This is why I watch

Sport is a beautifully horrible thing. For every winner there is a loser, for every elation there is heartache, for every missed opportunity there is a reward. They might be years apart, but things tend to level out on the playing field.

 If it wasn’t for the horrible losses, I’m not sure that I’d be as invested in sport as I am. Thankfully my selection of sporting teams has always been there to remind me there is more failure than success. As a nation we’re seen as a sporting prowess, which is awful kind according to the people who haven’t walked a mile in our shoes.

An honourable mention to Tony Vidmar who played a huge part in what would be the 6th entry on this list.

An honourable mention to Tony Vidmar who played a huge part in what would be the 6th entry on this list.

According to my research, I’ve spent 10,349 days living and breathing. Sport has been there from the start and one constant has been that heartbreak is just around the corner.  It’s with a heavy heart I write this list, as this morning the Boomers were unfortunate enough to not only add another chapter, but to give the top spot a nudge. This of course, has pushed me towards one question – What are the five biggest heartbreakers I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing thanks to a national sporting team?

1.Australia V Iran (Football), 22nd November 1997 – I hope this remains the worst thing I ever experience from a team in green and gold. A two-goal lead, 20 minutes left and a first World Cup in 24 years. Nothing could possibly go wrong, to the point where my dad told me I could safely go to bed. I woke up the next morning euphoric, we were off to the World Cup – the promised land. I’d heard the stories of heartache that my dad had experienced for 24 years and I was fortunate enough to have avoided them. Dad looked like he’d seen a ghost when he got up, and I simply couldn’t believe it. Eight years more heartache was waiting for me. I hate you Peter Hore .

2.Australia V Spain (Basketball), 22nd August 2016- If someone offered me one bad game from the Boomers and a top four finish two weeks ago, I’d have bitten their arm off. This is unquestionably the best Boomers outfit of my life. Halfway through the second quarter we were gone, but we found something. Baynes and Mills helped us put together a run and we had the lead multiple times in the fourth quarter. The one missing thing was back-to-back buckets when we had the lead. We had no trouble getting stops but we just couldn’t convert. Foul or no foul with five seconds left, watching the ball squirt into the backcourt as time evaporated at a rate of knots left me feeling sick to my stomach.

3. Australia V England (Rugby Union), 22nd November 2003 – I hope somebody decides Australia never again play sport on November the 22nd. If Elton Flatley’s conversion attempt of Lote Tuqiri’s try in the 4th minute comes off the inside of the post, we win. The rest of the game doesn’t change because the ball is kicked off in the same manner and we win 19-17 instead of losing 20-17, thanks to none other than Jonny Wilkinson, who kicked a drop goal in dying stages of extra time. The confidence from the squad and the media had made me believe for the entire week leading into the game that it was a forgone conclusion. I have absolutely no shame in admitting that a few tears escaped as that perfectly executed drop goal sailed right over the black dot.

4. Australia V Italy (Football), 26th June 2006 – The scene of the Tim Cahill show against Japan, a win against Italy would have afforded us the opportunity to play Ukraine, followed by Germany, followed by France. Call me a dreamer, but I thought we could go all the way. With a man advantage, we couldn’t penetrate the Italian back four for all the steins in Munich. A Fabio Grosso dive combined with a poorly timed Lucas Neill lunge and Totti used the last kick of the game to ruin something I thought I’d been through hell to see (see the clubhouse leader on this list and honourable mention Uruguay in November 2001 for further information). There is still nothing better than seeing Italy knocked out of a major tournament.

5. Australia V South Africa (Cricket), 5th & 6th of January 1994 – Chasing 117 at the Sydney Cricket Ground should be an easy task for the likes of Waugh (M), Boon, Border, Taylor and Slater. Especially when facing a bowling attack including a (very young) Allan Donald, De Villiers and Symcox. So how do you go from 2-51 to all out for 111? Losing 5-22 doesn’t help, and nor does having Craig McDermott top scoring with 29*.  At least that collapse was a blip on the radar as we went on to be one of the most successful sides of the next decade.

 

 

I did not enjoying finding or watching any of these videos. Viewer discretion is advised.

I’d love to say that this has been a fun list to write, yet all it has done has made me question why I love sport so much, while clearly reiterating that the reason for the emotional investment is because there is no shortage of positives for each of these experiences. Long live sport and I hope this list never changes.

A night at the BBL

On Saturday I attended my third ever Big Bash League game and the first game I’ve attended of BBL05, the Melbourne Derby at Etihad Stadium.

I was wrong about the BBL. I said it wouldn’t last five years. As a result I’m more than happy to put my hand up and be the one with egg on my face.185037-melbourne-renegades

Saturday night shaped to be a cracker of a clash – two teams who had the week before played in front of 80,000 fans, both sides desperate for a win to keep their finals hopes alive and a sold out Etihad Stadium. The atmosphere promised to be electric.

If the atmosphere at Etihad was electric on Saturday night I must have been in the wrong building. At best I thought the experience on Saturday night lacked respect for the sport.

Test Cricket is my cricket of choice, it always has been and it always will be. As a fan of the sport I was shocked to find that for the majority of the crowd the sport wasn’t the main drawcard.

Cheering when people threw a paper plane onto the field, doing the wave and hitting beach balls. That is a comprehensive list of things that got a louder cheer than any of the on-field action.

Perhaps I’m old and grumpy but I paid for a ticket to a sporting contest and not to a convention for people who are looking to irritate members of the general public.

Things such as knowing who won the toss and being able to have a conversation about the game with the person next to me clearly aren’t big selling points for the Melbourne Renegades as they decided to blast music at every opportunity, rather than allowing the crowd to get caught up in the action.

My tip? If you’re a cricket fan who wants to actually watch and enjoy the game the best place to do it is from the comfort of your own home.

The Cricket World Cup is bad for the game

There. I said it. The World Cup was bad for the game of cricket.

AustraliawinWC

There is no better feeling in sport than winning. Australia lifting the World Cup for the fourth time in my life was a sweet as any other occasion. Despite this I can’t help be left with a sour taste about what the tournament does for the sport.

Crowds were wonderful, upsets were had and close games were more frequent than they had been at past tournaments. All fun and games, or was it?

The tournament was a success, but the barrage of high scores combined with the “new batting textbook” commentators ranted about leaves me feeling sour.

There were 23, 531 runs scored in the tournament at an average of 500.65 per game. When you factor in that England were playing and they were hopeless, this is a high scoring outlay from the more successful teams in the tournament.

There is a great skill in scoring 400 in 50 overs, there’s no denying that. But it is a skill which is demonstrating that 50% of the game isn’t valued under the current ODI format. If you’re a bowler you’re on a hiding to nothing. Powerplays, No-Balls, Wides and the new rules surrounding the bouncer have all been altered to ensure that runs are scored with ease.

When I first watched cricket a wide was a ball you couldn’t play a shot to with a regulation stance. Now a wide is something that’s either 75cm outside off or anything down the leg side. Two bouncers an over, anything over waist height and a full toss is a no-ball (unless you’re India), and don’t get me started on fielding regulations.

ODIs are successful because they have what the general observer classifies as “constant entertainment”. In a market when the forms of the game are getting shorter, entertainment comes through big hitting rather than a tight bowling battle. If people want big hitting you can replace bowlers with a bowling machine. The majority of bowling were half-volley’s outside off throughout the tournament, so why not give people more of what they so clearly want?

Cricket is one of my favourite sports. I’ll watch any form, but the shorter the game gets the less I care. ODIs aren’t a battle between batsmen and bowlers for the mental edge to get runs on the board. It’s a test of how long a batter will wait for the bowler to start bowling rubbish. If the batter can wait out the two over period at the start of a spell they are going to get runs.

The focus on attack hurts me as a fan, but it also hurts the next generation. Our future test cricketers think watching guys like Brendon McCullum is the way to build your technique to a level where you deserve a Baggy Green. No, it isn’t. McCullum is a wonderful cricketer with one fault – a severe inability to distinguish between forms of the game. Thank you very much short-form cricket for creating a monster which ruins it for the traditionalists. If you want to build an arsenal which will see you become a test great I suggest you YouTube guys like Doug Walters and Steve Waugh. They are the sorts of players we need to develop. I don’t need you scoring 15 an over on the first morning. I need you averaging between 47 and 60. That’s how we win tests, and reach the pinnacle of the sport.

For a pro-hitting rant you’d assume that I think there is never any smart bowling in the shorter forms. I know that Australia won the final with a fantastic bowling performance. Clarke for all of his faults devised a plan to beat an unbeaten team and pulled it off with apparent ease. Credit to him for that, but that performance alone doesn’t swing back to bowlers having a prominent role in the current form of ODIs for mine.

Is anyone else wishing The Ashes would hurry up and start?