The Death of Manchester United

February 6, 2023

When I was 8 years old, my parents had very little money and we lived in what today would be called a slum. We couldn’t afford magazines or anything of the sort, but we did get the Daily Mirror. The walls of my bedroom were covered in smudgy newspaper black-and-white photos of my heroes, Manchester United, and, most especially, their young superstar Duncan Edwards.

Sixty-five years ago today, an airplane carrying the team on a flight from Munich back to England crashed on take-off in the snow. Twenty people died at the scene, including ten players and trainers, and three others, including Duncan Edwards, died later from their injuries. It was a tragedy that brought England to a standstill.

Clubs didn’t have huge bank accounts in those days and the disaster almost caused the club to fold.  In the end it took manager Matt Busby (who had been seriously injured in the crash) ten years to rebuild the team and win another championship.  Being young, I didn’t have the patience to wait, and I had already switched my allegiance to Chelsea by then.

WE Should Decide On An Olympics Bid

April 9, 2022


Next Tuesday, Councillor Colleen Hardwick’s motion on getting voter approval for any new Olympics bid will come before Council. Mayor Kennedy Stewart has intimated that we should have no say in the matter even though it will likely cost Vancouver tax payers billions of dollars, and remembering that we still have no idea what the 2010 Olympics cost because of a secret deal to hide the figures until at least 2025.

Hardwick’s motion is simple: She asks that we all get a chance to have a vote on the matter during the October civic elections. The question she wants on the ballot paper is equally simple and neutral:

“Do you support or do you oppose the City of Vancouver’s participation in hosting the 2030 Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games?

_ YES, I support the City of Vancouver’s participation.

_ NO, I oppose the City of Vancouver’s participation.”

The full text of the Motion is here:

Given the Mayor’s opposition to public participation in this decision, there is a chance that even this motion might not be allowed to be discussed. That is unless we the public make sure the Council know that we want and need to be consulted on how our money is spent.

Therefore, whether you support the Olympics or not, I urge you to email City Council demanding that we have a say in this decision during the next municipal election and supporting the Motion. Your email must arrive before Council starts to sit on Tuesday 11th April. Please copy it to:;;;;;;;;;;

70,408 Minutes of 2021

January 1, 2022


In the first year of the pandemic, 2020, I wrote and published a book. For the second year, I was determined to be a viewing jock. I believe the hundreds of blog posts here in 2021 show that watching sports was not all that I got up to this year, but they sure were important to me.

I had determined in particular to watch as much cricket, cycling, and rugby as I could cram in; and that I would clock all my sports watching as some sort of exercise, and to see what the numbers could teach me about what I enjoy and what I don’t.

First the overall total: I watched an incredible 70,408 minutes of sports in 2021; the equivalent of 1,173 hours, or 48 full days. For every day of the year I averaged 3 hours 15 minutes of sports watching. Throughout the year there were peaks and troughs of viewing activity:

Much of that was accomplished by getting up very early in the morning in Vancouver while European and East Asian sports (most of my favourites) were available live and online. Most North American major league sports (none of which I follow with much interest) were on while I was busy during the day or evening with other matters.

Here is the complete list of what I watched:

Cricket29,962 minutes42.6%
Rugby Union7,43910.6%
Rugby League1,6452.3%
Horse Racing1,2001.7%
Lawn Bowls1,1731.7%
Sailing & Rowing1,0111.4%
Motor Racing3080.4%
Ice Hockey2070.3%
Speed Skating950.1%
Ski Jumping100.0%

Not surprising — to me at least — cricket was easily the most watched sport here. And there were so many types of cricket to enjoy. My total includes more than 11,000 hours of Test cricket, 12,700 hours of T20 or T20I (including a great World Cup season), 2,000 hours of ODI, and the balance from County games.

Cycling was made up of 7,660 minutes of road racing, and about a thousand minutes split between track and cyclocross.

Regular readers will not be surprised to see that Sumo makes it into the top five. However, biathlon became a favourite of mine only in 2020, and sports climbing was new to me until 2021.

All of these sports were watched live or within a day or two of the event. However, that is not the case with Horse Racing and Lawn Bowling. About half the lawn bowling was live; the rest were tapes of famous games in the past. However, I didn’t see a single live horse race in 2021, but I discovered on YouTube a cache of all the Grand National races from about 1950 and I watched them all, sometimes blitzing six or seven a day in the summer.

As for Major League sports, I didn’t watch a single minute of baseball or basketball, and my hockey and football viewing was minimal at less than 800 minutes combined.

Well that was that exercise. I know I’ll keep watching sports but I won’t be doing the insane tracking and timing any longer. Sorry to have bored you all with this. Happy New Year!

The Olympics Is Obviously Not About Learning

December 10, 2021


The City of Vancouver (or, rather, Mayor Kennedy Stewart alone), the City of Whistler, and four local First Nations today signed a Memorandum of Understanding to study the possibility of hosting the 2030 Winter Olympic Games.

You may recall that the 2010 Games led to the City of Vancouver incurring hundreds of millions of dollars of debt and, because of the machinations of Gregor Robertson, John Furlong, and Penny Ballem, the people of Vancouver are still not allowed to see the final accounting for a long time yet.

The 2010 Games were supposed to solve many of the City’s problems, not least of which was homelessness and affordability — but look at where we are today on those issues. The 2010 Games also led directly to a long period of austerity caused directly by the huge holes that the Games burrowed into both Provincial and City budgets. But we are supposed to forget about all that and cheer on another round of outrageous spending.

Councillor DeGenova, the Games uber-backer, says things will be different this time. Yeah, right.

I am not a great fan of the Olympics generally. However, I am content for them to happen here again but ONLY if there is a cast-iron guarantee that not one cent of Vancouver taxpayers’ money is spent, and that every service Vancouver supplies is paid for in full.

An Olympic-Sized Cesspit

July 15, 2021

In a couple of weeks, the Tokyo Olympics, delayed by a year, will start. There will be doping scandals, no doubt some financial shenanigans, and possibly a huge increase in covid-19 infections. And the whole purpose of the event — forget the athletes and sportspeople — will be to make a few people that most of us have never heard of richer than they are already today.

I have always been opposed to the Olympics. They are driven by multi-billion dollar TV, sportswear, and advertising companies. It has become a multinational profit-driven corporation organized by bureaucrats who have secured themselves huge life-long salaries and are bizarrely treated as if they are important ambassadors when they travel the globe.

The profits needed to drive the Games have become so enormous that each event costs tens of billions of dollars to present — and they will be forced on us regardless of human rights violations by the hosts (think Sochi and Beijing, for example), severe financial strains on the organizing countries’ taxpayers, and even a horrendous pandemic that has brought death to millions of people. The Games must proceed so that a few bureaucrats can continue with their luxurious lifestyles.

What about the athletes? supporters may ask. One-tenth of the money needed to put on an Olympics could probably pay for superb World Championships in every sport; championships that could be staged by a vastly greater number of cities and towns and regions than could ever conceive of holding an Olympics. And, I believe, twenty World Championships, say, spread over a couple of years would provide a lot more TV and advertizing time than a three-week piece of extremist theatre under the five rings.

The thought of wasting time, effort, and money in bringing another Olympic Games to Vancouver when we have thousands dying each year from opioid addictions, tens of thousands living in unaffordable housing or on the streets, school programs being cut for lack of funds, and emergency services running short on staff, is frankly sickening.

When The Greatest Became The Greatest

April 28, 2020

Fifty-three years ago today, heavyweight champion of the world Muhammed Ali appeared at a draft induction centre. He had previously announced that he was a conscientious objector and he was arrested after three times refusing to step forward when his name was called.

Later that afternoon, the New York boxing authorities stripped Ali of his titles, and Ali would be unable to get a boxing license in the US for several years thereafter.

Throughout this attempt at humiliation and persecution by the system, Ali’s fierce personal integrity stayed proud and loud. He was eventually vindicated and was allowed to be the great athlete that he was.

Sports Today

February 23, 2020

I wrote the last piece ten years ago this month, and I stick by what I wrote. However, my own sports intake has changed radically in the last ten years due to the wide availability of sports of all kinds on the internet.

First, I watch almost no sports on TV these days. I did watch the Superbowl this year but it was probably the first American football game I have watched in several years. I don’t watch hockey or NASCAR any more, I’ve never followed baseball, and the Final Four of March Madness is the limit to my basketball viewing.  I don’t even watch a lot of soccer — the occasional Chelsea game is about it.

But the availability of multiple channels (some legal, some perhaps less so) on the net allows me to follow cricket, rugby, road race cycling, and sumo all year round.  I have become a devotee of biathlon and ocean racing, and I can indulge long time favourites such as lawn bowling and curling.  My favourite online sports channel this afternoon is offering me live streaming events in tennis, billiards, sevens rugby, softball, bandy, and sports car racing, along with all the soccer, football, hockey, baseball, and basketball from around the world.  Earlier today, there were winter sports from Europe, athletics from several counties, shooting from Italy, and table tennis from the Far East.

It is a bizarre feast.

Not All Sports Are Created Equal

February 23, 2020

I admit it, I am a TV jock.  I like to watch sports on TV.  I’ll watch almost any kind of sport instead of a blank screen.  You might think that one team sport is essentially much like any other team sport, but that isn’t so.  Watching such a variety of sports has allowed me to isolate a large number of differences between team sports in North America and team sports in the rest of the world.  And, so we are clear, I am talking here about major team sports — soccer, American/Canadian football, cricket, rugby, baseball, ice hockey, basketball.

1.  Sports as Business Risk

Virtually all team sports outside North America are played in a series of hierarchical leagues where a team’s position in the series of leagues is dependent solely on their success or failure in the previous season.  To use British soccer as the exemplar, there is the Premier League at the top of the heap.  Below that is the Championship League, followed by League Division 1, League Division 2 etc.  If you finish in the bottom three of the Premier League in one season, the following season you will be relegated to the Championship League.  Your position in the Premier League is taken by one of the teams that finished in the top three of the Championship League in the previous season and were therefore promoted.  Three or four bad years in a row and you can quickly find yourself several levels below the top flight. This system, or something very similar, is the case for soccer, rugby, cricket leagues all over the world.  Even the ancient Japanese sport of sumo operates in the same way.

To be clear in the basest North American manner, the level your team plays in determines everything to do with money.  A soccer team in the English Premier League will make tens of millions of dollars a year more than will a team in the Championship; and the diffference is similar between the Championship teams and those in lower leagues.  There are genuine financial incentives for doing well, and significant financial penalties for doing badly.

In North America, there are financial incentives in doing better than the next team, but there are NO penalties for bad play:  you can play really badly for decade after decade and still be in the major leagues.  There is no chance of a Triple-A team being promoted, and no chance of a major league team being demoted. The entire business risk based on sporting chance has disappeared.  Every part of the system — from TV-revenue sharing to bottom-up drafts — is designed to bring equality.  It is an oddly non-free enterprise system, socialist in its implications.

2.  Always a Winner

In all of the North American major league team sports there must always be a winner in every game.  If one team cannot win in the regulation time, then you keep playing in some form or another until someone DOES win:  extra time, shoot outs, etc.

In team sports outside of North America, a draw or tie is a perfectly acceptable result for all but a tiny proportion of matches.   In fact, where a weak team is playing a stronger, their tactics may well be to aim for a draw and thus secure something rather than lose everything in a winner-take-all scenario.  This is a legitimate management option.

3.  Armour

In the contact sports — American/Canadian football, hockey — the trend in North America is to increase and improve body armour. Steroids help too.

In the contact sports — rugby, soccer — the trend in the rest of the world is to minimize equipment to free up the athlete.  Looking at a moderrn professional rugby player in his kit is to imagine that he put on the team shirt and then stood in some vacuum packing device so that the uniform is almost moulded to the player’s body.  Muscles are what you see, not padding and straps and metal.

4.  The Viewing Experience

There are a number of cosmetic differences in watching these team sports.  For example, in the rest of world, in every kind of team sport (including baseball, football, basketball and hockey) the home team is listed first, the game clock shows how much of the game has gone, and the teams keep the same uniforms wherever they play (with a few minor exceptions).  In North America, the visiting team is always listed first, the game clock always shows how much time is left to play, and the home team is always in the darker uniforms.

None of these things are, perhaps of any importance by themselves.  However, together they change how a game is watched and experienced, especially on television.  Why these particular small things are reversed is a mystery to me.  Is it psychology? marketing? chance?

5.  The International Perspective

Finally, North American major league team sports are entirely insular at the club level.  They play all of their games and competitions against one another, no outsiders are wanted.  This leads to the embarrassing situation where, say, a team in Ohio plays a team in Georgia for a “World” series or a “World” championship.

In the rest of the world, major team sports find every excuse to play different leagues, to challenge clubs from all over the globe.  These international leagues and competitions sit on top of the national leagues and become a further incentive to good play.  T o use English soccer as the example once again, the top four teams in the Premier League get to play in the following year’s Champions League against similarly successful clubs from all over Europe.  The teams that come fifth to eighth in the English Premier League qualify for the Europa Cup.  It is estimated that winning the Champions League is worth $100 million to a club, while winning the Europe Cup might be 20% of that.  Similar high value competitions exist in rugby and cricket, and for soccer in other continents.

Major league sports teams outside North America do very well, thank you very much, both in terms of money and quality without any of the protected Trust-like setup that North American leagues feel the need to erect.  They operate in a completely free market, where talent rises to its own level against peers from every corner of the globe.  They are the true capitalists, while the Major League owners are more like a Stalin-era Politbureau stamping out competition.


A Masterpiece

August 25, 2019

There are a few moments in time when sport reaches the level of poetry and art, when grown men shed tears of pure emotion, when the heart beats fiercely, and words are hard to come by.  One of those moments in time happened today at the Ashes Test match at Headingley.

It is hard to describe for anyone not familiar with cricket but, essentially the Old Enemy Australia set England what seemed like an almost impossible task but which with luck and guile and the skills of one man in particular, England won at the very last minute.  Almost the entire country seemed to be watching and, when the final stroke had secured the improbable victory, the whole country exploded with utter joy, an outburst of raptuous emotion that England has needed for a while,

What must it feel like to be Ben Stokes, England’s hero of the day?  Almost single-handed he blasted the last sixty or seventy runs needed, and saved the match and the Ashes for England.  Even the oft-depressed Sir Geoffrey Boycott was exuberant:  “I’ve seen some remarkable cricket moments in my life but that is the best I’ve seen in over 50 years. Ben Stokes  saved the Ashes and gave a magical inspirational innings.”

Now, we go forward to the fourth match of the series, with the scores one win each, with one draw.  England already seems happy with its bowlers and now, with this magnificent batting effort in the second innings eclipsing our disastrous first innings outing, we can look forward with confidence to the final two matches.

Baseball’s Background

March 28, 2019

When I was a young lad in London, many evenings I used to lie under the blankets in the dark listening to American Forces radio. I heard about the 1960 Presidential elections, I heard the News in Special English (what I assume was the basis for Bob & Ray’s wonderful “Slow Talkers of America” skit), and I am pretty sure that was where I first heard Bob Newhart. But mostly I enjoyed the word pictures conjured up by the wonderful commentators on boxing and baseball.

I was aware of baseball in a general way because, in those Cold War days, there was a US Air Force base nearby and they occasionally allowed us to visit to watch inter-service games. For a boy brought up on cricket and rugby and soccer, this game — so much like rounders which in England was only played by young girls — seemed tame, slow, and frankly boring.  For good or ill, I have never grown out of that opinion, even as I recognise that this view is not shared by the millions of the game’s supporters.

All this is to introduce a review of Davis Block’s “Pastime Lost: The Humble, Original, and Now Completely Forgotten Game of English Baseball.” 

“David Block’s 2005 book Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game … persuasively argues that an early form of baseball (known by that name) was well-established in England by the mid-eighteenth century. In his new book, Pastime Lost, published just in time for the opening of the 2019 Major League Baseball season, Block reports on his research in the intervening years, adding a good deal of new evidence …

Baseball in those early days did not include bats. The ball was soft and was struck by hand … Beyond the bare bones of the game—that it included running to bases and returning “home”—we still know very little. But I think any fair-minded reader of Block’s book will conclude that he’s made his case.”

Whether the sport was developed in England or invented by Abner Doubleday, both Brock’s history and the reviewer note that baseball has been subject to constant change. I happen to believe it has changed these days into little more than a way in which vast and unseemly wealth is lavished on a few lucky players.  I am astonished that professional cricketers can now make a million or more a year but that pales into insignificance when compared to the $10 million, $20 million, $30 million a year contracts that are becoming commonplace in Major Baseball.

I remain unconvinced that this change is good for this or any sport.

We Are The Champions!

March 16, 2019

Today, Wales Rugby won the 6 Nations Championship; more than that, they scored a Grand Slam by beating each of the other five countries. In today’s final game, we crushed Ireland who, before the Championships, were clear favourites. It is a glorious day!

I have followed Welsh rugby for 60 years, and I was privileged to have grown up with heroes such as Gareth Edwards, JPR Williams, and so many other great players. But, seriously, I believe that today’s captain of Wales, Alun Wyn Jones, is probably the best player we have ever had.


Very much looking forward to the Rugby World Cup later this year.  Look out All Blacks!

A Busy Morning, So Far

February 9, 2019

This morning I watched a so-so game of rugby in which Ireland beat Scotland. Because I wasn’t transfixed by the game on the screen, I managed to finish doing the taxes for the Everloving and me.  This is definitely the earliest I have ever got them done.

I have to say that one of the benefits of being old and poor (along with bus passes, free drugs, and grocery deliveries) is the lack of paperwork.  None of those complicated deduction and benefit schedules for us, oh no: just the basic form to fill out and enjoyment of the “zero balance payable” before licking the stamp and sending it off.

Now I can sit back and watch Wales rugby destroy Italy without a care in the world. Except … I am delaying having to deal with the major damage to our patio caused by the gale-force winds last night.  I have some confidence that Wales will put me in a mood sufficient to face that freezing ordeal.

In Memoriam: Manchester United 1958

February 6, 2019


Kisenosato Retires

January 16, 2019

Longtime readers will be familiar with our 20-year addiction to the sport of sumo.  Since at least 2012, I have been following and cheering on a Japanese rikishi called Kisenosato.

As background, the highest ranks of the deeply Japanese sport of sumo have been dominated for twenty and more years by rikishi from Mongolia and eastern Europe, including the current, and possibly greatest ever, yokuzana (or Grand Champion), Hakuho. The young Kisenosato was promoted as the latest and greatest hope for a Japanese to regain the top spot.

Unfortunately, there were times in Kisenosato’s career when he just didn’t seem to focus and it took him many years to finally reach the highest ranks.  By then his body was beaten up and he has fought very little over the last eighteen months, withdrawing from several basho (tournaments) in a row through injury.

Yesterday was day four of the January basho, which Kisenosato had chosen as his comeback tournament.  He was welcomed with open arms by the Japanese crowd but, unfortunately his sumo was not good enough and he lost the first three days’ bouts.

Sumo is a sport of very strict tradition, there are rules both written and unwritten that must be followed.  Grand Champions are expected to win a very high percentage of their fights. If they do not, the weight of tradition begins to pressure them into retirement.  After his year out with injury, Kisenosato had to immediately re-establish his position in the hierarchy.  He couldn’t do it and so today he announced his immediate retirement.  It is, I think, a sad end to an unfulfilled career.

Luckily, as we have seen in this basho and the previous one, there is a batch of young Japanese rikishi who are just bursting through: Mitakeumi, Takakeisho, Abi and several others are capable of beating anyone on their day.  The first four days of this basho have witnessed the defeat of most of the upper level rikishi by up-and-comers: It makes for a great tournament.

The Death of Manchester United

February 6, 2018

When I was 8 years old, my parents had very little money and we lived in what today would be called a slum. We couldn’t afford magazines or anything of the sort, but we did get the Daily Mirror. The walls of my bedroom were covered in smudgy newspaper black-and-white photos of my heroes, Manchester United, and, most especially, their young superstar Duncan Edwards.

Sixty years ago today, an aeroplane carrying the team on a flight from Munich back to England crashed on take-off in the snow. Twenty people died at the scene, including ten players and trainers, and three others, including Duncan Edwards, died later from their injuries. It was a tragedy that brought England to a standstill.


Clubs didn’t have huge bank accounts in those days and the disaster almost caused the club to fold.  In the end it took manager Matt Busby (who had been seriously injured in the crash) ten years to rebuild the team and win another championship.  Being young, I didn’t have the patience to wait and I had already switched my allegiance to Chelsea by then.

Oh What A Night!

November 3, 2017

Tonight we went to see the Canadian rugby team play the Maori All Blacks at BC Place. We were wrapped up in our winter woollies with scarves and gloves and the whole bitter cold night thing.

Before the game, we went to the food hall at Costco’s for two polish sausage hot-dogs with all the trimmings plus two soft drinks (and refills) and a massive vanilla ice cream cone for $5.50.  I’ve written before about how this is the best deal in town. This was cemented in my mind when, after that satisfying snack, we headed into the stadium and saw that a single foot-long hot-dog by itself was $9.25!

Canada lost by 51 points to 9 — quite the blowout — but that wasn’t too unexpected a result, let’s be honest.  Canada kept it close in the beginning — 9 points to 10 at one stage — but then the All Blacks scored three easy tries from three Canadian mistakes and that was that. In  the second half they just piled it on; but the Canadians never gave up, kept pushing, and when they had a decent break up field the full house roared them on.

Talking about a full house, it certainly looked full and felt full, and the announced attendance was 29,840 which is  a record for a full rugby international in Canada.

It has been a long time since I saw a rugby game in the flesh — and this would have been the very first one for the ever-loving who loves everything New Zealand and so was ecstatic at the result.  Seeing the Maori’s haka live was exciting, as was the half time show of traditional Maori song and dance.

A grand night!


This Sporting Life

July 8, 2017

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.

Kisenasato Wins — At Last!

January 21, 2017

kisenasatoThe ever-loving and I have watched every sumo tournament since about 2000. A couple of years after we started watching, a young Japanese rikiski turned pro; this was Kisenasato.  We have watched his rise as he moved swiftly though the ranks and was promoted to ozeki — the sport’s second highest rank — by January 2012.

This was an important step because the highest ranks of sumo — including the highest rank of yokozuna —  had been dominated by Mongolian rikishi for almost two decades.  The three current yokozuna are all Mongolians, and the last Japanese-born yokozuna retired in 2003.

Kisenasato has been the “great white hope” of Japanese sumo for many years now but, until today, he always fell a disappointing one bout or two below what what was needed to win at least one of the six-a-year tournaments (bashos). It is imperative that at least one basho victory– and usually two — are required before a rikishi can be promoted to yokozuna.  For this New Year basho, Kisenasato came with a determination we don’t always see from him. He is at 13 wins and 1 loss, with just one bout left. His nearest competitor has three loses, so he cannot be caught.

The last Japanese to win a basho, a year ago — and the first at that point for ten years — has already slipped out of the highest ranks by his failure to maintain the standard required.  With this win, Kisenasato has strengthened his position as crown prince, and we can only hope that he can repeat the performance and grab the long-wished-for promotion.

Reforming Pro Tennis

September 18, 2016

Pro tennis is very popular, with major tournaments selling out and prize money going through the roof; but the Grand Slam tournaments could be made much more exciting and TV-friendly and thus further increase its marketability. The following are thoughts as I watched the US Open this year.


For example, on the men’s side especially, the matches often go well past the three hour mark which makes it difficult for most people to watch an entire game (real life’s necessities intrude for most of us).  The US Open this year moved toward a partial solution by making the fifth set conclude with a tie-breaker if required.  However the other three Slams still have the fifth set as an endless duel until one side is two games ahead (in the third round at Wimbledon this year, Tsongas beat Isner with 19 games to 17 in the fifth).  The US Open style of tie-breakers on every set should become standard.

I also think we need to get rid of the let call on serves if the ball still lands in the proper court. Seems a small thing, but there tend to be quite a few of these in each match and it takes up unproductive time.

Finally, while anti-female gender-based wage differentials are a serious and pernicious issue in most industries, the opposite is the case in pro tennis. The prize money is the same for both sexes, but men work 40% more to get the same money. For example, in this year’s US Open, women winning in the first and second rounds took an average of 92 minutes per match, at a rate (with prize money of $43,313) of $469.56 per minute of play.  Under the same conditions and same level of prize money, the men worked an average of 151 minutes per match at $273.43 per minute of play.(1)  This is as wrong as any other discrimination and needs to change.

One obvious answer is to pay the women 60% of the men’s prize money because they only work at 60% of the men’s level. But that’s a dumb idea and goes against years of effort by the female players.  A better idea — and one that works with the other issues I mentioned above — is to reduce the men’s game to best of three sets, same as women. This will, on average, equalize the prize money AND shorten half the games in each tournament.

Now, I don’t really follow tennis; I generally only watch the four Slams. I am certainly no expert. But the ideas above seem like common sense.


(1) the discrepancy gets even worse as the tournament progresses. However the numbers of players involved becomes too small to make a reasonable statistical calculation.

This Sporting Life

September 2, 2016

September is full of pleasures for me — special birthdays, cooler weather, stuff — and the start of the European rugby union season is one of them.

I watched the opening game today, with Gloucester hosting Leicester Tigers. I don’t support either team and so was cheering on Gloucester as being more West Country than Leicester. I was happy therefore that Gloucester had a comfortable 31-7 lead soon after half time.


Image: David Rogers/Getty Images

However, Leicester were having none of that and scored a spectacular 31-38 win with the final play of the game. Here’s a real report of the game.

This was northern hemisphere rugby at its most enjoyable. I thought the handling skills of both teams were phenomenal, especially so early in the season. This augers well for the winter ahead!