Archive for October, 2012

I hereby retire from reading the ramblings of idiots

I am officially retired from reading comments on sports websites. Unless you wish to become objectively stupider, or wish to have a brain aneurysm, I suggest you do the same.

Having been an avid reader (if this torture could ever be described as reading, or if those who do it to themselves could ever be avid) of the comments on the bottom of stories about sport in Australia I have at times found myself contemplating the kind of people there are in this world. What do they do, aside from blaming officials for everything that’s wrong with their sport and their lives? Is there more to life? Have they ever heard of happiness? The kind of existential questions clearly never considered by those who serially post (note how close that is to serial pest) on websites.

Life and sport governance is simple, they say, as are the rules. Why can’t we just go back to the good old days of having everything black and white? All this dastardly newfanglery has made my head ache and my balls itchy. Oh yeah, that’s the spot.

By the way, I know this might seem to tie in with the whole cyber bullying thing doing the rounds in the media at the moment, but it really wasn’t inspired by this. It’s quite coincidental, and was brought on by my hatred of stupid people.

The worst part about it all is that I feel like journalists cater to their throngs of commenting supporters who make them feel like they’re influencing the structures of governance with their ill-informed gripes about things that confuse and therefore anger them. They bash out the same old stuff each and every week, their keyboards groaning as they copy paste last week’s piece into a new document as a template.

Perhaps this lady has a clever web pseudonym and posts on Australian sports stories?

My formula for a rugby league story: Ref makes mistake. Ref therefore worst person in the history of the world. Get quotations from coach about how referees deserve a noose. Pander shamelessly to your idiot fans. Profit.

If “ref” doesn’t suit on one particular weekend, then substitute for David Gallop. Even better, write an open letter to David Gallop.

The Australian sports media has convinced me that open letters are the preferred medium of morons.

It does no one any favours, particularly intellectually. In fact, reading some publications’ coverage of rugby league would achieve similar levels of intellectual augmentation as running headfirst at a brick wall with a only saucepan to cushion the blow.

What really irks me is that people actually believe what they are reading.

As such, I’ve compiled a list of suggestions that have been bandied about by commenters in an attempt to prove that a) they are devoid of firing synapses in their cerebrum, and b) their suggestions are largely contradictory and/or meaningless. I shall not attempt to point out the folly or contradiction, as I trust readers of this to be able to do that themselves. A is for apple.

1. Fix the rulebook! All this screwing with the rules has created all these grey areas that no one, even the refs, understand anymore.

2. Blow more penalties! If someone is 1cm offside, there is no calling them out of the play. None of this “managing the game” bollocks, just blow the whistle.

3. Refs are ruining the game with their damn whistles! If they didn’t blow so many penalties, my lonely Friday nights spent with my two best mates, pizza and Tooheys, would be much more enjoyable. Plus, the less penalties they blow the more I can stand up and scream “Are you blind ref!?!?,” although I have been getting more noise complaints than usual recently… And yes, my two best mates are pizza and Tooheys, you read it right.

4. David Gallop is terrible, and don’t tell me otherwise! I don’t know the guy, I’ve never watched one of his press conferences, I never saw how he handled himself and the terrible positions he was put in by morons, but I have it on good information from my friend of a friend’s dog’s brother’s canary’s master’s owner’s sister-in-law that David Gallop is just awful at his job and should be blamed for every one of rugby league’s and my own problems. And even though he is no longer employed by the NRL or the independent whatsit, he’s still to blame for the fact my Weet-bix are soggy.

5. Replace all the refs, coaches, players, fans, administrators and toilet cleaners! Everyone needs to pack their bags.

6. As soon as we get sick of blaming Gallop, we can start to blame John Grant up in his ivory tower! Look at him, all the way up there. How the hell did he afford all that ivory?

7. AFL is better than our sport, so we should start to copy them! Short shorts, singlets, cappucinos, four goalposts. By gee, the grass looks a lot greener over there. Oh, that’s right, it’s really cold in Melbourne.

8. Players don’t make mistakes, people make mistakes! Players are heroes, not people. Coaches are often former players. Learn some respect, you stupid blogger!

9. Bill Harrigan! Rabble rabble rabble.

10. Everything keeps getting worse! Apparently this game is supposed to be professional, but I see no evidence of professionalism. Professional players? Professional players don’t get paid to shit in hallways. Referees now being professional? I spit on referees. Full time referee coaches? Not worth my time. Independent commission? I see no accountability. In fact, now that I mention accountability, no one is accountable for anything anymore. Except me behind my internet handle.

Anyway, I’m over it. I’m done with reading comments on sports stories unless they are hilarious and are about Scott Minto. There is a guy on Foxsports who does some rippers.

Finally, the commenter name of the week goes to: D Messenger of Referees are not real people! Well done, your stupidity is now enshrined in these hallowed chronicles.

The objectivity of a commentator

A comment on my last post about Lance Armstrong about Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen got me thinking about commentators, the nature of their task and what they owe the fans and the athletes, and possibly the sport itself.

The comment said that Phil Liggett should not have promoted Lance Armstrong’s charity events, and Paul Sherwen should not have gone into business with Lance, and generally they should not have tooted his horn so much as they are supposed to be journalists. They compromised their positions, and could no longer report on the sport when they held vested interests with individuals competing at the time.

So I thought a bit about what it means to be a journalist, and what it means to be a commentator. I have a gut feeling that they are separate entities, and that being a commentator does not necessarily make you a journalist, and vice-versa.

This post is by no means going to be a thorough description of a job from a normative standpoint. Moreso I am going to think as a fan. What do I want from a commentator? What, if anything, do they owe me as they call their sport. Also, I’m not particularly interested in the timbre of their voice, or any such aesthetic matters, as interesting those matters are to discuss over a beer of three on a Friday evening. The Ray Hadley vs Andrew Voss debate was a common one around pubs in Australia this year, and I would hazard a guess that your average non-2GB-listening punter would have backed Vossy all the way. If they didn’t then they probably share Hadley’s baffling political and social views. Tell me I’m wrong.

I’m more interested in discussing the objectivity of the commentator who shouts, whispers or drones (depending on sport and commentator) on in the background as we watch, no doubt jumping out of our seat every now and then to say things like “Offside! Are you fucking blind?” “Got him! Yes! Piss off. You’re out!” and my personal favourite “Shoooooooottttt!”

The best thing about “Shot” is it can be used in earnest to describe a good shot in tennis/cricket/ping pong/pool or can be used ironically to describe an abortion of an attempt by a player. Versatility is its strong point.

Should a commentator be objective? I suppose here is a convenient time to differentiate the “colour” commentator from the “play by play” guy.

The colour commentator, I think we can all agree, is not paid to be objective. He (or she) is paid to give his opinion on the game. If he doesn’t rate a guy’s (or girl’s) performance, he’s supposed to tell you about it. If he thinks someone is awesome, again, he’ll tell you all about it.

Sometimes we hate colour commentators because they drone on and on about the same thing every time they’re on air, or are just so openly biased that they frustrate opposition fans to the point of yelling at the TV, expecting a response, ala Ian Chappell and Murray Mexted.

Sometimes we love these commentators, and they’re the best or only reason to watch/listen to a certain program. I think Kerry O’Keefe would be a prime example.

It comes with the territory of being a colour commentator that you have to have a level of personal familiarity with players. They are often former athletes or coaches themselves, and to expect them to relieve themselves of these relationships before taking up commentating would be unnecessary and possibly harmful to their craft. The right balance and level of familiarity can be discussed, but eventually it will just come down to who the individual is and who is friends are, and up to the fan to recognise the potential biases.

The play-by-play guy, which category Phil Liggett, Ray Warren, Gordon Bray and Darryl Eastlake fall into, is the dude who rabbits on, constantly describing the action. If it’s going to be anyone, the burden of objectivity is going to fall on him.

I think Greg Clarke, the Aussie rugby commentator, does a reasonable job of this. Hugh Bladen (I know I promised not to talk about timbre of voice, but indulge me for a moment), with the best voice of any commentator, ever, maintains a fairly objective point of view throughout the matches he calls.

Even in these more objective casts of fixtures more emphasis is placed on the home country. Greg Clarke loves talking Wallabies, and knows more about them than any other team because he gets paid to call Australian games. Whether it’s deliberate or not, both he and Hugh concentrate more on their team than the opposition.

Phil Liggett, on the other hand, is a guy who has been calling cycling races for forty years, and it probably the best ever English caller of cycling. He has earned, and I mean earned, the tag of “The voice of cycling.”

Do we expect objectivity from Phil? The person who commented no my blog certainly thinks we do, or at least should.

Personally, I’m not so sure. I think commentators have a relationship with the athletes that demands some accountability in the way they talk about them on air, but not objectivity necessarily.

If you take away the personal feelings commentators have about players, you don’t get as much emotion in a broadcast, and surely it is the commentator’s job to inject emotion into the game. Otherwise the hype around players, the screaming when a certain player comes from nowhere to make a crucial tackle, or score the winning try, or kick the winning gaol, would be either lost or it would be disingenuous.

Sport is all about subjectivity for the fan, even for those who commentate. I treat the commentator as a salesman more than a journalist, and it’s his job to tell you why the sport is so great, why the athletes are great, and why you should be watching them.

He shouldn’t tell you why these things are objectively good either, instead why these things appeal to him personally.

I would separate sport reportage from commentary, and say that there is more burden on a reporter to be even-handed, if not objective in his or her coverage of a sport. I think that commentators going with their gut, having their favourites and telling us what they really think about an individual on a personal level is more than warranted.

As for whether there is a conflict of interest in a commentator supporting someone they commentate, say, in their charity endeavours, well, maybe that is more interesting. Should Phil Liggett endorse Lance Armstrong’s charity and MC events for him? I think he probably could, being that not only is he a cycling commentator, but more generally a cycling personality. He should separate his work as a commentator from his work as journalist as well as his work as a personality.

As an analogy, I think it would be appropriate for Ray Warren to MC a Darren Lockyer foundation event, or Ritchie Benaud a Ricky Ponting Foundation event.

I suppose what muddies the waters in Phil’s case is Lance being caught committing an awful crime. He stood by Lance for longer than most, but I don’t begrudge him that. Nor do I begrudge the best bike race caller I’ve listened to having an opinion on individuals in his sport.

It adds to the call. It adds to the spectacle. I don’t think objective coverage is necessarily par for the course in the case of the play-by-play guy.

I watch sport because it tugs the heartstrings. My heartstrings. Not the heartstrings of the neutral observer inside me.

For those of you who believed in fairytales

I promised myself at the very beginning of this thing with Lance Armstrong that when Phil Liggett goes I go.

This is for a few reasons. First of all is the obvious one: Phil Liggett seems like just about the best bloke in history and should probably be listened to whenever he speaks he speaks about cycling, particularly when he speaks of the soul of the sport. Second of all the guy’s been watching Lance, and all the others, for years, and had a special kind of respect for him. He was reluctant to admit Lance did it, probably because he didn’t want to believe he had done it. I felt the same way.

The relationship between a commentator and an athlete is a funny one, and in the case of the Liggett-Armstrong relationship, a long one. There’s always an element of man-crush about it, but Liggett is a legend of the sport despite never having competed. He’s well thought of by those who listen.

He is referred to as ‘The voice of cycling.’ If this man is the voice, then surely he speaks from the heart of the sport. I wouldn’t say Phil speaks from the head. Phil is too pure to speak from the head. The head of the metaphorical cycling man is too corrupt.  The brains of the sport are in too deep to speak as Phil did.

So when Liggett said that he’s off the Lance-Wagon, I bailed too.

Let me reiterate, though, that I am reluctant to jump. Not because I don’t think he’s guilty. Not because what he did wasn’t wrong. The fact is it was so very wrong, and Lance knew it. I just wish he hadn’t.

In his speech after he won the 2005 Tour de France he criticised people who criticised him, saying they didn’t believe in miracles and were poorer for it.

The fact is that Lance Armstrong would have been the best thing to ever happen to cycling if he was clean. The fact that he cheated doesn’t vindicate anyone, particularly journalists with 20-20 hindsight. In some ways it only makes us poorer for having no one to believe in.

He was the man who won seven tours in a row, clean. He beat the cheats in their own backyard. He rose to the top and stayed there for longer than anyone else in the history of the sport. He dominated what I consider to be the hardest sporting event on the planet. He was the greatest this gruelling sport had ever seen, and there was daylight to second place. It was a real life miracle.

Or a fairytale.

It turns out that it was too much to ask for someone to beat the cheats without cheating himself. In no way am I justifying what he did by saying that he was only doing what everyone else did. I am simply saying that he was the man who we all thought could. I think sadness is just as appropriate a response as outrage.

The USADA report paints Lance as a bully; a ruthless individualist who will do anything to attain personal profit and glory. He manipulated and bullied the media into not reporting or retracting stories accusing him of doping. He bullied those who spoke out against him, and bullied his teammates into cooperating with the team doping policy.

He was the leader of the most sophisticated doping scheme in cycling history. He’s to blame for it all.

I didn’t know any of this was true before the USADA report. Then again, I didn’t realise Tiger Woods was a rampant sex maniac before his fall from grace in 2009. I think that, like Tiger, this image will be adjusted over time.

Like the reports of Tiger’s infidelity, I think the depiction of Lance as a bully who only wants what is good for himself will slowly recede in severity as his account is released and time runs its anger-cooling course.

People will begin to remember his charity work, which undoubtedly is a great thing that he has done for humanity, not just cycling, and many would argue is his greatest achievement (it certainly is now). Whether it was founded and nurtured under false pretences, and whether the means justify the end is certainly another point to debate, and may lead to another media storm. Another storm that will eventually rain itself out.

It may even come to pass, like it did with the Tiger, that people will actually start wishing him well again, and applaud him for his success in other ventures.

People will start to forgive him eventually.

The obvious question that really burns in all this is why has Lance refused to say anything? He could be writing his admission book, which will no doubt sell a load of copies and add fuel to the accusations of him being a money-hungry narcissist. He may be preparing some sort of statement that will not implicate him in anything legal, but admits his guilt. Who knows?

There have been some journalists (journalists I wasn’t even aware were cycling journalists, until now conveniently) who have said that his time has passed. It is too late to respond now, they say.

Why is that? Where is the arbitrary line that you drew that denotes the precise point when it was too late for an accused man to stand up and respond to these very serious allegations about the very fabric of his being; his life’s work? Or is it just because he didn’t fit in with your paper’s news values that his time has passed?

Take all the time you need Lance, but please direct your words toward the Phil Liggetts more than anyone else; those to whom you promised a miracle, and delivered this.

Dead rats aplenty in Australian rugby

A dead rat

You’ve probably all got two questions for me.

The answer to the first one is yes, I definitely think it was my blog post that forced John O’Neill’s hand and made him call it a day as ARU CEO. I kid, but indulge me for a second on one of my favourite topics.

Being a sports administrator in Australia sucks. I think that, generally speaking, they are incredibly hard working, intelligent people who are honestly trying to do their best for the sport, but people who have no idea what they are talking about still blame them for every problem they don’t understand due to their lack of comprehension of things that are fundamental to being a reasonable human being. David Gallop did the same as JON, quitting the sport he had worked so hard for with no thanks from the fans or journalists who didn’t realise exactly what he had been doing for the ten years that was possibly the best in the game’s histroy. So I suppose some sort of thanks should be in order for John’s work and his putting up with being covered in shit for so long.

As for the second question, I just don’t know. I don’t know what the previous record for the most uses of the word “shit” in a blog post is so I can’t comment. I know many of you might find that “disappointing,” but there you have it.

Begin aiming handfuls of shit at me.

And to further preface this post, I want to explore two more phrases sporting people in the media like to say. The first is “can’t comment,” which is extremely frustrating mostly because the utterer is inevitably pretending they’re harbouring national security secrets in those pea brains when really they’re only not saying what’s written on their wrist tape: “Run hard at player with x on their back.”

The second one is “accountability.” If there’s one thing I’ve learned from sports media it’s that everyone has a different definition of accountability for every situation and will use it against people with a different, in their view flawed, view of accountability. The other thing is that everyone except the person who actually should be accountable is responsible for the mistakes of others.

As for this post, well, what’s it about? It can’t be about shit, I’ve done that one to death.

No, this one is going to flesh out one of the things I hinted at in the last article, and that is people blaming the Waratahs for everything that’s terrible in the world. Are they really “accountable” for the Wallabies terrible play?

I know they weren’t terribly impressive this year. The fans weren’t happy with their performances, which was reflected in the crowd numbers. But Sydney has always been a fickle market and when a team ain’t winning on the field, chances are they’re probably not packing out their horribly located venue.

As usual, journalists thought the Waratahs were the worst thing that ever happened to society, and once again we have a change in coach, change in CEO, fan forums, the works. It almost seems to me like the Waratahs are being accountable, but I can’t really comment on that. I know that might be disappointing for you to hear.

In fact, it is hard to tell with journos exactly whose fault it is. Is it everyone’s favourite person to hate, the head administrator? Michael Foley copped a lot of stick this year, so maybe it was the coach? Perhaps it’s the players? No, what was I thinking? It’s never the players’ fault for playing badly. How silly of me!

In the case of the Waratahs it seems to be some sort of joint venture of all three ‘camps’ (pet peeve alert), which honestly doesn’t help when you’re trying to write a snappy headline.

“Combination of poor administration, bad coaching and terrible play cited as reason for Horrortah season by Waratah CEO,” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “Fire the NRL refs.” Rugby League journos just have it made, what with everything being in black and white and all.

But one very well thought of rugby scribe went on record after John O’Neill retired saying that the Wallabies were on struggle street not for the reasons that Quade “Toxic Environment” Cooper was rabbiting on about.

There’s nothing wrong with the ARU, he says, or the Wallabies’ management or coaching structure or gameplan or any such thing like that which would make sense in the context of the Wallabies playing poorly. These people are and have been accountable for their errors according to this journalist, and it was an entirely separate entity bringing down the house.

It was in fact the Waratahs, from beyond the Super Rugby grave, making the men in yellowy-gold play badly. He said that the Waratahs players are so brainwashed by an inept administration (recently fired and replaced) and coaching setup (ditto) and playing poorly themselves (never really the players’ faults though) that they can’t possibly hope to play well ever again, even under another structure like Deans’ (which happens to be excellent). All along, it was the bloody Waratahs are screwing it up for the rest of us.

Sorry, but do you know how ridiculous that sounds?

Let me just savour it for a moment. Hmm. Yes. It has strong notes of Warnie blaming mum for taking diuretics, with a background palate of Bulldogs players not yelling at the media, but in fact at each other. But how are the legs? Sadly they are shithouse.

Let’s humour this man for a second. Let’s pretend that the Waratahs do objectively suck, and could never play football after being cursed by donning the sky blue jersey. Could we compare the inept organisation at the Waratahs to, say, what must be a terrible culture at the Lions? This is a team that has hardly competed with other teams, let alone won a game, in Super Rugby since its inception.

Do people blame the Lions for South Africa losing to Australia, or drawing with Argentina? No. But the Saffas sure as hell don’t pick as many Lions’ players as they do Stormers or Bulls.

And yet this current batch of Wallabies is proverbially heaving with Worrytahs, or Horrortahs, or Wobbletahs, or some other terrible pun on the state flower. Why is that?

Well, it’s either they are good players, deserving of playing for the Wallabies, or that the Australian selectors are mistaken in selecting them. Notice how neither of these two reasons involves a problem created by the Waratahs franchise. In fact, one would even involve some kudos for the Tahs, directly contradicting the point that Waratah players can’t catch, pass or run (we all know they can kick).

I know it’s sometimes confusing separating the Waratahs problems from the Wallabies, what with both teams start with the same letter and all, but the jersey is a different colour for one, and the coach of the team in gold is a New Zealander.

There’s just no way we can or we should blame the Tahs for problems that aren’t theirs. For me, it’s “disappointing” that people try to pass the buck of “accountability” onto the younger brother when bigger brother has a shocker, but maybe I shouldn’t comment on that.

My dad has a saying: if it looks like dead rat, and smells like dead rat, then it’s probably dead rat. To me, it looks and smells like there is more than one dead rat, and to pass off two dead rats as one, well, that’s just disrespectful to the other dead rat.

When it all goes to shit, have a shower

The Wallabies sure have created something of a shitstorm in the past few weeks haven’t they?

For all those who have been on Mars or in Norway for the past month or so let me summarise what’s been happening.

Basically everyone, the team, journalists, Quade Cooper, people who are not Quade Cooper and every blogger and guest columnist that ever existed have taken little handfuls from the big pile of shit that was heaped on the Waratahs throughout the year and begun flinging it at each other. They no longer know why they are doing it, just like monkeys probably don’t know why they throw their own faeces at other monkeys, but hey, there’s still shit flying through the air.

If you’ve ever read a newspaper in Sydney or Brisbane then you’ll know that the pile of shit that has been dumped on the Waratahs is ample. Well, the shit flinging to date has put a rather severe dent in that pile, and in the wash-up almost everyone’s left with their hands and body covered in shit.

First of all the Wallabies incurred the wrath of the ‘aimless kicking brigade,’ those rugby fans who come out of the woodwork every year when the Tri-Nations, sorry, ‘Rugby Championship,’ starts, by playing like shit against the All Blacks. These people threw shit at the men in yellow (thanks Quade) for two weeks until their arms were sore and covered in shit from flinging so much shit.

The Wallabies’ players and coaches found themselves covered with shit as a result of this barrage from the public. But they hadn’t thrown any themselves. Yet.

Then Quade Cooper decided to dig up a big handful of shit and fling it at everyone at the ARU; not so much at the players, but at the coach and whoever it is who decides where they train.

Robbie Deans is again asked for comment by the shit-flinging journalists who are praying for a reaction from him, just hoping he will scoop up a handful of shit and throw it at someone, anyone. After the amount of shit he has all over him by now, who wouldn’t? But he refuses to bite.

More people dip their hands into the shit pile, with a number of “senior Wallabies,” mysterious, eerie figures who remain nameless (are they ghosts?) throw a bunch of shit at Quade, then Drew Mitchell does the same, labelling Quade’s “comments” as “disappointing,” the universal sporting term for anything anyone doesn’t like.

The headline on a certain webpage I visited said “Mitchell slams Quade” then goes on to quote Mitchell as saying Quade’s comments were “disappointing.” But we all know the subtext of “disappointing.” It just means that the disappointee has a big pile of shit in his hand, and he/she (don’t want to be a misogynist) is throwing said shit at the disappointer, cuing the throw by saying the word “disappointing.” Sort of like how you say “heads” as a stray football almost kills a senior citizen. The word disappointment is used more a gateway to shit being thrown than it is to describe a real emotion.

Now Quade’s covered in shit too, and a bunch of journos come out and throw shit at the Wallabies some more, more because they’re rugby writers and there’s no rugby at the moment, as well as just to reminisce. Then people say the journos are just bored and tiresome so they throw some shit at them.

There’s brief respite when someone figures out that this is all the Waratahs fault again, and the pile of shit at Moore Park is built back up a little, before people realise the guy’s an idiot so create a brand new mess by throwing shit at the guy who suggested it.

By this time all the boys in, or formerly in, yellowy-goldy-margeriney coloured jerseys are covered in shit. The journos are covered in shit too, thrown by the public, the players and themselves, and Robbie Deans is still caught in a shit crossfire and is up to his knees in shit. Still hasn’t thrown any though.

At one stage I threw some shit. I wrote an article on The Roar throwing shit at the Wallabies because I thought they sucked up a storm one day in Pretoria, before I realised that afterwards my hands were covered in shit and I retreated before any shit could be flung back. Dodged a bullet there.

Even Richie McCaw found time between winning footy games and having tea with the queen to throw some shit at a Robbie Deans, at which point Robbie must have been asking the eternal deity what he’s done to Richie except improve his resume, and Quade Cooper.

Finally the team wins. It might have been boring, but they still won. Less shit than normal is thrown.

The situation as it stands is that everyone’s covered in shit. Everyone’s hands are dirty from greedily diving into wheelbarrows of shit and hurling it nonchalantly at any passing target within convenient range. The people who have had shit flung at them fling some back, and somehow everyone ends up just throwing shit at each other and they’ve all forgotten why, but the shit-flinging must go on.

Robbie Deans, a poor New Zealand chap who it just so happens is a really good coach and seems to be a really good guy, is covered in shit because for whatever reason he is in the middle of the shit throwing and can’t wade out fast enough.

In general, the sooner people start using their noses the sooner they will realise they are covered in shit, and might go take a bath or something. The sooner everyone figures that out the sooner I might be able to read some good rugby writing.

Until then, I’ll just wash the small amount of shit I accumulated off myself and applaud Robbie Deans, for although he might be covered in the stuff, he’s the only one who doesn’t have to wash his hands.

I said they would win! Give me chocolates!

An innings of character in a Twenty20 match? I might be going a bit batty… All this sideshow, Korean dancing by men from Jamaica, fireworks, bands playing from go-to-whoa must be beginning to have work its way into my brain. Like that black stuff from Spiderman 3. Terrible movie.

Marlon Samuels played a lone innings on Sunday in the World Twenty20 final. 78 from 56 proved to be enough to get the West Indies over the line. Well, that and 20 marvellous (thanks Ritchie) overs from the Windies bowlers, in particular a jaffa from Ravi Rampaul and Sunil Narine’s always immaculate mystery spin.

But before I go onto to talk more cricket, I will first address some housekeeping. I know I’ve been talking a lot about this weird World Twenty20 thing that no one’s been watching, but you must understand it is me grasping at relevance. This is something that was going on until yesterday, and I thought people might be interested in it. At journalism school, which I attended at some point in my life, they taught us that currency is everything in the media. I didn’t understand at first, but when I started reading all this stuff about Alan Jones and “cash for comment” I finally understood.

One friend of mine, the one with the terrible golf swing for those who want to go lynch him, even suggested that I write about Wife Carrying, which I subsequently googled and found that it is a sport of my newly native Scandinavia. Finland was the birthplace, and though I could now regale you about the ins and outs of the correct carrying style for the Estonian method, there haven’t been any Wife Carrying championships recently, so my google hits will go down if I suddenly tag a post with stuff about Alexy Kopshoratov of Russia who carried his barely legal 49.1 kilogram wife over the 253.5 metre course in the shortest time ever recorded, while drinking half a dozen beers along the way. Or maybe my hits will go up? I’m tagging it just in case.

Cricket, however, remains the focus of this post. Sorry to disappoint.

In my previous post I warned the Windies against letting me down and losing in the final, lest they feel my wrath. When they were 2/32 halfway through their 20 overs I was ready to let Mahela hoist the trophy then and there. As it turns out, unlike the Aussies, the boys who bleed maroon did not have a rule instated whereby only their top three were allowed to score a significant proportion of the runs, and the middle and lower order are allowed to contribute too.

This seems like a reasonable enough step to me, and here’s why. See, when Australia decided upon this strategy, it meant that if their top three got out quickly without scoring absurd amounts of runs that could never be chased down, they lost the game straight away. Not literally, as in they didn’t stop playing. But once the Huss was out of there Bailey and co would shut up shop, not bothering to score. It wasn’t their job, you see.

The West Indies, not having self-applied this limitation on their side, instead applied a motto of “One people, one team, one goal,” which meant they could still win the game even when their top order failed. A cunning plan implemented by the shrewdest of strategists Darren Sammy.

With all the sarcasm aside for a moment, however, Sammy did prove his value to the side which apparently was in question. Having followed his performances fairly closely since he became captain, his mediums, while gentle, have been a more regular source of wickets than most of their more fiery quicks at all levels of cricket. His batting has definitely outshone some of his younger, “more talented” top order compatriots. Where these critics get their right to question the guy who has been one of the Windies best for the past couple of years is beyond me.

Samuels came in at three and played a gem, including a six that would rival the one Brett Lee hit at the Gabba. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. He was ably assisted by Dwayne Bravo (scored runs batting at four, gasp) and a late flurry from aforementioned tactition Sammy, who tactically dispatched all and sundry balls in his vicinity for twos and fours in his strategic slogging of the Sri Lankan closers. This ensured a competitive total of near 140. Pretty good going when your openers don’t work out for you. Hint hint.

Then the bowlers got to work. Rampaul cleaned Dilshan up first rock, with a jaffa that no one except The Wall (that’s me, GDCC players will attest. Rahul Dravid lost that title after being bowled a hundred consecutive times or whatever it was) would have been able to keep out. It was one of those moments where you yell “Ooooooooooohhhhhhhh” and get up and shake around violently while your girlfriend eyes you skeptically from across the room because you’ve done this a couple of times already today and you’re watching the cricket with no beer and you’re wearing headphones like a weirdo. I did a very similar thing with the Samuels six in case you were curious.

Loud exclamation. Move around on the couch a bit. Girlfriend shakes head, keeps studying.

2 for 6 from 2 overs pretty much summed up Sammy’s performance with the ball; they couldn’t get him away even for singles, and when they attempted it they got out. Try as they might, the Sri Lankans couldn’t get any rhythm on the slow and dusty surface. Even the two titans, Mahela and Sangakkara, though they looked the most assured, couldn’t find the boundary with any regularity.

And Narine. Well. People just have no idea how to play him. I hope his Test cricket is played with just as much spirit as his Twenty20, because he could be one of the best bowlers going around in all formats pretty soon.

Come to think of it, the same could be said of the whole team. This is a good side, especially when it comes to batting. If they can find a way to take 20 wickets over five days, and with Narine and Bravo back they might have a greater chance, there’s really nothing stopping these Calypso kings from causing some serious upsets and begin their climb back up the ranking ladder.

I really hope this happens, because as Sammy said in the post match press conference, the West Indians know how to party. And God knows I love watching them partying when they win (I’m a big proponent of Gangnam Style, and all things Psy related), so maybe they could make a habit of this?

Second shameless use of Gangnam Style related celebrations on this blog in two days.

Please Mr Gayle, can we have some more?

It’s hard to be harsh on a bunch of guys that just had the life belted out of them by several tall, muscular West Indian men with cricket bats. Lord knows we’ve all been there.

But by gee those West Indian fellas can bat. Chris Gayle, not given any credit in the attitude stakes by a media who think he’s too cool for school, showed he can mix Gangnam with grit and grind out an innings. And by “grind out” I mean tally 75 not out from 41 deliveries, a score, by human standards, that is attained by slogging from the hip from ball one. The commentators still thought it was a subdued innings.

Terms like “professional” and “mature,” words not usually associated with the bash ’em, crash ’em (both on the field and in contract disputes), Chris Gayle were bandied about like tootsie rolls at a piñata party. And by the looks, the white cherry must have looked as big as a piñata to CH Gayle, and he wasn’t wearing a blindfold, just a do-rag.

9 out of 10 surveyed thought “Gangnam Style” was by Chris Gayle

The real reason people thought he was not scoring as much as usual was simply because he only faced a third of the deliveries available in the innings, despite batting the entire 20 overs. Had he faced twenty more balls there would have been nothing to stop him tonning up.

In the face of this utter bullying of their bowling by these behemoths in maroon, the Aussies looked like kids in the backyard playing against their older brothers. There simply was no chance. When guys like that decide that it’s time to step up, they do it, and there is nothing, even clawing at bigger brother’s eyes, that little brother can do about it.

These Aussies, who had bullied every other side (except Pakistan) into submission, turned into the bullied. They looked physically small. Shane Watson appeared physically dominated against the hulking figures he was playing. And that’s not to say that guile wasn’t part of the Windies plan. He succumbed, just as he did against Pakistan, to a slider from Badree as he attempted to pull off his overly-favoured deep in the crease pull shot.

When Mike Hussey was dismissed by Marlon Samuels, the contrast could not have been more stark. Samuels, in his shirt that could barely contain his bulging muscles, kicked the ball away and yelled ferociously while Hussey looked down in despair. There was nothing that could be done. Big brother had decided to play serious and needed to whoop little brother’s tiny ass.

For my own sanity’s sake I hope the same West Indies side shows up for the final. I hope Gayle knocks those ‘Lankan bowlers around with the ease he did the Aussies, because on that form no bowler that has ever played the game could bowl to those batsmen.

The slightest error in length or line was punished to the greatest possible degree. Late in the innings Henry Gayle flicked an almost perfect yorker past mid-wicket for four. I almost stopped watching, but it too addictive. It was like reading a Stieg Larsson novel: you know it’s not improving you intellectually, in fact it’s probably making you stupider, but my, the way it’s all put together, well, that’s just fine. Despite the fact they were sinking the team I support, six by six, it was too aesthetically pleasing to stop.

It was some sort of cricket drug, and I want more.

I want more K-Pop inspired dance moves. I want ridiculous, over the top celebrations. I want to see those big dudes absolutely crush the Sri Lankans this Sunday.

Because when it comes down to it, West Indians are more fun to watch than any other team in the world for whatever reason. It’s their time to win and win big, and it’s our time to enjoy the ride.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair