Monday, January 31, 2011

We're on the road, alright.

"I'm handsome, I'm powerful, I'm rich, I'm everything."

In one of the endless line of Edge/Mysterio v. Del Rio/Kane tag matches that has served as the main event for multiple Smackdown!s in the recent past, either Grisham or Mathews asked Striker, "well, if he's got everything, why is he out there wrestling?" Striker's answer was convoluted at best, but anyone who watched the biggest-ever Royal Rumble last night will attest to the fact that the man has a passion for the business that very few talents in the company can match and the man is no fly-by-night wonder who has been pushed this hard illogically - he's been paying his dues and earning his stripes for the last decade and more, wrestling with acclaim all around the world. 

Come April 3 at the Georgia Dome, if that succinct declaration he made is amended to include "World Heavyweight Champion" as well, I can tell you, hand on heart, that the man will have deserved it.  

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Absolute Truths - I

Remember I said I was composing a list of absolute truths?

Here's one:

Mooting > article-publication > debating > adjudication > MUN > conferences.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Heavier things

About twenty minutes ago, I came closer than I have in over six years to not finishing all the food I had put on my plate. They were serving a vegetarian version of haggis this evening, which was the only proper thing that fit under my newly created edibility definition of 'non-beef or non-beef-looking'. I've never had haggis before and therefore it came onto my plate with the kind of enthusiasm that accompanies trying new food for the first time when you still have eight articles to read for class the next morning. Unfortunately, it looked awful and tasted even worse, but somehow, I pulled myself through it, like I have done countless times in the past.

Why put yourself through the torture, you might ask. You'd find my Mum agreeing with you on that, actually - as early as the instructions accompanying my home-cooked lunch handed over to my pre-school teacher, I have been encouraged to mould my eating habits according to the "if you find that you really can't eat it, then don't" principle. Since this was all I had known, I utilized this luxury about as much as a child could - I would dismiss food on the grounds of visual appearance, quantity and quality with a reckless arbitrariness not entirely incongruent with the haughty prima donna of the child I actually was (the nickname 'Ego', as I continue to remind many of my friends, was no accident).

But the more I did it, the more I realised that some part of me rebelled against it. And then, one day, having endured another one of my legendary "yeh nahi khaana, woh nahi khaana" fits, my long-suffering mother told me I really should finish my food, not because of the good it would do me, but because, every single day and night, millions and millions of my countrymen living in extreme hunger would give an arm and a leg to be in my position. I'm sure every child has heard this in a similar setting at some point or the other and the impact it had on my eating habits may not have been instant, but its impact on my outlook to life was dramatic. To this day, it remains undisturbed near the very top of the absolute truths I believe in because, quite honestly, there's nothing satisfactory I could say in response to my Mum then and there's nothing satisfactory I can think of saying to that even now, at a distance of a decade or so.

If I could live my life all over again, I'd go back and finish all those meals I had started.

Now, back to those eight articles.   

Monday, January 24, 2011

What goes up, must come down

Twenty-two nationalities were represented at Ewood Park tonight when Blackburn Rovers played West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League--not something you'd expect to see everyday. Albion's gutless 0-2 surrender not only confirms their recent free-fall but leaves them with the joint-worst defence in the Premier League and, equally worryingly, only three points above the unforgiving abyss of the relegation zone.

What troubled me even more as a neutral, however, was how utterly alien their team-sheet looked like--Myhill, Jara, Tamas, Olsson, Cech, Mulumbu, Thomas, Scharner, Morrison, Odemwingie--a feeling not aided by a glance at the subs bench which featured Tchoyi, Pablo, Bednar and Zuiverloon. Perhaps I'm giving away my football viewing age here, but I remember a time when the fabulously named Canadian Paul Peschisolido was the only eyebrow-raising name you found on Albion's books.

Far from the paeans that this would invite regarding the 'growing international nature' of the 'best league in the world' from most people below a certain age group still naive enough to be enamoured by the Premier League, it revealed to me yet another instance of a rather disturbing trend I first caught on to when newly-promoted Leicester City signed a slew of Premier League has-beens in the summer of 2003. The logic, ostensibly, was to invest in 'proven quality' to minimise the quality gap long taken as a certain consequence of being pulled up into the top flight. To no one's surprise, Leicester went straight back down that season, having paid the ultimate, if somewhat delayed, price for switching from the unbelievably cool-sounding Filbert Street to the staid, prosaic-sounding Walkers Stadium. That, and the slightly more important lesson that putting your faith in endless numbers of foreign journeymen footballers without a back-up plan is the quickest way back to Championship football.

I see something very similar happening at West Brom. In the eleven seasons I have seriously watched Premier League football, West Brom have spent six either getting relegated from, or promoted to, the Premier League. The aforementioned Leicester, Birmingham, Sunderland and Derby have all been relegated twice each and, if this season's current standings hold, will be joined on that pedestal by both West Ham and Wolves. Other teams to have taken the drop in this period include Newcastle (who are back up to a position of respectability in the Prem), Watford, Norwich and Leeds (who are all seriously in contention for promotion next season, though my tip for the latter fulfilling that prediction is more instinct than logic).

But the mind boggles when you think of the others who have been there, done that and then vanished without a trace--whatever happened to Burnley, Portsmouth, Hull, Middlesborough, Reading and Charlton? Worse yet, who of today's Manchester United banner-waving, Arsenal-scarf wearing fans remembers Sheffield United, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Ipswich, Bradford and Coventry? Therein lies the problem of the unique creature known as the boing-boing club or, sadly, as is increasingly evident, the boing (down) club. But mired in the middle of all this were three clubs--Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton--who came up from the Championship in 2000-01 and are now on the cusp of something quite extraordinary.

One club I've left out of this depressing story are perhaps the new poster-boys for Premier League ambition--Manchester City. You'd hardly believe it to look at them now, but City were relegated in 2000-01, came straight back up in 2002-03 and are at very much the epicentre of the Premier League's glamour quotient today. But that glamour quotient has come at a price and I don't want to say money has bought City's league positions this season and last, but the fact is that their average league position between promotion in 2002-03 and takeover in 2009-10 was a hardly earth-shattering 11.57.

Living in relative and (crucially, to my mind) consistent poverty, Fulham have managed a comparable average league position of 12.57 over the same period, Bolton have done even better at 10.71 (finishing inside the top eight for four straight seasons, something City only managed in 2004-05, when Bolton were 6th) and Blackburn even better than that, having placed at 10.57 on average in that time (including two 6th-place finishes in 2002-03 and 2005-06, the first of which was the second-best finish by a promoted team in the Prem since Nottingham Forest finished 3rd in 1994-95).

Curiously, all three of these relatively modestly financed clubs haven't fallen victim to the second season syndrome either. Indeed, almost all other notable Premier League debut seasons have been submerged into insignificance by what has happened subsequently--Reading (8th in the league), West Ham (9th in the league and FA Cup finalists) and Wigan (10th in the league and League Cup finalists) today are instances of the kind of chronic decline best illustrated by the Ipswich class of 2001-02 whose appearances in the second round of the UEFA Cup against Slovan Liberec and the fourth round of the FA and League Cups came in the same extraordinary season that they managed to get themselves relegated.

And while Blackburn, Fulham and Bolton have also relied heavily on the 'proven foreigners' I so heavily chastised West Brom for doing just a while back, they've managed to combine it with a very simple three-step plan:

(a) Make the most of your novelty value in the first season;
(b) Accept the fact the most important  signing you can make is probably the extension of your manager's
contract and
(c) Expect and be prepared for the inevitable relegation dogfight at some point during or after the first season (Fulham and Bolton have each finished 17th in their tenure in the Prem, while Blackburn have finished 15th thrice in six seasons since 2003-04).

It's no surprise to me, then, that the only other teams to have even approximated the Fulham/Bolton/Blackburn formula for sustained survival (and, almost by definition, relative success) ticked the most important of these boxes - Portsmouth [seven seasons under Harry Redknapp, discounting his (dis)honourable defection to Southampton in the middle, crowned by an 8th place and an FA Cup win
in May 2008] and Charlton (an equally--some would argue more--creditable seven seasons under Alan Curbishley, which started with a 9th place finish in 2000-01).

One may, perhaps somewhat prematurely, add to this list Stoke City (two drama-free mid-table finishes with points totals in the upper/mid-forties since August 2008) and, infinitely prematurely (based on a little more than the last season and a half under Steve Bruce), Sunderland, who, after surviving relegation by three points (2007-08) and two points (2008-09) respectively, reached the heady heights of 13th place, fourteen above the dropzone, last season and must be having a hard time restraining the hard-on of being a point off Chelsea in fourth and having already bettered their fourteen point gap to 17th with fifteen games to go, at the time of writing.

Let none of this late-night punditry distract, however, from my original point--at a time when it's rare enough for one decent team to get promoted to and survive in the Premier League, the increasing possibility of the Championship class of 2000-01 all surviving what would be ten straight seasons this May is an achievement as unique as it comes. And I'll be damned if this West Brom team hasn't been relegated from the Premier League come 2021.                

Friday, January 21, 2011


This is to mark January 21, 2011 as the conclusive end of perhaps the defining sub-plot in the GSG story.

Alright, so I borrowed a line from something I wrote before, but I couldn't think of a better way to describe what has happened today. There's a lot of joy, there's a lot of relief and there's a lot of vindication in the belief that people who put their heads down and work hard eventually get what they want. But most of all, there's immense pride. For something that has been a looming sub-text in, quite frankly, both our lives for eight days short of six years now, it seems improbable to believe that this, too, has passed.  

But it has. And she has. And that's something that's going to make us (and a lot of other people besides) remember today for the rest of our lives. What an absolutely "brillaint" day. :) 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jush mish, part II

There's no disgrace in losing to this Arsenal team. No disgrace whatsoever because you played like you wanted to score for the entire ninety minutes. No disgrace whatsoever because Bradley Johnson scored a goal that every player remaining in the FA Cup this year will struggle to better. No disgrace whatsoever because thirty-eight thousand, two hundred and thirty-two people were still cheering when the whistle went for full-time.

Yes, it could've been all over in the first half an hour. Yes, Somma should've scored at 2-1 down. Yes, Bromby should've followed Van Persie to the back post. Yes, O'Brien's injury is a worry. Yes, Howson was the best player on the pitch barring Nasri. Yes, Huddersfield were there for the taking in the next round.

But so long as we manage to pick up points at Fratton Park on the weekend, there will be no anguish over this loss - just a re-doubling of the effort and desire to ensure that, from next season, the fixture list requires us to play this Arsenal team at least twice a season, every season.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


The wind is howling again, the rain is spitting again and that streetlight on Iffley Road is shining through into my room again. I've endured a nine-and-a-half hour flight that took off forty-five minutes late, spent another forty-five minutes waiting for my luggage at Heathrow, another fifteen minutes to get out of Terminal 3, another hour-and-fifteen by bus to St. Clement's and another half-an-hour unpacking. Tomorrow, the reading resumes. It might even be a relief.

Also, United 4 Scunthorpe 0. Who's your daddy now?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jush mish

It was, they tell me, unfortunate that Leeds United didn't beat Arsenal at the Emirates in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday. It would've been great to win, of course and there's every chance Arsenal will win the replay, of course.

Which is why my happiest memory associated with the game was Simon Grayson's press conference where he said that the priority, "without question", was Saturday's game against Scunthorpe United. Someone give the man a medal. He deserves it. More than that, he deserves a chance to manage in the Prem.

"Without question", I'd pick happiness at the end of May rather than happiness in front of thirty thousand-plus at Elland Road next week. It is the Grayson way.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Lend a hand, in return for grace

"See I can never find such things to say."

But you don't have to. Don't you know, you've done more than I could ever have asked for?

On September 3, I'd said that I continue to be amazed. Today, I can only continue to be thankful. You've changed my life, you really have. :)

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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