Links on Friday

The new face of international diplomacy. Euro wrecker Boris Johnson drops his shoulder into the middle of an opponent’s gentleman’s area, while playing football. Best comedy foreign minister since Winston.

Long read – Premier League rivalries unraveled.
Includes Arsenal’s underhand and wholly immoral inclusion in top flight football then and forever more, and ones that spring up then fade, like Liverpool and Chelsea in the late 2000s. Some rivalries you don’t want, like when Spurs depressingly played Wimbledon something like 16 times in a week in 1999, and some are just weird, like our ‘title rivalry with Leicester City in 2016’. Tremendous pics and layout here too.

Turns out Bradley Cooper is an uber-Tennis fan, turning up all over the world to watch @PseudoFed, looking impossibly yet casually cool.

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The name of this article, “These Incredibly Shit Euro 2016 Flags Will Make You Lose All Hope For Humanity” does said flags a disservice, because they are brilliant.

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We can be heroes – 2015 in review

2015 was all about heroes, wasn’t it. The cricket! The rugby! Bloody hell we are spoiled. Kiss my arse 2007, here’s sportreview.net.nz’s year in review.

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The BLACKCAPS watch the RWC final, Trent Boult with the blankie there. Photo: @BLACKCAPS.

The rugby
At half time in the final, I caught myself thinking ‘so this is what it’s like to feel comfortable in a RWC final. That was obviously a total amateur move as Australia roared back at us, as they were always going to do, but it worked out OK. It only took about three weeks before I got Grant Nisbett screaming ‘BEAUDEN BARRETT’ out of my head.

After the slow start, the tournament was an absolute ripper, with France (casual, stylish demolition), South Africa (three-weeks-on-an-all-burrito-diet-level-squeaky-bum-time) and Australia (DAN CARTER REDEMPTION) beaten and now becoming one warm memory of nerves, early starts and triumph. New Zealand was great, generally with everyone good-naturedly panicking together in our lounges, the pubs and on Twitter.

With all those greats retiring there’s a lot of holes to fill, and next year’s Super Rugby will be loads of fun as Twitter attempts to find replacements. Of course all this year’s feel-goodery will be gone pretty much 15 minutes into a scratchy start against Wales, but that’s all part of the fun innit.

Elsewhere, the Highlanders took the Super Rugby title in style, denying the poor old Hurricanes a title – this was as brilliant for the southerners as it was devastating for the ‘canes fans, who must take a fair amount of gut wrenching anguish with their razzle dazzle.

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And we lost Jonah and Jerry and Norm. While not technically immortal, All Blacks are meant to live to ripe old ages in this country, so this didn’t seem possible, or indeed fair.

The cricket 

Like Sanjay said on Twitter the other day, most days this year I’ve been dreaming of Grant Elliott hitting that six and berserk-ing his bat around so violently I was afraid Dan Vettori would be injured before the final.

The achievement is no less remarkable a few months later. I mean shit, we had:

  • A double century in a quarter final
  • The top wicket taker in the tournament, a guy who everyone thought was too Test-orientated to be picked a few months out
  • The best captain, who broke the world’s scariest bowler in the semi final
  • A bowling spell of 7 wickets that dismantled the game’s inventors and had everyone annoyed we even had to have a tea break
  • Nerves of steel at crunch time, against Australia and South Africa in particular

This was the year when 400 became the new 300 and while we lost the series to England, I don’t think ODI cricket is ever going to be the same. Stephen Fleming used to talk about advancing a Test, we have just advanced the sport. And done it without being dicks.

OK, so we missed the chance to win at Lord’s this year and went down to Australia in the long anticipated series, showing how hard it is to keep getting results in international cricket, especially away from home. The consistent thing is the tremendous fight and ability to claw ourselves back into games we showed against India last year and Sri Lanka earlier this year, as we fought back into the Australian series. Of course we’re going to have to do it without B Mac from next year, but all the pieces are in place to succeed – we’ve given ourselves every chance to keep doing things no other NZ team has done before.

Balls, inspector
I liked the pink ball Test, but there’s a few things to fix, the main one being the lolly hour in the last session where a side slogging in the field all day suddenly gets a rocket up their bum and wickets start tumbling. In the big bat era, anything that gives the bowlers a boost is welcome, but it needs to be available throughout the day/s, not just the last hour.

Still, the big crowds and TV audiences will be what counts most for those making the decisions, so expect pink balls on show at Seddon Park or Hagley sometime soon.

Hug it out
You can draw many parallels between the BLACKCAPS and the All Blacks’ cultures. Basically, the winning formula seems to be:

  • A derring-do captain that people listen to when they speak
  • A coach who lets players get on with it and backs players with extended runs in the team. But can be steely when required. And top support staff
  • A desire to win, and in style
  • Team culture that’s a open, supportive and even a little bit new age-y, for New Zealand

You can do a lot if you’re free to do what you do best. This game, when Luke Ronchi and Grant Elliott came together at 93-5 and walked off with a total of 360 sticks in the mind – you’d expect a limp to 170 from there, but instead we got a punishing, giddy counter attack. Same for That Cardiff Quarterfinal, history be damned, we wasted them.

The potential common thread here is the High Performance Sport NZ accelerator coaching course Mike Hesson and Steve Hansen took together in 2009 – this is some super work from HPSNZ, hopefully fellow course attendee Janine Southby can work the same trick.

Playing again
I am a cricket player again, for the first time in roughly twelve years. Our team, Mairangi Vice, is not troubling the upper reaches of the Bays Big Bash but geez it’s a lot of fun. It’s fair to say the spirit is more willing than the flesh  with more injuries than Darren Anderton among the team, but that old feeling of the ball coming out of the middle or getting one to shape away is familiar, welcome and hard to beat. The body will get a good rest over the break (ahem) and we’ll be back into it next year.
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Buying all the gear was fun too.

The football
Tottenham fans are in that ‘can we actually get excited now?’ phase – yes we have a manager with vision, all these young players looking right at home and we’re getting results, but we’ve been burned before. Personally I wouldn’t be too upset about a Europa League exit to give us a decent run at the champions league spots / the league. The Internet came up with the too-clever insult ‘Spursy’ this year, which I found kind of devastating. Let’s hope we’re not Spursy for once.

sportreview most read posts

  1. Welcome to worry week, brought to you by France
  2. Rugby’s coming home and potentially leaving again quite quickly
  3. Who ruled the world?
  4. FIFA scandal who’s who
  5. The summer ODIs went bat shit

Elsewhere
This year I enjoyed spending more family time, had a career change and didn’t write on this blog very much. Ahem. The book I enjoyed the most was The Goldfinch, and I’m astonished by the quality and quantity coming from Duncan’s The Spinoff. The songs I listened to the most were (Dad rock alert!) Steely Dan’s Dirty Work and Reelin’ In The Years (the solo!) and Over And Over by Fleetwood Mac, whose concert was ace.

Promise to write more next year team, hope you enjoyed what there was and thanks for reading. Hope you get a nice break and all your eating, drinking and doing feck-all needs are well fulfilled.

This is Hipster

Liverpool have their man, the unicorn  hero of football hipsters everywhere, all glasses and fist pumps that are even more awkward than Wenger.

This geeky great white hope could have had pretty much any job he wanted, and to choose Liverpool, the quintessential under-achievers with over-expectations, says both ‘I was into football before it was cool’ and ‘I am a bit mad’. Fair play to him.

And so – Graeme Sportsfreak commissioned this tribute. movies-i-give-it-a-year-character-posters-2_1II

Links on Friday

Make sure you get all over The Spinoff’s steroided-up sports section – it’s the internet equivalent of a Barcelona-style team goal with 30 stroked passes leading to a stonking finish, with Scotty Stevenson in the editor’s seat and friend-of-sportreview Calum Henderson contributing. Hopefully Spinoff supremo Duncan Grieve will find time among running the most impressive actual-writing site in NZ to write some sport, ‘cos he’s ace at it. Well played.

Anyone who says football is faster now obviously hasn’t seen Marco Tardelli take down Gianni Rivera two seconds after kick off. Yellow card.

Inside the mind of a striker:

A major part of my job is to lie (sorry, Mom). I have to use deception to manipulate two, sometimes three, defenders guarding me. It’s a 90-minute game of chess. If I know we don’t have the ball in a threatening spot, I’ll often sacrifice my positioning for a little while so I can soften up the defenders for later.

Could you win a Madden NFL Superbowl with an average dude at quarterback? The challenge is to add a player to a video game with roughly the same stats and skills as yer average couch / beer / chips athlete. I don’t think he’s going to go well.

Links on Friday

Yorkshire Postman gets very very angry about a bicycle race road closure, takes matters into his own hands, and uses impressively bad language if you listen carefully.

“I’m star-struck when I see Paul Scholes, because you never see him. On the pitch you can’t catch him. Off the pitch he disappears.”Luis Figo

sportreview.net.nz agrees, so here’s an essay about Scholes and Patrick Viera, two totems of the Premier League when it was arguably at its peak.

Speaking of Woolich, in a lazy but effective troll, A Genius inserts a photocopied pic of Van Persie celebrating scoring for Man U v Arsenal instead of the promised Arsenal DVD in online trade. Approved.

Golfing athletic wear may seem like an elaborate attempt to attract a mate, but here are the top ten encounters with actual animals on the PGA Tour, featuring alligators, turtles and bees.

Links on Friday

Couple of Tottenham links to get Our Year underway – here’s Harry Kane with a casual run and edge of the box screamer in first pre-season run. sportreview.net.nz reaction – “Woof,” and “that’s great but please can we have another striker to go with him? Thanks.”

From the Guardian’s tremendous Golden Goal series – a big read on Glen Hoddle’s Watford Chip:

We can just watch, jaws gently agape, and recall the words of Mike in Swingers: “That was so fucking money. That was like the Jedi mind shit.”

And here it is:

Karim Benzema posts an Instagram of himself on an aeroplane, and the grim corner of the internet that is Arsenal fans gets all excited over nothing.

Umbrellas blowing down a beach – not sport as such but sportreview.net.nz can’t take its eyes off it.

Links on Friday

Tour de France winner and stirrer Greg LeMonde says the most important thing when public speaking is staying relaxed.

Great read from the very, very smart Aaron Timms on Shane Watson, anointing him the most awkward of Australia’s long line of ‘non-blokey’ cricketers.

When I was eight, and still dreaming of a career in the baggy green, I would burst into tears whenever I got out. Fortunately, I outgrow the habit by the age of 10. Watto, even at the age of 34, greets every dismissal as if still in the throes of that impending juvenile trauma. He bristles with purpose, but it’s a purpose with no team solidarity; his sporting will is entirely self-centred.

Not only is Cristiano Ronaldo a pale imitation of the proper Ronaldo, it turns out he’s happy to hawk any old shit in Japan to make cash.

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GIF / Dad of the week:
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Links on Friday

Pirlo long ball to Baggio, who finishes exquisitely. This is basically pornography for football nerds.

BIG DATA! Picking a winner in a golf tournament is more difficult than combing an annoyed cat. Fivethirtyeight.com, however, have figured out that Rory McIlroy’s withdrawal has apparently increased Masters and US Open winner Jordan Spieth’s chances by 3% in the British Open – go deep and go figure.

The Cricket Monthly on the Greatest Ball. Great piece, Wasim and Waqar feature.

Paneka penalties are a sportreview.net.nz favourite, and to attempt one that only dribbles accross the line to win the Copa America, even if you are a gooner, is pretty classy.

Links on Friday

Tennis racquet abuse – a top ten

Things get cooking at number four. McEnroe, the master, smashes a racquet, then argues he hasn’t smashed it. Then a guy smashes all his racquets and has to abandon the game, while number one smashes about nine in a row, not even bothering to get them out of the plastic. It’s hardly Pete Townsend smashing guitars-level rock ‘n’ roll, but still satisfying action.

Let’s face it – sports fans are bloody nerds hey. This Power Rankings list for NBA court markings shows just how easy it is to succumb. At first I was all ‘this is a shit list, just for nerds,’ then I was all ‘HOW can they put the magnificent Memphis Grizzlies court markings at a lowly 17 ???!?” You were warned.

Here’s a tremendous profile of Andrew Jennings, the English TV reporter who thoroughly investigated and exposed FIFA corruption.

“I know that they are criminal scum, and I’ve known it for years,” he said. “And that is a thoughtful summation. That is not an insult. That is not throwing about wild words.”

Hockey player gets sent off, has a ‘mare trying to leave the ice.

Links on Friday

Injured BLACKCAP / Twitter superstar Jimmy Neesham’s Reddit AMA is second only to Channing Tatum’s for humour and honesty.

Q: What are you thinking as you are batting?

A: “Ok get through the first couple of balls. Jeez that was quick. Ok knuckle down here. Oooh that girl’s quite pretty-Oi stop it, concentrate. Watch the ball. Shit that came off the bat quite nicely. I wonder how long it is til lunch? These pants are a bit tight, maybe I should get some new ones. Watch the ball. NO KANE NO. Come on mate there’s no run there, jeez. Oooh it’s lunch, I wonder if there’s cheesecake?”

Turns out Unleash The Quiche is a Reddit regular. Go read the whole thing.

Absolutely tremendous footage of an All Whites v Newcastle United friendly from 1985 at the Basin bloody Reserve. Peter Beardsley, 9, features and I like to think there was a piece to camera post-match, with kids leaping around pulling faces in the background.

sportreview.net.nz is a big fan of the retro-inspired football kits, and it turns out turning out in a classy, classic kit that respects your club’s history makes you play better than the standard ‘seagull vomit‘ most clubs settle for.

Good things come to those who wait.
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