Weekend roundup

Australia – NZ at the SCG
Yes, I KNEW it was late Sunday night, the Aussies were too good not to chase down 219, that it’s only one game of a long series, tomorrow’s Monday and I could use the extra sleep, but still I sat glued to the couch ’til the bitter (bitter) end. We messed this one up no question, as the 30 something replays of Franklin dropping Clarke in super-slow-mo, extreme close up, heat spot-cam and even pissed-on-23-cans-of-XXXX-O-vision confirmed. Even more damaging was the botched run out of the amazing Hussey, the most dangerous Australian batsman right now. I don’t want to become the 4529th person to say “Where are our runs from the top order?”, but… actually, yeah, where ARE our runs from the top order? We’re not giving our bowlers, who have got quite good at turd polishing lately, any chance whatsoever. Watching our last two games has been like watching your DVD of The Office for the upteenth time – you’ve seen it a million times before, you’re cringing like anything, and you already know what’ll happen at the end.

Wow. The Scousers beat Harlequins Chelsea, exposing their defensive shit-ness without John Terry for all to see and laugh at, and then feckin’ Arsenal went and beat Man Utd, pissing in the beer of those wanting Anyone But Chelsea to win it. It’s going to be interesting, team. Spurs managed not to lose at Fulham, which was nice. Ish.

It’s a magic time for fans of watching floodlight sport from Australia late into the night, with the Commonwealth Bank series competing with the Australian Open tennis for screen time. The shots of Sydney’s sunset over the SCG during last nights’ game were spectacular.

Top ten tragic moments in New Zealand Sport

Observer Sport Monthly has the top 50 Tragic Moments in Sport. Being British, penalty shootouts feature heavily. Here’s my top ten tragic moments in New Zealand Sport.

10. Some Marketing guy hears Dave Dobbyn’s ‘Loyal’ and thinks “Wow, that’ll be a great theme tune for the America’s Cup, no-one will ever tire of hearing that 23 times a day”.
If you were in NZ in 2003, you know what I’m talking about. Closely followed by…

9. Sailing Away by All Of Us.
Satellite Spies? Eh? What is it with The America’s Cup and music? If I was in Team New Zealand, this song would ‘inspire’ me to jump off the boat when far out to sea.

8. Wayne Shelford dumped as All Black captain.
Not just ‘cos he restored the All Black Haka to what it is today. Not just ‘cos he was an all time great captain and #8. Not just ‘cos he played against France with his sack ripped open, but because it gave birth to Bring Back Buck, probably New Zealand’s most overused and underfunny three words ever.

7. New Zealand 31 France 43 -1999 Rugby World Cup Semi Final.
John Hart kept job after losing all those matches in ’98 as the Boer Busters all retired at once. Our forward pack was “mobile and skilled” (read: inexperienced and lightweight), while our backline was “dynamic” and had “special moves we were saving” (read: bung all the flair players in, including Cullen at centre, and see what happens). There was so much SHIT that came on the back of the new Adidas sponsorship – ie those shiny jerseys, the massive billboards all over the world, the over-produced ads on the telly, and the bloody jet with the front row painted on the side. I was living in London then, and it was bad – god knows what it was like at home, with almost 4 million rabid Kiwis getting carried away together. We cruised through the pool matches, upon which the players buggered off to the south of France to have their photos taken on the beach. They came back for a half asleep performance against Scotland, and then THAT loss to France. With no real on field leadership, the All Blacks fell to bits. All the hype, overconfidence, and overexposure had been for nothing. I arrived at work to find a croissant on my desk. So this is professional rugby.
You can read the team talk here.

6. Dave Latta’s brain explosion.
Poor old Otago. Just ahead of Canterbury in the dying seconds of a Ranfurly Shield match, Latta dived out of a ruck and conceded a penalty in front of the posts. The LOOK on his face said it all – Otago had one of the best sides around for many years, but had never taken home any silverware, and Latta had just helped keep that run going. Cruelly, Canterbury supporters still call the block at Jade Stadium built at the time the “Dave Latta’ stand. Ouch.

5. The Underarm.
Yes, we should probably get over it, and Brian McKechnie was unlikely to hit that last ball for six at the huge MCG, but still… There’s been too much written about this murky little incident, so I’ll move on.

4. Phar Lap poisoned.
The Red Terror, Timaru’s Phar Lap was a folk hero who won 37 of the 51 races he ran, including a Melbourne Cup, winning the hearts of Australasia. He was given arsenic and hemorrhaged to death in California with rumors of Mafia involvement, a hugely unjust end to his glorious life.

3. New Zealand 262-7 Pakistan 264-6 – Cricket World Cup Semi Final 1992.
It was a golden summer when anything was possible – beating Australia, Dipak opening the bowling, Greatbach and Latham spanking the world’s best bowlers into the stands. It was magic, we hadn’t had a good build up and people were worried we’d embarrass ourselves – no longer, the whole country loved the, erm, Grey Shirts (Black Caps hadn’t been coined then). I went to see us just destroy South Africa at Eden Park – I’ve never seen a crowd more charged up in any sport, Greatbach hit some HUGE sixes, and wasn’t afraid to charge down the pitch to Allan Donald, a very fast bowler known as White Lightning. We dealt to everyone (except, ominously, Pakistan) and topped the table at the end of the Round Robin. We were at home and in blinding form – surely we were a great chance to win the bloddy thing. We batted first, posting 262, which was good. Martin Crowe was hobbling on his dodgy knee, which was bad, his captaincy and runs had got us this far, and he stayed in the shed for Pakistan’s run chase. We were doing OK, until a young Inzamam-ul-Haq came out and scored a very rapid 60, and got Pakistan over the line, and it was all over. The players did a lap of honour to thank the crowd and the nation for their support. Some of the players, the guys that had done so brilliantly and entertained us all, making cricket perhaps as popular as it had ever been in New Zealand, were crying. It was very, very sad.

2. Team New Zealand 0 Alinghi 5 – America’s Cup 2003.
When Sir Peter Blake was shot on the Amazon, it arguably began a sequence of events that ended with Team New Zealand sailors frantically bailing the boat out in race one of the 2003 finals. The America’s Cup was a very Auckland event – this city’s obsession with water, money, yachts, real estate, expensive sunglasses, technology and drinking shitloads of piss all converged nicely with the arrival of the Auld Mug. Remember, Aucklanders wouldn’t have the Viaduct Basin to play in now if we hadn’t won in San Diego. After some frantic scrabbling to get ready we laid out the welcome mat in 1999 for all these sophisticated vistors to little old us, especially if they said nice things about us, remembered their chequebook, and didn’t win any races. We loved Prada and their cool grey and red uniforms, especially when they got Zip to our Five in the final.

Then it all turned to custard. Coutts and Butterworth dropped their toys and were off to Switzerland, prompting a gang of loudmouth shitbags working in Advertising to form the Blackhearts, a group existing solely to sling mud at some true champions. Anyway. Team New Zealand was under new management, and the boffins that served us so well in the past had the reigns. We unveiled the magical Hula keel, as Alinghi won the Lois Vuitton series ominously comfortably. In race one, leg one of the finals the two boats were neck and neck. “We’re faster!” cried my Dad, but then the sailors were bailing water out of the boat as Alinghi sailed to an easy victory. Really easy. Embarrassingly easy. Same thing happened in the next five races, apart from the one where our mast broke, but by then we’d lost interest. Aucklanders move on pretty quickly.

1. South Africa 15 New Zealand 12 – 1995 Rugby World Cup Final.
We won at home in 1987 of course, and let the Aussies have it in ’91, but in ’95 we needed it back, thanks. Laurie Mains had a pack chockablock with all time greats like Fitzpatrick and the Brookes, who along with a young Josh Kronfield brutalised teams to supply Bachop, Merthens, Wilson, Little, Bunce, Lomu and Osbourne all the ball they needed to re-invent rugby. On the wing, Lomu was busy making the the world wake up fearing corned beef and taro, and in the England semi made Keith Quinn scream “LOMU! OUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHHH!” at the nation at 2.30 in the morning. Then Zinzan, a NUMBER EIGHT, drop kicked one from half way. The world had gone mad – there was no WAY we’d lose. The Herald’s typically understated headline was, from memory, ‘Why We’ll Win’.

New Zealand got up (or played sleep roulette after 13 pints) to see the All Blacks lose the final to the hosts in agonising fashion. There’s two images that stick – Jeff Wilson being sick on the bench, and Merthen’s dropkick drifting wide in the depths of normal time (OK, THREE images – Nelson Mandela giving Francois Pienaar the trophy counts, I guess). Laurie got a detective to investigate Susie the waitress, but really, it was over, and it’s now 20 years since we won the big one. This was the one that got away.

Weekend Roundup

All Blacks v Australia – Words like ‘Of’, ‘Fuckwits’ and ‘Pack’ spring to mind. Australia are now unrecognisable from their Brumbies-inspired glory days under McQueen and Eales, and any lingering goodwill that run gathered (it WAS a great team) is long gone. Resorting to bashing McCaw seems like a final roll of the dice from ‘Knuckles’ Connelly, halfway through his first season. They’ve lost 3-0 to a below par All Blacks who are only showing glimpses of that Lions Tour form (put that down to the rotation policy, and the low-keyness of it all with all eyes on French WC already). Thank god we don’t have to play Australia again this season, let’s leave them and the Saffas to grind out more brain-numbing rugby like their last match – I won’t be watching them, save for any unforeseen Clockwork Orange-type scenario.

Auckland v BOP – I got along to the game on Sunday for a recovery session from the night before. Eden Park was bathed in sunshine, and with feck-all people there, there was loads of room to spread out and take in an entertaining game. The Bay were undone by having two guys sent off so close to half time, and once Auckland got into gear there was little chance of a shield challenge-style result. BOP fans are still the best, we could see your man with the grey wig (what, is it that stressful being the bay’s number one fan?) trying to rile the crowd up. Auckland looked like Auckland always do – fairly ruthless, but little real flair. They’ve got some BIG lads in the team, though.

Bolton 2 Spurs 0 – Shit. I’m giving Berbatov and Zakora more time to settle before drawing any harsh conclusions. We need King back.

Chelsea 3 – Man City 0 – They’re going to win the first ten in a row again, aren’t they?

Performance of the weekend – It’s a tie between Carl Hayman trying to stop Tuquiri looking like a shearer chasing the guy who pinched his 24th can after drinking the first 23, or these guys.

Book Review : Microphones Up My Nose by John Dybvig & Ray Lillis (1993)

Microphones Up My Nose, John Dybvig’s memoir of his journey from knocking NZ Basketball cock-eyed to TV Sports Guy at TV3 and Sky is a minor classic. Dybvig writes how he talks, featuring lots of swearing and well written dialogue. There’s a brief history of his basketball coaching career in NZ where he gained notoriety – you can imagine humourless 80s sports administrators SHITTING themselves when he arrived on the scene wearing tuxedos and throwing chairs. His first foray into media land was writing a column on Basketball – typing, let alone writing didn’t come easily at first – he tried using a Dictaphone:

“Aaaaaaaaah now let’s see… Adminstrators… Aaaaah What a bunch of dickheads… No no no can’t say that… but gees what is it with those guys? Do they take dumb pills or what? No no no hang on… Start Now… OK… OK… A national sporting league is only as good, strong and effective as its adminstration… That’s good, that’s good… Aaaaaaah…”

Dybvig gets into Radio and eventually joins Sky in its early days alongside a young Stephen McIvor*, “who could laugh his chops off at a scripted joke and later ask you what it meant”. He was on the fledgling NZ ‘celebrity’ circuit alongside luminaries like Belinda Todd, Willy De Wit, and Glenda Hughes – a very boozy scene by the sound, especially one piss marathon that lurches from the pub to boats to the golf course in the aid of Ronald McDonald House.

TV3 is next, and Dybvig works on Kid’s TV, Horse Racing ‘colour’, and the short lived local Pro-Wrestling show, where the bad guys were pelted on their way to the ring with plastic drink bottles by rioting pre-teens. There’s no end to the book, really, he just kinds of drifts off into TV land, but it’s a fascinating view into the world of local TV and how small time it can be behind the scenes.

My copy came pre-signed by the man himself (“Happy reading, Cheers!”). I met him one time, I was arranging voice overs on an 0800 ad for (ahem) Bacon Magic. Dybvig was huge, but more subdued than I expected (or hoped). He loved infomercials, and told me his golf buddies all wore BluBlockers. He did his shouty voice as you’d expect, and it was class.

If you like this, try Technical Foul (Basketball’s Bad Boy Talks Back!), the story of his coaching career featuring the dreariness of life in NZ in the 80s.

“Buying anything in New Zealand is an exercise in 30 second politeness. It goes something like this:

Customer: I’ll have a dozen eggs, thanks.

Store clerk: Thank you.

Customer: Could I have pack of cigarettes too thank you.

Store clerk: Thank you.

Customer: Thank you.

Store clerk: That’ll be $2.35 thank you.

Customer: (Hands over money) Thanks.”

You get the idea. Dybvig has popped up on a few things since like Hercules, Xena, and even King Kong, and according to his website he’s written another book and is attempting to reinvent himself as Bill Bryson. I’m definitely tracking that one down.

*What is it with that guy – it’s like watching Rugby League with Elton John. Fair play that he showed up to get his face smashed in at the Fight for Life, but I guarentee all usually peace loving people were thinking “Punching Stephen McIvor really looks like fun!”.

Book Review : Hadlee Hits Out (1983)

Fish, Barrels, and Radio Sport.

Last week, I bashed out a short article about Radio Sport for my blog, which Bart was good enough to post on The Silver Fern. The next thing I know, he emailed to say Matt Gunn responded on his show. Honestly, the adrenaline was flowing faster than Floyd Landis at his doctors as I loaded up the clip.

“Gutless Scumbags… Softcocks, basically, is the only category that I can put you into… Just like me, you rate highly in the dickhead stakes… I wish I could headbutt that person”.

That showed me, and conveniently illustrates the type of moronic debate you can expect these days on Radio Sport, which is why I’ve started switching off. I really WANT to listen to sport on the radio, and LOVE the idea I can hear it 24 hours a day, but as I said before, the blokey boy’s club atmosphere of the breakfast show, and level of debate on the talkback is turning me off. Guys, it’s just getting boring.

So I decided to share my thoughts with the world – I care about Radio Sport, I really do, and I tried to be constructive, outlining why I used to love it, why I don’t love it anymore, and gave some brief suggestions on making it better. Yes I called Matt Gunn a dickhead, but Matt, you’re a loudmouth talkback host, and comments like that come with the territory. I’m sure you’d be a top bloke to have a beer with when you’re not doing your RadioSportsGuy persona, but if I was you, I’d spend those long, lonely breaks between calls sharing some thoughtful and informed opinion, promising callers a worthy debate, not just an argument.

As for your headbutt offer, no thanks, I’m only a gutless scumbag after all. However SilverFern Overlord Jason Bartley of Whangamata is willing to deputise for me, and there’s more volunteering on the forum. And because my anonymity bothers you, Matt, my name’s Richard Irvine. Dig around my website, and you’ll find that fairly easily, but hey, I’m just some guy on the internet – if I was you, I’d be more worried about WHY I wrote it.

I’m a guy in his 30s living in Auckland, a radio listener who loves going to Rugby and Cricket, playing sport at the weekend and catching games on TV. I’m a professional guy, I earn a crust – in other words, I’m your target market. The forum crowd on TheSilverFern are your target market too, and they (mostly) agree with the sentiment of the article. That’s golden feedback my friend, and I’m stoked the article is on your Smoko room wall. Like I say, I’ve tried to be constructive, and I’ve shared my opinion – surely that’s better than just turning Radio Sport off and never listening again?

YouTube yourself away

If you haven’t checked out YouTube, well that’s valuable farking around time you’re never getting back, my friend. It’s kind of like Napster when it was free and good and unencumbered by all that pesky ‘copyright’ carry on. Basically it’s easy to upload videos for the world to laugh at, so you can find anything and everything. Bill Simmons, the brilliant US sports writer made a list of his best bits, so I’ve decided to pinch his idea.

Rugby highlights go up very quickly, so if you missed the match or your memory was mysteriously wiped by that box of whatever was on special at the supermarket, you can re-live Jerry sorting out George Smith’s dreads, or Ali Williams dumping Gregan from a couple of stories over and over again. And here’s a good compilation of recent All Blacks tries in one neat package.

Of course there’s loads of football – like the original Panekla penalty, the stuttering dummy one that Zidane did in the World Cup final, and then a reason to remember Zidane apart from the headbutt. You’ll find loads of Premiership fan footage, so you only need spit on yourself and stand in horse shit for an authentic UK matchday experience. I had no trouble finding my favorite goal ever – the angle he gets is just beautiful, you couldn’t do better with string and protractor.

Not The Nine O’Clock News do John McEnroe
and get it just right – and compare it with the real thing. What ever you’re into there’s something for you – so get in there before it goes legit. I have my non-sports / children’s TV ones here, here’s the Kelly song, and there’s even fun at the expense of the Aussies – everyone can enjoy that.

What’s wrong with Radio Sport?

Have you LISTENED to it lately? Fresh back from my OE in 2001, I was very excited to learn there was a dedicated sports radio station – “They even play the sports news first on the hour!” Yes, you could listen to Cricket commentary alright, but it promised a whole new world of sports talk, led by Martin Devlin in the mornings. Informed, opinionated, quick witted, he was passionate about NZ sport, obsessed with Man United, and didn’t take any shit. He rightly hauled Kevin Roberts (or ‘KR’) over the coals for saying winning the Tri Nations was more important than the World Cup for All Blacks fans. That’s the kind of utter shit the Rugby Union expects us to believe, and I loved hearing someone actually calling them on it. The first nail in Radio Sport’s coffin was when Devlin left to do Radio LIVE, and hang out with Mike King full time.

The rest of the day’s programming was very listenable. Brendan Telfer did his cantankerous bit in the mornings, using his no doubt extensive contacts book to get some thoughtful interviews, and I enjoyed the golf show, with tips from a dry as a bone golf pro, along with ‘JK’ of the driving ranges getting off his death bed to contribute. Afternoons was Graham Hill, a very clever guy and my favorite BFM breakfast DJ ever. He’d present thoughtful interviews and nostalgia with some big names of the past, which was great radio. Where the station fell down was talkback.

Talkback is cheap for radio stations to do (which is why there’s so much of it*), but for me, it was like sitting in the car with that bloke who sits silently through All Black tests until someone drops the ball, then pipes up with “WELL THAT WAS SHIT!”. Yeah, THAT bloke. Whinge feckin’ Central, where rumours and misinformation spread like wildfire. It got old really quickly, and before long I was working and couldn’t listen to the radio all day, so Radio Sport was relegated in favour of BFM in the car.

I’ve tuned in a little again lately, and it turns out those were the good old days. The unfeasibly fast talking Tony Vietch is the boofhead’s boofhead. Sexism reigns supreme, and his laddish references to his nights out on the pull and whatever else comes across as insulting, annoying and just plain irrelevant to a sports show. Charming Aussie Matt Gunn (whose favourite meal is ‘any wog dish’) scores very highly in the dickhead stakes, too. Talkback has got even worse due to a lack of callers bothering to ring anymore, forcing the hosts to adopt more and more ludicrous ‘points of view’ to get a reaction. It’s desperate stuff, and dumbed down radio at its worst. It must be a lot of work to fill all that on air time – I don’t envy them at all. Can I suggest:

How to save Radio Sport:
1. Hire Leigh Hart to do Breakfast. Actually no, he’d be dumbed down by the hopelessness of it all, and I couldn’t handle that.
2. Get regular caller ‘Zane’ to host night time talkback. He’s on every night anyway showing the hosts up with his well prepared and thoughtful calls, so why not let the inmate take over the asylum?
3. Eliminate the sexist bullshit. It’s offensive, and pandering to some radioguy’s imaginary ‘Kiwi Bloke’ demographic is insulting to us kiwi blokes, let alone everyone else. We’ve all got mothers and sisters, you know. Why not get more women on, while you’re at it?
4. I’m all out of ideas. Judging by the extremely high repeatition of commercials, advertisers can’t be bothered either, so all this might not be a problem for much longer.

*Marcus Lush appears on Radio LIVE ads saying ‘Talkback radio is the only true artform, cos it’s made purely of people’s ideas’. Marcus, if you took the world’s stupidest person and hit him with the Stupid Stick for three weeks before driving him off Mt St. Stupid in the Stupidmobile while wearing the Stupid suit, you couldn’t make him say something that stupid. Honestly.

Warriors – dear oh dear oh dear

NZ sport’s version of Shortland Street has gone from the penthouse to the frying pan on the thin ice in just a couple of years. Sacking Daniel Anderson has to be one of the worst moves of many the club has made.

It all seemed so rosy when the team was playing some absolutely sublime football on their way to the sharp end of the finals. But when it started to go wrong, former hero Mick Watson has been exposed as a man without a long term plan, clouding the issues in some of the thickest business-speak heard anywhere, let alone in Rugby League.

This weekend they face the Broncos, the team they have aspired to emulate. After the season they’ve had, a win won’t mean much at all.