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An obligatory note on Mundine vs Geale

While I am admittedly not a fan of “The Sweet Science,” one can barely think without being interrupted by Anthony Mundine giving his two cents on what’s making your synapses fire at that specific second.

He is to everyone’s intelligence what Kanye West was to Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards: an annoying intrusion that gets a whole lot of media attention.

Which, for “The Sugary Inquiry,” is a real blessing. Especially considering the state of the Australian incarnation of “The Nectarous Body of Empirical Knowledge,” Mundine could well be considered the best thing to ever happen to Boxing in this country.

Which is unfortunate in a way, because listening to Daniel Geale talking to ABC 702 about three or so years ago (coincidentally not to long after he ‘lost’ to Mundine) I thought that if I was ever going to think of a boxer positively ever again, it might be the Tasmanian who would convince me.

Mundine does have a certain propensity for alienating large parts (LARGE parts) of the population who don’t share every single one the things he purports to believe in. In fact, this list of Mundine-beliefs has continued to be more and more outrageous as Time passes and Mundine feels its cold grip on his arms and legs. The only thing that seems not to have slowed down is his mouth.

If anything’s clear, it’s that his brain has certainly begun feeling the effects of all that fist headbutting he’s been putting it through for ten years, evidenced by his tirade to the media post-fight and his refusal to acknowledge himself as a loser. It was his chance to go out graciously, but instead he decided to sell everyone the same old FIG JAM. Jam sales have gone down since Mundine last fought Geale.

But while I don’t agree with many of the things that he says (which may make me an uncle Tom) I can certainly give him kudos for his salesmanship. For without Mundine none of the uninterested public would have no idea who Daniel Geale was, nor would we be able to appreciate him for his many positive attributes (namely punching Mundine in the head repeatedly).

Love him or hate him, Mundine gets your attention. He certainly got the attention of Geale, who seems to be as level headed as boxers get.

In an industry where Floyd Mayweather’s the biggest name in his country and Mundine in ours, Geale needed someone with a big mouth to sell himself. He wasn’t going to do it himself. He wasn’t going to racially slur his opponents, convert his religion, tell everyone he is the best athlete in the world, tell everyone he was robbed (we was robbed!).

Geale needed The Man to do that for him. And boy oh boy did he do an admirable job.

How big this fight really was for boxing I’m not really sure; but the fact that Mundine was fighting a guy many believed to have been his conqueror years ago but for a dodgy trio of judges (he was robbed!), and managed to create an atmosphere, a buzz, an anticipation that almost rivalled that of an origin match is a triumph.

The best thing that could have happened is that Geale could have won, and in good style, so he can move on to bigger and much better things. Importantly we will now start to follow and pay attention to the man who is actually the best boxer in Australia, not just The Man who says he is.

I’m still not sold on boxing, not even close. As Simon Barnes said in his book The Meaning of Sport, Boxing cuts the line of make-believe too close for it to be a ‘Sport.’ Instead of replicating a duel, boxing actually is a duel; it is designed for people to get hurt, the rules allow for it and reward it. “The Sugary Quest for Learning About Our Material world” is just as potentially harmful as a fistfight on the street, except that your knuckles don’t get hurt, allowing you to dish out more damage to your opponents’ head. 

But I do think Geale is a pretty good proponent of what is not my favourite sport, and a pretty good bloke to boot.

For this I can thank Mundine, for without him I wouldn’t have had a clue.

But there’s more to thank Mundine for, as his career begins to wind down, as the money dries up, all due to the increasing number of wrinkles on his face.

He was pretty good too. 44-5 is a damn good record, and against some good opponents too. They weren’t all good, by any means. But we really can’t discount him as an athlete because he took some weak fights.

So to Mundine, too, this sportsfan offers a meaningless bouquet of what he calls “respect” and I call appreciation for his work over the years.

Well played sir, you done good. But that’ll do.

As for Geale, there is only one other guy I know in the Middleweight division who is as loathsome as Mundine, and that’s Floyd Mayweather.

Wouldn’t it be great if that humble Aussie could ram a big ol’ freshly baked humble pie down his throat as well?

Stop hanging me out to dry, Bill!

I am aware that incorrect refereeing decisions are made every week in the NRL, AFL, Rugby Union and pretty much every other sport on earth where there are a set of rules officiated by third party officials. For years we were told as youngsters there was nothing we could do about it, and to be big boys and accept the decision and move on with our lives. In the NRL, it seems, no one was brought up with any spirit of fair play or respect for officials, and we are left in this ridiculous position of watching Bill Harrigan and his offsider (onsider?) Stuart Raper fronting up to the swarming journalists and telling them who made a wrong decision and why.

Journalistic dynamite.

None of the arguments I will make in this piece will be overly persuasive, and I put this down to the fact that everyone, and I mean all the stakeholders in football, has a different view of almost every single incident that happens in a football game. How different people’s views are depend a lot on the incident and their position in relation to the incident. NRL referees are paid to be a neutral observer in contest in which there is a lot at stake. In the NRL they are playing for sheep stations.

Like footballers, referees make mistakes in their trade. Footballers earn the ire of the supporters, predominantly the opposition’s supporters and sometimes their own whether they make mistakes or not. Referees seem to earn the ire of everyone, again whether they make mistakes or not. If one was to believe Brian Smith, his team has been hard done by by the officials every week of his 500 game coaching career. But you know what, I don’t believe Brian Smith. His players have not had to triumph in the face of officiating adversity every single time they take the park. And that fact that this man so vehemently believes this, and he is listened to and echoed by countless numbers of fans shows me that they just don’t get it.

Referees don’t have a vendetta on players, coaches or fans. They like the game they officiate and want it to be played attractively and fairly. Fairly. Fairly! They want the game to be fair! Get it? If we were to play under Brian Smith’s rules no one would watch, because the Roosters would get a penalty every ruck and no tries would ever be scored against them. Enforcing Brian Smith’s rules would be unfair.

The worst thing about all of this, though, is not that Brian Smith is listened to by fans, or that this culture is spreading throughout all clubs. No. The worst thing is that Bill Harrigan has decided to out all the referees that make mistakes, however small or large. The fact that Bill sees it fit to dignitfy this bullshit, and it is bullshit, with an “official response” (pardon the pun) is beyond ridiculous.

Not only that, but as a referee, I would hate having my boss nitpick over my performance every week in front of the entire media flock. Brian Smith doesn’t stand up at a press conference with a projector behind him and go over every mistake Mitchell Pearce made last week. Nor do the media expect him to. We shouldn’t then expect it of our referees. Leave the criticism to the critics, and have some solidarity within the organisation. I’m all for transparency, but thin skinned players and coaches don’t deserve Bill’s apologies with the way they go about things.

The only thing this achieves is making the coaches and players believe that their complaints have some validity. Yes, the referees make mistakes, but it is not for the referees boss to say whether this offside decision cost the Bulldogs the game. Leave that to Ray Warren, Phil Gould, Paul Kent, and people who comment on the Fox Sports website saying that the standard of refereeing is worse now than ever.

The coaches never stop telling the referees how they should get better. If I was Bill Harrigan and I had a press conference today, this is what I would say.

“If you, the coaches, think your team deserves to win the game then prove it. Play better than the opposition. Take the referees out of the game. When a decision is made, don’t cry about it blame it for a momentum shift. Have the self belief that you can defend your line better and score more tries than the opposition. Look to yourselves for answers. And don’t expect me to come out every week and dignify your whinging with a response. My refs cop more than you ever will.”

Do it Bill. I dare you.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair