grumpy and gloomy

Today I am a grumpy and gloomy sports fan. In a matter of days the transcendent Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls has gone down with a season-ending, maybe even career-slowing, knee injury ... and then, horror of horrors, New Zealand Cricket has let John Wright walk away from being the coach of the national side. I can't believe it.

In need of a cleansing cathartic flush, I thought I'd spread my grumps and glooms a little further and trawl the inner sports fan for more moans and groans and see if I can rid myself of the whole lot, all in one go. Here is a list of things that make me moan the most as a Kiwi sports fan (in no particular order):

1. So we have the Wellington Phoenix (soccer/football) - but why are the Warriors (rugby league) and the Breakers (basketball) described as New Zealand - rather than Auckland? Looking down the NRL table to find a bunch of Sydney suburbs followed by 'New Zealand' seems so odd to me. I think I know why it happens. So sensitive is everyone in NZ to the attitudes about Auckland that an effort is made to make these two teams to be 'teams for all New Zealand'. It doesn't work for me. [NB: this comment takes nothing away from back-to-back wins for the Breakers, the second time Penney-less - which not many would have predicted a year ago].

2. I enjoy following golf. Michael Campbell in the ascendency ten years ago was one of my great sporting delights. But why, oh why, are our male golfers - including Campbell - often so soft mentally? Time and time again they start a tournament well, and time and time again they fade in the final round. It is so frustrating. Some of them need an Ulmer-transplant, or a Devoy-bypass, or a Baker-retread. It is amazing how many of our solo female athletes have been just so mentally tough... Maybe Ryan Fox has the right genes!?

3. I've started watching a bit of the English Premier League from time to time. As my son said to me yesterday as we watched the Manchester Derby together, 'the commentators are like poets'. They are - they are wonderful to listen to. And across the Atlantic in the American sporting scene I am always so impressed by how much fresh and interesting information the commentators dredge up about players and statistics and the like. We don't seem to produce knowledgeable poets behind the microphone. Maybe we don't want them because they'll sound a bit smart for us - but I do miss them.

4. Speaking of the Premier League, it kinda annoys me that only four teams have won the trophy in twenty years. I know its popularity is staggering - I see it in every country in Asia. And in Africa they'll watch Chelsea vs Arsenal before Ivory Coast vs Cameroon. But it is a bit like the America's Cup in that it is the domain of the very wealthy and only the very wealthy can win it. I can't get too excited about that. They need a salary cap and keep a lid on things.

5. Speaking of the Premier League, one of the most intriguing aspects to follow is the promotion/relegation battle each year. When will NZ rugby embrace this fun fully? I suspect the smaller unions have far too much power and are too obstructive behind closed doors. And as soon as Super Rugby was introduced there was one too many layers of rugby in New Zealand. The provincial competition needed to become the new club rugby and then be energised by dramatic, cut-throat annual promotion/relegation battles.

6. As a basketball fan I have had to acknowledge that netball has some great qualities - but when will it embrace a true professionalism? The incessant whistle-blowing of the umpires, the tight non-contact rules which no longer seem to reflect the way the game is evolving, and the fitness of players all need an overhaul - not to mention the sensitivity to critique. The game has the potential to be a captivating Olympic sport, but please...

7. I am watching carefully, very carefully, to see how the NZ media and public handle Jacko Gill, this remarkable shot-putter, over the next ten years. The early fascination may be giving way to the 'tall poppy' syndrome, with a little bit of cutting him down to size and hanging him out to dry. We just are not good at nurturing this kind of talent without things going sour. But maybe this time will be different.

8. If the International Cricket Council is going to open up a window for the Indian Premier League (IPL) so that players can make their millions and India can show its power, please make the IPL a little more accountable to the good of the global game. One thing on which to insist is that the quota of overseas players in a team be lifted from 4 to 5 or 6, at least. If world cricket has to bend to this club competition in a single country, then lets have it contribute to the global game more fully.

Having said all that, I am not sure I feel much better!
As for John Wright and Derrick Rose - it sure was nice while it lasted.

nice chatting



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