Monday, August 24, 2009

Friendly Weekend Sports Update

It's all gone a bit "sideways" over the last few days.

"We win together and we lose together," said Martin Whitmarsh. So did Lewis Hamilton. And it is this singular inability to be able to face the truth in front of the public that has always stood between McLaren F1 and absolute domination. You can understand why Whitmarsh would want to protect the beloved "organization" (it's always "organization" at McLaren, never "team") but I had no idea that it's been so deeply ingrained in the setup that the Number One refuses to lay so much as a shred of blame on Mr. Right Front Tyre, who, everyone knows, cost Lewis six seconds at the second pitstop. Six seconds that separate Lewis from Rubens Barrichello. And people will go on and on about how popular this win is in the F1 paddock, but all I can think of is how afraid McLaren have really become of admitting even the slightest weakness within their "organization." It was all Ron Dennis' virus, this "protect the organization" crap, and Whitmarsh is evidently cut from the same cloth. He could destroy the pace-setters with strategy and he could dish out the most legendary private bollockings that F1 has ever seen, could Dennis. It's a shame that the man now in charge of what is clearly the best car on the grid can't do either. It's a bigger shame that the same fear of adversity ("whether real or perceived", as ITV's James Allen would say) that ruined Dennis has caught up with Whitmarsh as well.

Also delighting me this weekend was Ricky Ponting's Australia surrendering the Ashes to England. Always behind the eight-ball after the first innings capitulation, they were never going to be able to bat out two-and-a-bit days. It's just not in their makeup. Therefore, the only, improbable hope was that 546 was possible. And I didn't believe it when I first heard it (and, come to think of it, I still can't quite wrap my head around it) but when Watson and Katich (there's a story about "The Katich" that must surely grace this blog sometime in the future!) were batting together late on Day Three, the odds on Australia winning were four to one! Needing thirty more runs than have ever been scored in a successful fourth innings chase in the history of all first-class cricket. Four to one. Unbelievable. And I get Michael Atherton's point about wickets such as the one we saw at The Oval being infinitely preferable to wickets designed for flat-track bullies (there's a lovely Graeme Hick/Michael Atherton story that comes to mind) but, in my mind, if Australia had won the toss, they would've won that cricket match. Simple as that. That's not an excuse for the inexplicable decision to not play Nathan Hauritz, nor is it a justification for the captain and vice-captain being run-out in the chase for 546 and it certainly isn't a reason to hide behind for the six Australian batsmen who really have issues judging the line of a cricket ball relative to their off-stump. But it does highlight the kinds of fickle things that cricket can turn on. And the feeling that Australia were hard done by is simply impossible to shake off.

The only bright spot, if one could call it that, was that when Ricky Ponting came out to bat in the fourth innnings, amidst all the vitriol (a lot of it admittedly a consequence of Ponting's own confrontational interview tactics) and all the propaganda that has been flying throughout the English summer, despite the state of the game when he walked in to bat, despite everything "wrong" that Ricky Ponting has done in cricket, I did not hear one person in that capacity crowd jeer the man. I doubt that would have (or, indeed, will) happen if the match had been played in India. This willingness to crucify Ponting has been a funnily Indian phenomenon, driven by his cocksure attitude (which has been uniformly directed at all teams), driven by his handling of the famous Symonds/Harbhajan situation (where he was as justified in standing by Symonds as the Indian captain was in standing by Harbhajan), even driven by Indian "fans'" very real fear that he'll score more Test runs than Sachin Tendulkar (where, in my book, he'd just be better than Tendulkar in that respect, fullstop). Despite my vehement disagreement with a lot of what Ponting has done in his career, I've found the Indian attitude to him really strange or really sickening, I'm not sure which. And I'm glad that, at least on this occasion, which, I'm sure, would have hurt Ponting more than any match he's ever lost to India, there was genuine appreciation for an excellent batsman almost certainly playing his last match in England. And I think that speaks volumes. Even the English, the ones you'd think have the most reason to hate his guts, even the English, despite the prospect of Andrew Strauss' men on the threshold of an historic Ashes win on a perfect afternoon, even the English, despite their heads been woollied by a steady consumption of beer. Even the English cheered Ponting.

And just like so many other little gestures that I've watched occur on a cricket field over so many years, I know I'll remember this one forever.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Life Advice

"The best chance you have if you ever want to rise to the top is to give yourself up to loneliness, fear nothing and work hard. One thing you’ll discover is that life is based less than you think on what you’ve learned and much more than you think on what you have inside you right from the beginning."

-- Bret Hart, WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, 2006.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"You'd Be Saving...Mine"

I'm often asked what my all-time favourite professional wrestling interview segment is. Actually, maybe I'm not asked this all that often. Nevertheless, I'd like to answer that question anyway. I know I've said in this space before that "Cane Dewey" was my all-time favourite but I'd have to agree with many old-timers who think that the interview I'm laying down below is "right up there with 'Cane Dewey.'"

Take a deep breath and read on.

September 1995--ECW Television Show Interview

"You know, I'd like to apologize for my behaviour. I'm embarrassed, certainly I feel a little stupid about the way I acted on this show a few weeks ago. It's just that I get a little emotional when I talk about wrestling, because wrestling's been my livelihood for the past ten years. It's enabled me to live out a childhood dream. So for me to come out on a show such as the ECW television programme and badmouth the wrestlers there--well, I'm sorry. But I think that, in order to understand what's going on in my head, you have to understand where I come from and what my goals were when I got into wrestling.

See, back in 1985, there was a programme called '20/20' that challenged the wrestling industry--which kind of portrayed it in a negative light. Tommy, if you're listening, try to understand that I was about the biggest wrestling fan in the world. And for me to stand in front of that television set and see people running down a business that I loved and held dear--even though I knew very little about see my friends laughing at me saying, 'That's what you want to get involved in?' That night, I went to bed not with visions of sugarplums dancing through my head but of broken bones, battered bodies and bloody corpses, saying to myself, 'If it's the last thing I do, if I have to hold myself up for a human sacrifice--the world will respect professional wrestling.' Oh and that dream came true--yes, I've sacrificed myself for the past ten years, leaving the better parts of my past lying on concrete floors from Africa, to Asia, to South America, to right in the middle of the ECW arena. And what's it really done? Where have we really come to?

Lying in a hospital bed in Munich, Germany--seeing my ear being thrown into a garbage can--not being able to take it on the trip back because I didn't know the German word for 'formaldehyde.' And having a nurse walk into my room, looking at that piece of my body that's lying at the bottom of the garbage and saying, 'Es ist alles schauspiel', which means 'It's all a big joke!' Excuse me! I didn't know you opened up the diseased lung of a smoker and said, 'Oh, by golly, I thought smoking was supposed to be good for you!' Do you open up Terry Funk's non-functioning liver ans say, 'Hey, I didn't know that four decades of heavy drinking took this kind of toll!' So, if they show that much respect for other patients, what made me any different? Because I was a wrestler. And professional wrestling will never be respected, no matter how many teeth I lose, no matter how many ears I lose, no matter how many brain cells have to die. And so it comes down to the point where it's just not worth it. It's not worth it and, Tommy Dreamer, you've got to start looking at this realistically.

Wrestling is a way to make a living--nothing more and nothing less--and as long as it's strictly business, well, you may as well be cuddled in the welcoming arms of World Championship Wrestling. Because ECW fans will be the death of you. You see, they realised, and they were smarter than any of us, that they rule ECW--not us. What happened, Tommy? You came back from All-Japan Wrestling with your trunks and boots and said, 'By golly, I'm really going to wrestle.' Did Giant Baba hand you a dozen eggs and say, 'Here, crack these on Jumbo Tsuruta's head'? You're a disgrace to the profession, Tommy; you're becoming a damn fool. And I can't sit back and take it because I've got a moral obligation. Tommy, try to understand that I am but a failed experiment in human sociology and I can accept that. But never in my sickest dreams did I imagine that there would be other wrestlers taking dives onto concrete floors, committing human suicide on my behalf--like I'm the patron saint of all the sick sons of bitches. Is that all I stand for, Tommy? Is that all I stand for, to stand in an arena where J.T. Smith lands head first on the concrete floor and hears the fans yell, 'You fucked up, you fucked up'? Well, fuck you. Who the hell do you think you are? We're not a wrestling organization anymore, we're the world's damn biggest puppet show. I'll be damned if I'm going to walk into an arena and let any of you call my match. One, two, three--jump. One, two, three--jump. Well, not me, because I'm nobody's stooge and Tommy Dreamer, if you had a little bit of pride, or a little bit of common sense, you'd understand that those people don't love you--they laugh at you! You took some of the worst beatings the sport's ever seen and they still laughed in your face. And to think that I stood there with my arm around you and endorsed you, saying, 'He's hardcore, he's hardcore, he's hardcore.' And for that, I deserve to die a terrible, painful death, Tommy, because I feel responsible. And I go to bed at night and I'm not sure where I'm going to spend my eternity. And you, Tommy, are my salvation.

Because, by delivering you to a better organization, where you can be appreciated, loved and held with just the littlest amount of respect in the Turner family, then maybe there's a chance for me, too. Please, Tommy, for my sake, think it over, because a 'yes' to Cactus Jack would mean a great deal to me--and a 'no'--well, I'd have to take that as putting a big A-OK stamp of approval on my eternal damnation! I'm counting on you, you selfish little prick. Don't make me hurt you, because I can. Don't make me do it, because if I do, with God as my witness, it won't be in front of those little scumbags at the ECW arena--it'll be just me and you, Tommy and you won't know when it's coming and you won't know where. So unless you want to damn me to the depths of hell, answer my call and say, 'Okay, Cactus, you win. I'll put on the suspenders, I'll groom that moustache and I'll call Uncle Eric and say, 'Count me in.'

Because not only would you be doing yourself a big favour--not only would you be helping your life, you'd be saving mine. You'd be saving...mine."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Loophole In The Law

Vinayak Varma has recently become the first guy to hold two jobs AFTER the institution of the one-job rule.

It's funny how people will search for ways upon ways to use artificial means to "enforce" "equality" (one of those rare cases where two successive words in a sentence merit those annoying finger-quotes) and others will just step up and kick ass.

"We don't really care about the rules you make," I'd said at a class meeting in May 2007, "we'll play you by your rules and still be on our own trip." I had no idea then that my best friend in college would be one to benefit most directly from that even-if dare. I can honestly say that no one's deserved it more.

The lights of London may well be a little too far to see, but what this magnificent piece of news has done is reinforce my belief in the idea that the cream always rises to the top.

As for the rest of us, for all the meetings, rules, paranoia, Googlegroup spam and (recent addition to vocabulary) "ratting", we're still making loud noises just because we can.

We're like empty vessels.

Hit us and we rattle.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Frank Lampard Scores In Injury Time

It's been a while coming.

Congratulations, Frankie. :)

Saturday, August 01, 2009

"I Bleed Black And White"

If there was ever a definition of the consummate "football man", Sir Bobby Robson would be it. Diplomat, negotiator, master motivator, quote machine, journeyman - Sir Bobby pretty much did it all.

Really, really tangentially during a football match between Newcastle United and Everton, I remember Brian Marwood talking about how if they could ever clone people, then you'd need one of each profession to set an example for the generations to follow (sort of like a transcendental, modern-day Noah's Ark). I've loved the idea ever since then. But as I watched Sir Bobby's astute tactical substitutions turn a 0-1 deficit into a 2-1 win in front of one installment of "sixty-nine thousand screamin' Geordies every Saturday afternoon", it slowly dawned on me that if you ever had to pick a football manager to put into that genetic Noah's Ark, you'd pick a man very much like Sir Bobby Robson.

Rest in peace, Sir Bobby Robson. A fighter till the very end.

I'm not sure if there's a point to this story but I'm going to tell it again.

My photo
I've been wilfully caught up in the self-defeating quest to get to know myself for years. I've never expected anything beneficial to result from such a quest. I tend to evoke extremely polarised reactions from people I get to know in passing. Consequently, only those people who know me inside-out would honestly claim that I'm a person who's just "alright." It's not a coincidence that the description I've laid out above has no fewer than, title included, eleven references to me (make that twelve). I'm affectionately referred to as "Ego." I think that last statement might have given away a tad too much. Welcome Aboard.

IHTRTRS ke pichle episode mein aapne dekha...


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