This Sporting Summer

September 16, 2018

This morning, the British cyclist Simon Yates won the Vuelta a Espana grand tour. That event capped off a wonderful summer of sport — in cycling and cricket, at least — for British fans.

Simon Yates

Yates majestic victory in the Tour of Spain meant that all three of cycling’s Grand Tours — Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, and the Vuelta — were won by British riders in 2018; and that three different riders (Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, and Simon Yates) accomplished this shows the depth of British cycling these days.  Six of the last seven Tours de France have been won by Brits (Wiggins, Froome & Thomas), while Froome and Yates have taken the Spanish title for the last two years. This is a level of dominance at the top by one country that we haven’t seen for a while.

Now, for the fall, we look forward to the World Championships.

Joe Root, ENG Captain

Last week also saw the last cricket Test Match to be played in England this year. England played five Tests against India and won the series 4 games to 1. Earlier in the summer a 2-Test series against Pakistan was drawn 1-1.  I love our team right now — they are unpredictable and exciting; sometimes they collapse in a heap, sometimes they reach the pinnacles of the sport, but they are finding ways to win. And many of them are young. With the last ball of the last Test, England’s James Anderson took his 564th Test wicket, making him the greatest fast bowler in the history of the game.

In October and November, England tour Sri Lanka, including 3 Tests. In January, England travel to the West Indies to play a full series of 3 Tests, 5 ODIs and 3 T20Is.  That’ll be a good winter’s viewing.

Mitakeumi

Sumo has been especially interesting this summer. There are now a number of YouTube channels that feature all the day’s bouts which we can stream while we have breakfast instead of staying up until 2 each morning. That helps. More importantly, the upper ranks of sumo seems to be undergoing a periodic renewal, with older rikishi fading away and bright newcomers (such as Endo, Mitakeoumi, and Abi) moving up the ranks. In fact, the young Mitakeumi won the last tournament in July. But, it has to be said, that was partly because the three yokozuna (or “grand champions”) failed to show up: Kisenasato and Hakuho deliberately sat out, while Kakuryu was injured early on). But the hesitations of the yokozuna have made the tournaments (or basho) a lot more open and interesting.

We are now half-way through the September basho. All three yokozuna showed up, and two of them are currently leading.

I haven’t seen much boxing this year, but I did manage to catch the magnificent World Middleweight title fight last night in which Canelo Alvarez barely beat Gennady Golovkin to take the title.  Skilful scientific boxing from both instead of the brawling we often get these days.

Finally, I caught the second half of the rugby game between the All Blacks and South Africa a day or so ago. It was an historic win for the Springboks and, more importantly, allows all us others to believe that the All Blacks are not invincible.  It makes the northern hemisphere Test season something to look forward to.


Muhammed Ali — The Greatest

June 3, 2016

Ali

The men in my family always loved boxing. I regularly saw fights on BBC TV and I listened at night to American Forces Radio to follow the American boxers. In May 1966 my Dad spent good money to take my grandfather and me to Highbury Stadium in London to watch the rematch between Muhammed Ali, by then world champion, and Britain’s hero Henry Cooper. I was already a (secret in that crowd) Ali supporter and wasn’t surprised when he stopped Cooper. It was a great night (even from a very long way from the ring) and a memory I shall cherish always.

Soon after he was challenging the draft and the Vietnam War (“No Viet Cong ever called me a nigger”) and the establishment itself, and he was even more of a hero to me. His pride and his sacrifice for his beliefs were inspirations for us all.  As was his calm demeanour while facing a future with Parkinson’s.  He deserved every moment of glory he ever received. Hard to believe there will be another anything like him in my lifetime.

I am saddened to lose him, but glad that his trials are over.

Ali 2


Canadian Sumo Starts Well

July 26, 2015

BrodiLast night, while, with all the pomp and circumstance that Japan can bring to its national sport, the Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho won his record-breaking 35th Emperor’s Cup at the Nagoya basho, something else occurred: A young and huge Canadian, known in the sport as Homarenishiki, achieved a winning record of 4 wins and 3 losses in his very first basho.

Homarenishiki, who’s real name is Brodi Henderson and who hails from Victoria BC, has entered the sport at its lowest rank, Jonokuchi. But his early wins and his 6’7″ 360-lb frame show promise that he will soon climb the ranks.

Well done!


Women’s World Cup

June 27, 2015

Canada lost its FIFA Womens World Cup match this afternoon, to England. I quite enjoyed the game and I think it was a fair result.  Canada finishes in the top eight which is what was to be expected (they were rated #8 in the world before the tournament) and I suspect they have advanced the women’s game here in Canada.

But there are issues with women’s football, and it could be improved to the benefit of both players and spectators.

For someone like me who has been raised for decades on the highest quality British and European football, watching many thousands of games, the three main differences between top level male football and the teams at the top of FIFA’s Women’s World Cup are in individual skills, strength, and conditioning.

The basic skill level, the level of precision in passing and moving, is much lower in the Women’s game; but I don’t think that is so important. The skill level will continue to improve as the teams play more and more top-level opponents. I have no doubt that soon enough the average top-level female players will have the equivalent skills of the average top-level male player.

The gap in strength and conditioning can certainly be reduced by better training, but much of the difference here is physiological: men are generally faster and stronger than women.  The lack of speed and resilient strength in the womens’ game slows (comparatively) attacking buildup in general and slashing attacks in particular.

I believe the womens’ game could be much improved if the field was shortened and narrowed by, say 15-20%. I think this would allow faster and more exciting play by countering the speed and strength deficits.

Anyway, that’s my two cents.  I’ve enjoyed the games I have watched, and I will certainly watch and enjoy the Final.  I’m cheering for England now.


The Echoing Wave Along The Drive

June 6, 2015

As I strolled mindlessly along Commercial Drive this afternoon, I could not fail to notice that every single Italian bar and cafe, along with every Vietnamese and Portuguese joint and bakery, was playing the European Championship final on their TVs. Juventus from Italy against Barcelona from Spain. And every single place was jammed and involved.

And every single place had a video feed that was streaming at a slightly different time than its neighbour, by a few seconds usually.

So I was watching the game through one window when there were loud cheers from an Italian bar up the street. Moments later, a bar across the street burst into happy celebration. Maybe ten seconds later, I watched as Juventus scored on the TV I was watching, and five seconds later the bar next door exploded with loud applause. It was if a single moment of perfect joy had echoed along the Drive for almost half a minute.

Later, without seeing, I heard a series of groans bounce along the street as Barcelona moved ahead again, for the win.


This Sporting Life #10

October 10, 2014

I watch a lot of football (or soccer as it so quaintly known in North America) but I don’t usually watch MLS, no matter how well or badly the Whitecaps may be doing.  However, this evening, I watched the second half of the game against Seattle that the Whitecaps won by a single goal; and I tried to analyze why I don’t follow MLS more closely.

I worked it out:  the MLS is rather like a no-contact schoolboy league game and is therefore quite boring to anyone used to the best.

Modern football, as epitomised by the major European leagues (the English EPL, German Bundesligia, Serie A in Italy, or La Liga in Spain, for example), is a super-fast full-contact sport played by hard men (many with exquisite skills, but hard men nonetheless).  There is a certain level of brutality, I suppose, but that is the way the game has developed. It is hard to imagine any of the players I saw tonight coming off well in any clashes with a top European half-back.  I  can see them crawling off the pitch and crying into their yoga mats.

Perhaps more importantly is the lack of speed.  MLS forward advances seem ponderous at best and old-fashioned in their rigidity.  Top-class footballers follow their team’s prescribed shape at top speed but are always willing to tweak the tactic for an opportunity.

Finally, if tonight was any guide, the MLS officials are mediocre and proscriptive.  They also seem to miss a lot of the action and get little help from their assistants. They reminded me of European hockey refs who call a lot more contact penalties than an NHL official ever would.

And that, perhaps, is the best analogy:  MLS football is to European football as the British Hockey League is to the NHL. They all play the same game, but ….

Previous This Sporting Life epsiodes.


This Sporting Life #9

July 26, 2014

With the completion of today’s Individual Time Trial, and with the exception of the almost-celebratory run into Paris tomorrow, this year’s Tour de France is now complete; and it has been a quite marvelous race.

There was a clear expectation by most observers that this year’s Tour would be a closely fought battle between Alberto Contador and Chris Froome.  However, with both of them being forced to withdraw during the first week, the “lesser lights” who normally would have been supporting their leaders were given a lot more freedom to go for stage wins and high rankings in the overall classification. This opened up the race and made for some spectacular days.

NibaliVincenzo Nibali (nearly always my second choice after Contador) has been the leader almost from the beginning and will win tomorrow by more than seven minutes; a victory thoroughly deserved.  He has looked cool and prepared on every single stage, winning a major mountaintop finish, handled the difficult cobble stage, and competing effectively in the time trial.  In hindsight, I suspect that he might well have won this year even had Froome and Contador stayed in.

Peter Sagan is such a consistently good performer that he has swamped everyone else in the green jersey (sprinters) competition without winning a single stage (though he has a chance still tomorrow morning).  In the King of the Mountains polka dot race, the young Pole Rafal Majka wins after an exciting contest. Majka reminds me that this Tour has thrown up a new crop of your riders, raiders we will be seeing at the top of the lists throughout the next decade.

Just as important, this year has been the best in a full generation for the French with their riders taking 2nd, 3rd and 6th place.  In addition, with the collapse of the Sky team this year, French team AG2R Las Mondiale will win the team competition by a wide margin.

It has been a great race — a true Grand Tour — and now we look forward to the Vuelta d’Espana later this summer which may well have the finest group of riders for many years with Contador and Froome trying to make up for their TdeF failures.  I will probably be supporting the young Colombian Nairo Quintano.

 

Previous This Sporting Life episodes.


World Cup In Victoria Park

June 10, 2014

On this coming Saturday, CBC will be putting on a show at Victoria Park, including big screens for the World Cup games.  The following is from a CBC email received by Tak, who I thank for the heads up:

On Saturday June 14th , 2014, CBC is hosting an outdoor World Cup Soccer Event. It will be a one day, family friendly celebration of World Cup Soccer in Canada. Our event will broadcast the viewing of the FIFA World Cup Games on large format TV screens set up throughout the park.  There will be a fully animated sponsor zone fill ed with soccer interactive activities , as well as some family friendly contests with prizing!

Our setup will be within Victoria Park (we are not closing down any streets). We are asking for your support to host this event in Victoria Park and come out and join the fun-filled activities (face painting, video gaming area, photo booths, cheer zone, etc.) on Saturday June 14th from 11 :00am to 6:00pm.

Location:    Victoria Park (near Commercial Drive and Grant Street), Vancouver, BC
Food/Drinks:  There will be local food trucks invited to the event. NO alcohol will be permitted
Attendance: Approximately 500 – 1, 000 – All ages

We will engage Pay Duty Police Officers to assist with any traffic re-direction needs. We will also be working with event security staff that will al so ensure that all foot traffic around Victoria Park, on the streets and sidewalks move freely. First aid will be on site , along with 20+ volunteers with the event to ensure all aspects run smoothly.

That could be great fun for a family that doesn’t want to crowd into one of the Drive’s bars for the game.


Historical Day!

April 8, 2014

After a full day of interviews and meetings yesterday (and stretching back every day into the distant past it seems), I was determined that today I would set aside all other distractions and get on with writing some history; in particular an essay I have had set aside for some time expanding my previous work on pioneer Grandview builder James Guinet.  And I did it!

OK, I did start the day with a ration of cycle racing on the net, and I took lunchtime off to watch Chelsea cream Paris in the Champions League, and I did do some tweets and a few emails about politics — but the vast majority of the day was spent writing and researching.  What a pleasure!

I must do this again.


Spring’s First Sunday

March 23, 2014

It was a gorgeous day weatherwise; a slight chill in the air early but bright sunshine and a pleasant warmth if one stayed out of the shadows.

I awoke early to watch the Milano-San Remo cycling classic — pouring with rain much of the race, with a surprise winner beating the favourites on the line after a gruelling 294 kilometers.  Exciting stuff.  It is a part of the world I know or knew quite well, and the run along the coast west from Genoa still reminds me of when we lived in Nice damn near fifty years ago, and when I hiked through the region ten and twenty years later.

Then, talking of hikes, it was time to hit the streets as the Grandview Heritage Group set out on a walk of discovery west and south of Britannia.  About a dozen of us joined in to find houses over one hundred years old that we could celebrate for our 2014 Centenary House Signs project.  We went up and down the streets between McLean and Clark and along Woodland and Odlum, chatting, swapping history stories, and taking lots of pictures.  We found some gems this time, and I look forward to the research work that will be needed to pin down their histories.  It was a tiring but well worthwhile two-hour tramp through the neighbourhood.

Our group was shadowed all morning by an SFU Communications student who is making a class project about me, the neighbourhood, and the changes that may come as a result of the Community Plan.  After the walk, he and I relaxed in Grandview Park with hot chocolates from Renzo’s and chatted for another hour or so on camera.

Then home, a quick lunch, and a well-deserved nap!  Not a bad day at all so far, and there is a whole evening to go.


This Sporting Life #8

December 28, 2013

In my sporting life  there have been some wonderful high points this year, but today just wasn’t one of them.

After giving the Australians a right thrashing in the Test series in England during the summer, our cricket team travelled to Australia for the winter series primed for victory and with all the odds in our favour.  Today, we find ourselves down four Tests to zero after yet another comprehensive defeat by the Aussies.

Our cricket has been shockingly bad — batting, bowling and captaincy; and it looks as though we need to have a thorough shake up of the entire team — just when we thought we had a group together that would be victorious for years to come.

Bitterly disappointing.

Still, we have the next sumo basho in a couple of weeks, and the cycling season starts with the Santos Tour Down Under in three weeks.  This sporting life can only improve!


Another Great Day

November 16, 2013

This was a very fine day.

I woke up early and called my mother in England.  She was her old irascible self, which was great to hear, and her illness seems to be in complete remission. That was good.

Also early this morning, England’s rugby team played the All-Blacks in what was probably the biggest game of the year. The New Zealanders won (as they have done in almost every match against every team in the last half-dozen years), but England put up a hell of fight and definitely had them worried through much of the game.  It was a brilliant game of rugby; one for the memory bank.

New Zealand's Julian Savea goes over the line

The game was quickly followed by a wonderful breakfast at Skylight — Eva’s corned beef hash and poached eggs are simply divine. So good to see the place packed with patrons.

Home in time for “Quirks and Quarks“, followed by a long and deeply satisfying nap.

When I woke up, I was delighted to hear from my old pal Bruce Macdonald that the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group has been organized and had their inaugural meeting.  When we set up the Grandview Heritage Group, one of our hopes was that other neighbourhoods would follow our lead. This is the first of many such groups, I am sure.

Then I made a pizza from scratch and, modesty itself, it was probably the best I have ever made — and it knocks restaurant pizzas into a cocked hat!

While we ate, we watched the recording of last night’s sumo. On the night before last, Paul McCartney was in the crowd with his wife and handlers. I could have done with less coverage of him.  But last night’s was pure sumo and my guys Kisenasato (pictured below) and Harumafuji continue to win. Great stuff!

01Kisenosato

Now, it is only about 7 and we have the whole evening to enjoy.  What a grand day.

 


The Future of Cycling

October 12, 2012

Regular readers will know that I am a longtime devotee of bicycle road racing.  Back in August when he was hiding from the truth I wrote a piece about Lance Armstrong as garbage so the release this week of the USADA report doesn’t make me think anything worse about him (that would have been impossible.)

But what it does do is focus attention on the faults of UCI and its failed leadership under Verbruggen and McQuaid.  They need to go, and soon.  If they really care about their sport they will leave voluntarily as a way to clear the decks and allow a brighter future for cycling.  I doubt that will happen, though.  I expect McQuaid to throw Verbruggen under the bus but to fight for his own position.  That will be a noisy shame.

We also need to see the dopers’ manager, Jan Bruyneel, fired from his position at Radio Shack, because the report makes clear that he was as guilty as any of the racers.

Finally, I have to note my genuine disappointment at the continuing supportive position  taken by Nike and other sponsors of the man at the centre of the greatest cheating scandal in the history of sports.  Boycott of their products seems the only sensible solution to bring them to their senses.

I am looking forward to the 2013 season.  It is clear that most participants have now fully bought into the no-doping programme and we will see the cleanest season for almost two decades.  There will still be those trying to cheat but they will be caught and punished.  Ride on!


Separate And Unequal

September 5, 2012

People around most of the world know that the Paralympics is going on right now in London.  The Brits, including broadcasters BBC and Sk and the national newspapers, have done a great job of covering the event.  But if you are in the US you could be excused for thinking this part of the Olympic movement has ceased to exist.

Given their dumbass coverage of the Summer Olympics, it comes as no surprise that NBC is supplying no live broadcasts of the Paralympics; but for them to segregate their taped-delay packages away from the network and onto a sports channel is simply disgraceful.  And it is not just NBC:  I just checked the online editions of the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times and USA Today without finding any coverage of the Games.

This is not an issue about sports.  This is about a deep lack of respect for the differently abled, and an attempt to hide them from public view by failing to include them in such normal cultural outlets as TV and newspapers.  I guess it is no coincidence that the US is nowhere near the top of the Paralympics medal table.

And the Olympic Movement needs to accept a big share of the blame, too.  I can see little excuse for separating the Paralympics and the Olympics. “Separate But Equal” has never worked anywhere in any circumstance.   There should be one Olympics (if Olympics there has to be at all) and it should include all of the Paralympic event.  The Olympics could be expanded from 15 days to, say, 21 days to accomodate all the sports and still be less expensive than staging two separate and unequal Games.

With the medal tables unified, even the US networks with their ultra-jingoistic attitudes to winning would have good reason to show more.


This Sporting Life #6

July 10, 2012

There’s little about my sporting life that can be bad on the day when England complete their crushing of arch-rivals Australia 4-0 in a cricket series!

And with Canadian Rider Hesjdal winning the Giro D’italia, Brit Bradley Wiggins leading the Tour de France by a wide margin, and my two favourite rishiki (Kisenasato and Kakuryu) starting well at the Nagoya basho, my summertime sporting life is as good as it can be.


Yes, I’m A Jock

March 9, 2012

What a great weekend for sports this weekend:

  • First thing in the morning, there will be Stage 6 of the Paris-Nice Classic. Bradley Wiggins is making a wonderful start to a season in which he hopes — expects — to be on the Tour de France podium in July.
  • Pretty soon after that finishes, Wales plays Italy in Rugby Union’s Six Nations tournament.  Wales has already won the Triple Crown and I fully anticipate them taking the Grand Slam this year.
  • In the evening the Vancouver Canucks comes onto the ice to thrash the Montreal Canadiens.
  • Saturday night closes with the first day of the Spring Basho — that’s sumo, you know.  If Baruto from Estonia wins the tournament we will likely have the first European yokozuna in the history of this very ancient sport.  I’ll be cheering for the Japanese rikishi Kisenasato.
  • Finally, on Sunday morning, England plays France in the Six Nations.

Cycling, rugby, sumo and hockey — sometimes I just get lucky!


The NFL Will Pay A Pedophile For Super Bowl Music

January 28, 2012

I won’t be watching the Super Bowl; American Football holds as much interest for me as professional wrestling.  However, all of you who do will be helping the NFL pay royalties to convicted pedophile Gary Glitter.

Glitter’s song “Rock and Roll Part Two” is a theme song for the New England Patriots, played after each touchdown.  His music has been banned on British TV and radio since his molestation convictions and even the NFL started using a cover version.  However, as writer he will still receive a huge whack of cash for its use on one of the largest-TV audience shows of the year.

The BBC owns the Super Bowl rights and there is a campaign in the UK to have them black out any use of Glitter’s music.  It would save us all a lot of trouble if the NFL did the right thing and told the Patriots to change their song of choice.

 


Sumo Is Back and Harumafuji Does It Again!

July 23, 2011

Regular readers will know  that my wife and I are devotees of sumo. This year has been a sorry one for fans of the sport as we had to deal with the remnants of last year’s betting scandal which was immediately followed by an even bigger match-fixing scandal.  The latter was so serious that it cost the jobs of a dozen or so rikishi (wrestlers) and managers who were thrown out of the sport.  The Sumo Association was forced to cancel the March basho tournament entirely while Japan TV refused to cover the next basho in May. There were times we seriously wondered if the ancient sport would actually survive.

But the July basho was held and televised, and will end tonight.  An interesting bunch of younger rikishi were promoted to the ranks of those now departed and it seems we might be back to normal.

One of our favourite rikishi is ozeki Harumafuji and I was pleased a couple of years ago to report here when he won his first yusho (championship). To be frank, he hasn’t been very good these past couple of years. He has been injury-prone and has barely done enough to keep his rank of ozeki. Since he won that yusho, the age’s greatest rikishi, Asashoryu was forced to retire for “lack of dignity” and the sport has been dominated by Hakuho who has won the last seven yusho in a row, equalling Asashoryu’s record. But last night Harumajui defeated Hakuho to win his second Emperor’s Cup.  It was a great and worthy fight and I cheered and cheered at the end.

More sumo here.

In other sports news, I have to report that my man Alberto Contador was just not up to snuff in the Tour de France this year.  But, luckily, the Schleck Brothers couldn’t win either and this year’s race will be won tomorrow by Cadel Evans, the first Australian to do so.  He thoroughly deserves the title.


NZ Nannies Try To Ruin Rugby

June 9, 2011

I have written before about how our children are being softened up to the point that they are losing vital physical and psychic resistances.  I have also written endlessly on the damage the ever-growing nanny state is inflicting on us.  Now, from New Zealand of all places, comes news that the nanny state has decided that children need to be protected from all notion of loss and defeat.

In what someone has rightly called “stomach-churning news,” the New Zealand Rugby Union has decided to engage in “social engineering”:

A new rule in children’s rugby aimed at preventing “blowouts” will cap the maximum score at 35-0.  If one team leads by more than 35 points, coaches are encouraged to discuss how to create a more even match … So in a nation boasting 40 million sheep, the poor little rugby lambs will be wrapped up softly in cotton wool if a nasty better team starts beating them up.  This fluffy sentiment is consummately unfair on the kids involved. I would bet my bottom NZ dollar that the last thing any youngster wants is to have his hand held on the rugby pitch.

The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) believes the rule will stop under-13s from giving up the sport if their team is on the end of a thrashing. For a game that demands character, mental and physical toughness and stamina more than most other sports, this is frankly astonishing. In fact, it goes against the whole ethos of competitive sport and waters down its benefits to human development.

Hear, hear!  I couldn’t agree more.

The children and teenagers of New Zealand have been grossly insulted by those running Rugby Union in the country.  In making the blowout rule, you’re saying that kids who are losing are not competitive.  You’re taking away the chance for a young player to look at the scoreboard, see no chance of victory, and still give everything for the team until the final whistle.  You’re removing pride. You’re saying it’s not ok to try your best and get badly beaten. It is. You’re saying it’s not ok to feel bad, or to feel humiliated. It is. Those moments make you reach inside yourself and pull out something better. They make you get over it.

New Zealand rugby star Marc Ellis described this dumb rule in words that can be used in most cases of Nanny State stupidity:

“That’s the kind of weak-wristed thinking that’s the bane of … society… it’s protecting people from themselves – it’s protecting them from realities they need to find out.”

More than that, it is yet one more tiny step on the way to reducing us to malleable consumer units, unable and unwilling to resist.

I guess this post could easily be re-titled”Reason #5001 I am not a liberal.”

 


Baseball Becomes Even More Boring (Hard To Believe, I Know)

July 13, 2010

It is a sad day for baseball today: George Steinbrenner is dead.

It is sad for the sport because baseball is SO boring that it needs noisy characters like Steinbrenner to give it any interest at all.  Perhaps in tribute to the big guy they could cancel the rest of the season.