitez.
It would come as no surprise to me to see a yellow Robin Reliant parked down White Hart Lane as football’s very own Derek Trotter, Harry Redknapp peddles his wares and puts his own mark on the Tottenham squad. In fact a lot of chairmen will be reaching their hands down the backs of their sofas to see if they can find some forgotten asset on the substitute bench or the reserve squad that they can cash in on. By selling it to Wolves.
Another modern trend in football is the long-running transfer saga, the developments of which are played out ad nauseam in the papers and websites until the football community unite in their boredom and nod off. So we’ll have to endure the ongoing soap operas surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Barry and new and exclusive this season, Carlos Tevez. Intriguingly Tevez is another linked with a move to Anfield. The big four in this England tend not to share their prized possessions, jealously guarding them from their rivals (unlike in Italy where the top clubs swap their stars like Panini stickers). This embargo is most strictly imposed between Manchester United and Liverpool. A player has not been directly transferred between the two teams since 1964. It was Phil Chisnall in case you ask.
Of course Tevez doesn’t technically belong to United. He’s the possession of a shady Iranian businessman who is reputed to have links with South American drugs-running and arms-trading. But that’s an entirely different saga. A whole new merry-go-round.
I’m not in the habit of tuning into Radio 5 for 606 with DJ Spoony. You’ll find more informed football chat on Songs of Praise of a Sunday evening. But when a dejected Newcastle fan called in to complain that her team had been relegated ‘without a whimper’, it seemed like the most forthright condemnation of their performance possible: that they couldn’t even summon as much as a tiny sob as they bowed out at Villa Park.
In fact if Alan Shearer had asked for a whimper during his pre-match teamtalk it is entirely possible that that he’d have been greeted with a gallery of unenthusiastic faces. For this Newcastle side, whimpers require just a bit too much gumption and creativity.
And after the final whistle, as the cameras panned across the obilgatory shots of blubbery teary Geordies , the cheers still rung out from the away support. Christ knows what they were cheering at. It can’t have been the team. Or football for that matter. Maybe the weather. Or the pitch. Or the efficient post-match stewardship of the Villa Park staff.
Survival Sunday was a strangely muted affair. Not a whimper was heard as all four teams still fighting for their Premiership existence lost. If ever there was an advert for increasing the teams relegated to the Championship to five then this was it.
If Phil Brown was embarassed that his Hull team had stayed up despite winning one game all year then he didn’t show it: crooning on the pitch like a pissed uncle at a wedding.
Ricky Sbragia took the other approach and promptly resigned as Sunderland manager. But then his side stopped whimpering weeks ago.
I played my first cricket game of the season on Saturday – the season being winter – and was left strangely fazed by my performance. I didn’t bat, achieved nothing of note in the field, and was brought on for three accurate but pointless overs hidden in the wastelands of the mid-innings lull by a beneficent captain happy to donate the opportunity of a meaningful contribution. Which I spurned.
I ruminated all evening and the following morning but it was only when I switched over from Countryfile to watch the Test Match that I realised what was gnawing at me. I’m Tim Bresnan. The guy to make up the numbers: to turn X into XI. That’s why I am called ‘I’.
Which was why I was surprised when captain Strauss plumped for Brez Lad to open up on this morning when England scrambled for wickets as the clouds gathered and Broad and Onions stewed.
One wondered what machinations had occurred in the dressing rooms beforehand, but from my schoolhood experience if you find yourself unexpectedly called upon in the sporting arena it’s because your mum has rung your games teacher to complain that you’ve caught your death of cold standing for hours in the wilder parts of the outfield.
So it would seem to explain a great deal if coach Flower had received an irate call from Ma Bresnan saying that young Timmy had come home in tears because the other boys wouldn’t let him play. Or from Mrs. Collingwood saying that her cherished one had always wanted to have a go with Matthew Prior’s gloves because the ball hurts his hands. And Jimmy’s mum to ask if her son could join the slip cordon because they were always laughing together and he felt left out.
Flower is clearly an amenable chap. He even let Borthwick and Turner, the little ones from the nursery school, out onto the pitch to have a run around where the ball wouldn’t hit them. Hopefully.
But we should take the opportunity to congratulate Bresnan on taking his first three wickets in test cricket – it might be the last chance he gets this summer. And to all those who took catches having found themselves in foreign fields.
And to Strauss and Flower for a pulling off a minor masterstroke in ignoring the claims of more senior bowlers and giving Master Tim his shot. My mum has your number Mr. Flower: expect a call any time soon.
As a postscript to this post, I have just noticed that I have included an inadvertent Onions pun for which I can only apologise.
Having been subjected to attack from what one might suggest was friendly fire, it has been a torrid old week for some of our more venerable sporting institutions. First Chris Gayle smacks test cricket for six over its head by confessing that he wouldn’t be so sad if it died out. And then Rory McIlroy delivered a fearful whack to the Ryder Cup, arguing that it’s just an exhibition and ‘not that important to me’. I shouldn’t be surprised to read in my paper tomorrow that Sir Steve Redgrave has claimed that Olympic gold medals are ‘not all that’ or Sir Alex has revealed his true feelings by taking a crap in the European Cup.
McIlroy’s outburst can probably be attributed to adolescent recalcitrance. He is only twelve after all. His captain and playing partner today Colin Montgomerie probably took this into consideration when he politely asked the press not to make a war between him and the younger man (although in truth it’s something we’d probably all like to see: the young scrapper against the sheer bulk of the Scot).
Gayle claims he was misrepresented. You can judge for yourself by listening to the audioclip here. The strange thing about this interview is that it sounds as if Gayle and the female journalist are on a date. Gayle comes across slightly coy and flirty and definitely a bit pissed. It would certainly explain why his defensive technique deserted him on this occasion.
Test cricket had an immediate opportunity to stand up for itself and say ‘now listen here my good man’ at Chester-le-Street today on the first day of the Second Test. Unfortunately, on a play-doh pitch in front of a soupcon of spectators, it was more: ‘actually Chris maybe you’ve got a point.’
In fact, perversely, the most interesting section of play was when Gayle brought himself onto bowl early against Andrew Strauss, the self-appointed champion of the test game. It was like he was countering his own argument.
The debate continues tomorrow.