This Sporting Life

It is about a year since I last wrote about sports and today seems just the right time, what with so many of my favourite events taking place all at once.  It plays havoc with the sleep schedule, with European and Asian games happening throughout my night time.  Oh well, you are only retired once!

The key to staying up most of last night, for example, was the start, at 12:30am, of the deciding game in the rugby union series between the touring British & Irish Lions versus the world-champion and virtually invincible New Zealand All Blacks.

The Lions tour comprised 10 games, of which three were Tests against New Zealand. Before our team even left England, the sporting papers were suggesting we would lose all 10 games and, most especially, all three Tests. Well that didn’t happen. Of the 7 additional games, the Lions won 4 and tied another.  The All Blacks won the first test, while the Lions won the second. Which brought us to last night, the decider, with the series all tied up. It was a phenomenal game, fortunes flowing back and forth. At the end, the score was 15-15, match tied. That meant for the first time in history, the series was tied.

I guess we Lions supporters could be disappointed not to have been the first to defeat the All Blacks in New Zealand since the early 1990s. But frankly, we did so much better than any pundit had suggested that, I am sure for the All Blacks, this must feel like a defeat. I stayed up and watched all the games and it was thoroughly worth it.

The game finished about 2:30 this morning. The third day of the 1st cricket Test between England and South Africa started at 3:00am — what was a boy to do?  I stayed up.

This is a new era for English cricket. The senior English Test team is now being captained for the first time by the young Joe Root. He is an adventurous player and over the last couple of years has been recognised as one of the finest batsman in the world. In the first innings two days ago, in his debut Test as captain, Root scored 190 runs and almost became the first ever player to score two double-centuries at Lords. His captaincy and leadership skills  are hardly doubted, but they were in fine display over the first couple of days of this Test.

I stayed up and watched until the “lunch” break, which was 4:00am for me. When I got back up at about 9, I watched the last hour of play, too.  By the end of the third day, England is dominant with both bat and ball.  Odds are we will win the Test and make a grand start to the cricketing summer. The era of Joe Root has begun and it looks like a winner!

By deciding to sleep at 4:00 this morning, I missed watching the first real mountain stage of the Tour de France. Luckily, I was able to watch the last 20-odd kilometres on tape. I saw the new great French hope Lilian Calmejean win on an individual breakaway, fighting leg cramps through the final mile or so. It was a brave ride and gives France two victories in the first 8 days of the Tour. My favourite sprinter, the exuberant Peter Sagan, got himself disqualified on day three when he appeared to cause a major and dangerous crash of Mark Cavendish at the stage’s finish line. That’s a bit of a disappointment; and my overall favourite for the yellow jersey, Alberto Contador, lost time on the first stage time trial which ran in torrential rain. But I expect him to move up in the mountains now we are there.

Also interesting is the fact that there are three Brits in the top 10 after stage 8: Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, and Simon Yates. The Brits have been winning the race over the recent past (Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome twice), but having three riders so high in the Tour shows some well-earned depth.

With all this going on, I have hardly had time to follow Andy Murray and Milos Roanic at Wimbledon.  They both seem to be still playing, so that’s good.

Finally, to throw another wrench into the schedule, the July sumo basho starts tonight at midnight. These days, we tend to watch the bouts on YouTube the following morning, so at least we can sleep almost normally for the 15 days’ tournament. There are a bunch of young rikishi moving up in the ranks and it is interesting to watch them assault the highest ranks of the sport. This basho will see 27-year old Takayasu begin as the newest ozeki, the sport’s second highest rank. He, like Kisenasato recently promoted to the highest rank of yokozuna, are Japanese who are challenging the two decade long reign of the Mongolians at the peak.

That’s enough of all that. It is a full and glorious sporting life right now.

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