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.

Rio 2016 outfit suffers identity crisis

The Australian Olympic Committee launched the uniform that their athletes will wear in the Rio  2016 opening ceremony on Wednesday morning and they’ve managed to sneak under their own very low bar.

Since the turn of the century the Australian Olympic Team have a history of success. They’ve not finished lower than tenth on the medal tally (4th in 2000 and 2004, 6th in 2008 and 10th in 2012) with the seven Gold Medal’s from London a cause for concern in parts of Australia’s sporting fraternity.

The Australian team will sport this interesting combination at the Rio Opening Ceremony

The Australian team will sport this interesting combination at the Rio opening ceremony

In that same time span the choice of uniform for the opening ceremony has remained, at best, questionable. In keeping with said tradition the Australian team will march in to the Maracanã Stadium on August 5th looking as if they’ve suffered an identity crisis.

2000 had the outback theme, 2004 saw the return to prominence of the spray jacket, 2008 intrigued with the return of the nations traditional blue, while 2012 saw the return of the timeless bottle green look.

As an Australian it is your birthright to know that “It’s moments like these you need Minties”, yet I don’t think the opening ceremony was the moment they were referring to when they coined that slogan in 1926.

The mint and white stripped jackets that are to be donned in August are desperately out of place in a uniform that features white shorts or skirts and yellow tie or green wrap-around scarf. The balance between the individual elements of the uniform is lacking and while we are going to stand out when we make our grand entrance, it’s not going to be for the reason the AOC hoped when they approved the design.

If the AOC had have gone with an entirely mint jacket and a soft gold skirt / pants combo with a white shirt and no tie, the blow would be softened dramatically and a timeless classic may have emerged.

They are by no means the worst Australian opening ceremony uniform (see Barcelona 1992 for that) but they do raise the question of the look that the AOC were aiming for as they appear to have landed smack between honourng the tradition of Olympics past and landing in a candy-land future.

 

Crystal ball – Five 2016 sporting predictions

It’s easy to look back at the end of the year and think about the predictions that should have been made in the world of sport. Here are five headlines you will see in 2016.

Foxes secure Champions League berth – Leicester City’s hot start to the season has shocked the most seasoned of football experts. What they have shown is that chemistry, not money is crucial to success. Jamie Vardy has 2016demonstrated why he might be the most important player in the league and his calmness under pressure will be crucial in the second half of the season. Leicester have never finished higher than eighth in the Premier League so the scene is set for them to rewrite history.

Warriors create history – Will they, won’t they? Will they, won’t they? They will. The 95-96 Bulls record will be no longer at the end of the season. The Warriors are 29-2 at the time of writing and the Bulls were 25-3 on the same date in 1996. When every player who is currently active in the NBA has retired Steph Curry is going to be the best of the lot and it is this dominance that is going to help lead the Warriors to single digit losses.

CUBS ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS – The last time the Cubs won the World Series the toaster hadn’t been invented, the Titanic was years from sinking and the Fitzroy Football Club were the powerhouse of the VFL. A lot has changed in 108 years (although I wouldn’t object to a return of the Roy Boys) but Cubs fans still wait. A better than expected 2015 saw the Cubs reach the NLCS before being swept by the Mets. The addition of John Lackey and Jason Heyward to a club who are a year more experienced makes them favourites for the N.L Central. The Royals showed in 2014 that playoff experience will help the second time around and for Cubs fans this means one thing – sweet sweet relief.

Awesome foursome – Saturday the first of October 2016 marks the day that the Hawthorn Football Club will become the greatest VFL/AFL team I’ve seen in my life. At the moment that is a mantle that belongs to Brisbane but a fourth straight flag to the men in Brown and Gold signifies a changing of the guard. Nobody has exploited Hawthorn and there isn’t an area of the game where they are noticeably lagging behind their opponents. They know when they need to win and they know how to force themselves into a winning position. No wonder they’re a happy team at Hawthorn.

Boomers win first Olympic medal –  It’s the same old story every four years for Australian basketball. The Boomers should win an Olympic medal, they lose a game they shouldn’t and fall into the wrong side of the draw. Three 4th place finishes (1988, 1996, 2000) later and it feels like the Boomers are ready. NBA champions, high draft picks and dominant domestic players will make up what is likely to be the most experienced team Australia have ever seen. The spotlight has shone on this playing group for the last decade in varying forms and they are going to use it to their advantage. A team that is likely to feature two number one draft picks is going to be in the conversation as the games enter their final weekend. More importantly one of the most frustrating streaks in Australian sport is about to be broken.

 

 

The “Choke” doesn’t exist

The Olympic and Paralympic season is great. There is more sport than I know what to do with and I get to fall in love with the magic of one of the things I love most in the world all over again.

With this comes problems. Everybody is an expert. I don’t mind the fact that we all pretend to know things that we don’t know Olympic-Ringsabout the sports we watch, I’ve done that multiple times. The problem I have is that everybody is an expert on what it takes to be an Olympian or Paralympian and how that if an athlete doesn’t perform on the day then it must be a “choke”.

Get off your high horse before you injure yourself.

I know what you’re probably thinking, “But how could you know, you were never an Olympian or Paralympian”.

Darn right I wasn’t, and I’m lucky if more than a few days go by where I don’t think about it. There aren’t any certainties in life, but had things progressed as they were I probably would have gone to Beijing and certainly made the trip to London.

So yes, I do know what it takes to that level. By the time that I finished school in 2005 I was in the pool for close to 20 hours a week with another 5 hours spent in the gym or doing other work out of the pool. I got lucky. My parents never complained about the 5am wakeup or the money that they spent so that I could chase a dream. In fact they worked just as hard as I did for it and probably deserved more credit for the success that I had than I did.

I didn’t suffer an injury, there was no reason I couldn’t keep swimming. I made the decision I made, and living with it isn’t the easiest thing to do, but you can’t change the past, so I deal with it however I can.

It’s not easy to represent your country, but it looks easy because you are at the top of your game when you’re doing it. Failing when you’re at the top of your game isn’t a choke, it’s nothing more than a simple act of human failure, which we all have on a daily basis. I’ve lost count of the number of times in the last few weeks that I’ve seen references to Steven Bradbury, or “Doing a Bradbury”. But that’s probably because the people making the point don’t think he deserved it.

  • 12 years at an international level.
  • Almost losing his life after have a skate go through his leg.
  • A broken neck 18 months before Salt Lake City.

Yeah, nothing at all there screams deserving. He made his race plan, he executed it, and as he once said, his reason for taking the Gold Medal wasn’t for the 90 seconds in that race, it was for the 12 years before it.

Chumpy Pullin was favourite heading into the snowboard cross last night, in fact he would have been certain in his mind that today was the day he was going to reach the ultimate goal for any athlete. But things didn’t work out, that’s life, not a choke.

He doesn’t need people saying he choked, how he feels about it is worse than anyone else can make him feel. Trust me, I’ve been there.

It’s 2004 and the last qualifying event before the trials for the Athens games. Having already qualified for trials there was one more event I wanted to add to my schedule. This particular event was one that I had been targeting for years, even though it had always been just out of reach. Everything was set. All I needed to do was swim within about half a second of my best time and I’d be swimming that event in Sydney in two months time, I was ready and nothing could stop me.

The time to beat was 48.10 … The time I swam was 48.11. Never has something that I wanted so badly felt so far away. .01 of a second can be made up anywhere, and I know that I should have done better, but in that time I did all I could, and I walked away knowing that fact.

That race ended up being my first Open-Age medal at a State swim meet, something which I’m awfully proud of and something that I still smile about today.

So why can’t it leave me? The first Grandparent of mine to pass away passed away eight days before that swim. Death is something none of us can control, and at the age of 16 I don’t think I was in any capacity to level out in my mind, as they had planned to be there watching that day. The two events were and forever will be connected, and now I see it is one of the best thing that has ever happened to me, because it shows that no matter what happens, you can find strength in it.

I didn’t choke that day, I just didn’t achieve what I had in mind, that’s life.

So, next time you think an athlete chokes, stop and think. Nothing is ever what it seems, particularly in the world that so few people get to experience.