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So the ascent to Murray Mount is complete.
For so long the seemingly dour tennis player from Dunblane, by way of the clay courts of Spain, struggled to find his way into the hearts of the (English) public.
I’m not sure he was too bothered to be honest, but with his landslide victory at the Sports Personality of the Year awards in Leeds on Sunday, Andy Murray can now officially be called one of our own.
I’m not sure he is too bothered to be honest.
He was undoubtedly happy to win the award, the clenched fist and the big grin directed at Martina Navratilova, a clear giveaway. But ‘SPOTY’ (our society loves to shorten anything down wherever possible) seems increasingly to be something akin to a ‘bandwagon’ award.
I genuinely have no idea who calls, texts, emails to vote – but do any of them really know what constitutes sporting greatness? Year on year, sport by sport?
Justin Rose became the first British player since 1999 to win one of golf’s four majors at the 2013 US Open. Under intense pressure on a demanding course, he played brilliantly down the stretch to claim his maiden ‘big one’. To boot, he is a fantastic ambassador for the sport — polite, knowledgeable, friendly — he didn’t even get a look in on Sunday.
Mo Farah is re-writing the record books when it comes to long-distance running, taking on and beating the Kenyans and Ethiopians at the game they have dominated for so long. He didn’t make the top three.
Do people know what they are voting for?
In 1998 and 2001, Michael Owen and David Beckham were respective winners of SPOTY for essentially scoring one goal in one game. Who voted for them?
In 1997, Greg Rusedski won the award for not winning a tournament he played quite well in — I think even he was embarrassed to step onto the stage.
In 2009, Ryan Giggs won the award. Why? The Welshman didn’t have a particularly stellar year by his standards. It smacked more of an award for longevity than anything else. If you are going to give Giggs an award, make it a lifetime achievement award, at least call it what it is. Jenson Button won the F1 World Championship that year.
SPOTY seems to be increasingly about whose ‘time it is’. Tony McCoy had been riding winners for fun since 1994, and has been Champion Jockey EVERY YEAR since 1995/6. But in 2010? Oh, it was just his time.
Why didn’t he win the award when Greg won? Or Zara Phillips? Or Beckham for scoring one free-kick in an turgid England performance against Greece?
Anyway back to Murray, he won the Olympics and the US Open on 2012, a better haul than he managed this year. Although the euphoria surroundings the London Games and the Tour de France was understandable and did see Bradley Wiggins emerge as a deserving winner.
But if Murray had won the French Open this year (arguably a greater feat than winning at the All England Club), would he have been collected the top award at his training base in Miami this weekend? No, he wouldn’t.
It was only because he ended the curse, the drought for a male Wimbledon winner.
People vote for what’s obvious, what’s seen, what is pushed by the media. Not necessarily what is worthy.
So the 26-year-old’s quest for more slams will continue in earnest on the plexicushion of Melbourne in January. After back surgery prematurely ended his 2013 campaign, he is currently putting in the hard yards in Florida.
Who knows, he might win at Roland Garros next year, and another SPOTY award may follow.
I’m not sure he is that bothered though to be honest.
There are few countries on Earth whose culture and identity is intertwined so tightly than the Kiwis are with rugby union. Brazil has football, American Football endures in the USA, India has cricket, but possibly they and only Wales (also with rugby union) can come close to matching the fervour and passion that is produced when a New Zealander talks about rugby. It is part of who they are, part of the fabric that links the nation together. It is their elixir.
Argentina has Maradona, America has Lombardi, India has Tendulkar, and New Zealand has Colin Meads. These sportspeople transcended their profession and their era. They are still now and possibly forever more spoken about in reverential terms, not only by followers of their respective sports, but by sports fans in general. They illuminated their chosen profession, be it with skill, honour, bravery or a mixture of the three. They are the torch-bearers, the figureheads, forever trying to be equalled but very rarely bettered.
A Rugby Pilgrimage – to ‘Meadsville’
‘Welcome to Meadsville. All religions welcome – as long as it’s rugby.’
Yes, is that’s important.
‘Pinetree’ as Meads is affectionately known (and should tell you all you need to know about his playing style and general presence, both on and off the pitch), was worried about the performance of the All Blacks after their scrappy win over Tonga – the country went into panic mode. If Meads thinks something is amiss, then it probably is. Making 133 appearances for the All Blacks between 1957 and 1971 and named as the All Blacks ‘player of the century’ in 1999, Meads knows a thing or two about union. His concern was mercifully for the country as a whole, extinguished.
Exorcising The Ghosts Of The Past
The New Zealand public, after a nerve-shredding 8-7 win over the enigmatic French in a pulsating final, were able to collectively exhale and rid themselves of that sense of doubt and worry, that gnawing sensation that had eaten away at them ever since their comprehensive win over the same opposition in 1987. The perennial chokers, the bridesmaids were no more. All hail the worthy champions.
New Zealand were seen in many pundits and ex-player’s views to have been second best in the final, and on the receiving end of some favourable decisions from referee Craig Joubert. Throughout the course of the tournament however, the proved themselves easily the best team. Especially in their unrelenting clobbering of their fierce rivals Australia in the semi-final.
Cruelly robbed of their poster-boy, Dan Carter toward the business-end of the tournament and indeed down to their 4th choice fly-half for most of the final, (what most other countries would give to be able to call upon the services of a player as good as Stephen Donald as 4th choice outside-half) the All Blacks had earned the win, it hadn’t been presented on a silver salver. The brutal nature of the win, in extremely high-pressure conditions must have provided extra satisfaction to the players and fans alike. They had proven themselves on the biggest stage. The country had their team back, their identity re-discovered. The nation and the players could sleep easily again, and after the partying that went on in the aftermath of the win, I am sure they did.
A New Leaf For The Ferns?
So what now for the All Blacks? With Graham Henry’s expected departure confirmed yesterday do they need to start again? Develop their character and philosophy under a different regime, or merely carry on the same path with Henry’s heir apparent Steve Hansen (the odds-on favourite to succeed the man who coached the team to 88 wins in 103 tests)? One thing seems certain however, the schools and the national set-up, so heavily geared to producing the superstars of tomorrow will continue to do just that. And with the shackles off, the pressure lifted, maybe the best rugby is yet to come from this fearsome side. A sobering thought for the other nations.
Before I sign off, some bones of contention to air.
1) Yes it he a fantastic player, hard as nails and an inspiring leader. But at what point does Richie McCaw actually get called up and held accountable for his actions? He is playing a different game of rugby to everyone else, one where he spends more time on the floor on the opposition half of a ruck than he does doing anything else! It almost ruins the spectacle of watching such a great team and player when he is so brazenly flouting the laws and continually getting away with it. Referees, please sort this out. And whilst you are at it, learn to officiate the scrum accurately, I don’t have a clue where to start but others do!
2) They are undoubtedly the best team ever to have played the game, producers of many of the best players ever and are the world champions for a second time. So can we please not give them the added advantage of being able to threaten the opposition with a tribal war dance before every match, and not allowing the opposition to reply in kind, IN ANY WAY!? The ‘Haka’ is an awesome spectacle, and is as much a part of the fabric of rugby as anything else. But to instruct teams to in essence ‘just stand there and take it’ is essentially giving a fantastic team even more of a psychological advantage before the match has even started. France’s riposte before the final, the encroaching ‘arrowhead’ formation led by captain Thierry Dusautoir, was fantastic. Pure theatre, and set the game up perfectly. For the IRB to subsequently fine them is churlish in the extreme and sends out completely the wrong message. Many of the games fans already think that New Zealand are above the law, and the actions of their players beyond reproach, don’t give them extra ammunition.
If it was rumoured before, or if words or looks were exchanged between the common man, the national team or even down the corridors of the F.A, we can now all openly, but with a sense of nagging disappointment agree that surely, Fabio Capello has lost the plot. Not only that but I fear the trust of the fans and of the players too. Too often he has backtracked on decisions, too often admitted mistakes. You wouldn’t catch Ferguson or Mourinho doing that now would you? He looks weak, fragile, a sitting target.
After the debacle that was the performance of serial under-achievers England, at last year’s world cup, an increasing number of football fans must now be wishing that Capello should have got the chop as was rumoured at the time. Now further down the line, and with a dour draw at home to Montenegro already cast permanently into the England horror books, Fabio has now revealed his latest party piece.
He epitomises most things wrong with the game of football, especially in England. Arrogant, hypocritical, overly aggressive, brawn-over-brains, all too aloof from the fans that (still) idolise him. His riches mean he thinks he can get away with behaviour abhorrent to most and without caring about the repercussions of his actions. He is not alone of course, this is the way of far too many members of the nouveau riche today.
Wayne Bridge now refuses point blank to play for England while John Terry is in the squad. Fans are now urging JT to try it on with Gareth Barry’s wife.
Onto more stories involving dumb footballers now. And when the words ‘dumb’ and ‘footballers’ appear in the same sentence, you just know Stephen Ireland’s Mr. Sheen head is going to be rearing up. This guy’s name is now a by-word for idiotic footballer behaviour. The latest in a long list which has included lying that your grandmother had died so you didn’t have to turn up to play for your country also involves another Irish player. Ireland and fellow Newcastle dimwit, Leon Best were caught baring their torso’s in a nightclub the night before a crunch game away at Stoke. Both players were admittedly injured but there actions leave you wondering what is going on up top…
Pugilism now and the heavyweight division in boxing again did itself no favours last weekend with Odlanier Solis proving to be a bit of a fat bum against WBC champion Vitali Kiltschko. All over just shy of 1 (one!) round, the fans were far from happy, as was Vitali who screamed at Solis for what he thought was cowardice. Turns out that kebab-boy Odlanier has tears to his anterior cruciate ligament, and external meniscus and cartilage damage. As as our own David Haye pointed out on his twitter feed, ‘Solis knew how to beat Vit, but years of obesity stopped him being able to execute. He will unfortunately go down as yet another fat bum!’ – Ouch. But not as much ouchie as that knee.
But aside from the injury, did you see the punch that wobbled him in the first place? My Great Aunt Peggy could’ve stayed on her feet after that glancing blow. If that is all it takes I am dusting off my gloves again (I am in no way dusting off my non-existent gloves again).
A quick double back onto football now and ‘harmlessly funny/slow news day‘, story of the week…..nay month, goes something like this.
MP called Blackburn who supports Blackburn but is constituent for Blackpool offends people from Blackpool whilst Blackburn are playing Blackpool. Follow?
In yet another clear case of political correctness gone berserk, apparently this guy has committed ‘political suicide’ by calling the people of Blackpool ‘donkey botherers’!
Simon Blackburn, Labour MP for Blackpool has since (obviously) released a statement regretting his facebook message. I say fair play to him, that lot up there bother donkeys. Ergo they are donkey botherers, get over it. Or if you are still wound up by it, release some of that pent up frustration by bothering some donkeys, you are good at it. Still, I blame the constituents of Blackpool in the first place for voting in a guy who looks like this. Creepy.
Other blogworthy stuff this week includes…
Understatement of the epoch alert. The title of this video is ‘Dude has a lot of skills’. Enjoy. Then wipe drool from chin…
This guy clearly doesn’t have much of a social life, but he does have one friend. In the form of his mother who shoots the video.
Most underhand foul ever? – With added juicy sound effects.
Yeah? Well I could beat you in a thumb-war, possibly – The next Tom Brady?
Until next week….
Last Saturday the unthinkable happened. No Rob Schneider didn’t release a good movie. Much more importantly – Italy, perennial whipping boys of the 6 Nations beat last year’s winners France on a glorious, sun-drenched day in Rome. On hearing the final whistle, players and coaches alike embraced and fell to their knees, many of them in tears. Reminded me a bit of the time I had been out to get a take-away only to return home and find that they had forgotten one of the keema naan‘s. Worst.Family.Meal.Ever.
France coach Marc Lievremont was apoplectic with rage in the post-game press conference, intimating that some of the players would never wear Les Bleus shirt again. Might help if you weren’t so typicallyGallic and seemingly trying to darndest to chop and change what could be a fantastic team Marc. Having used a total of 81 players since taking over at the helm in 2007, you get the impression that he likes surprising himself as well as the opposition with his selections. Zut alors.
Also on the rugby pitch, Danny Cipriani did his best impression yet of Jekyll and Hyde in the Rebels match against the Sharks in the Super 15. On the pitch the undoubtedly precocious talent is how you say, ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.’ Behold.
Strange short-term loan deal of the week goes to Arsenal for bringing in the 41 year-old Morten Harket lookalike, Jens Lehmann back into the gooner fold. Desperate for cover between the sticks, hopefully the return of the greatest whinger since Mary Whitehouse will result in more episodes like this…
what a weinersschnitzel.
Another footballer fast-tracking himself into the higher echelons of the ‘Craig Bellamy school of soccer idiocy’ is Mario Balotelli. This guy is a right card. When not being substituted for being ‘allergic to certain types of grass‘ (I’ll leave that one with you), he is struggling to dress himself and then getting himself inexplicably sent-off in Manchester City’s vital Europa League tie against Dynamo Kiev. Here you go, sit and watch in amazement as bumbling badboy Balotelli gets in an ickle bit of a tangle. Awww…..
I know you love your footy related news so here is some more. Well, I say football, it’s more like ‘Mad-chairman-erects-statue-of-someone-totally-unrelated-to-club news’. You may have heard by now that geriatric Fulham chairman Mohamed Al Fayed, is erecting a statue of deceased former ‘King of Pop’, Michael Jackson at Craven Cottage. Bizarre? Yes. Inappropriate? Yes. Distasteful? Quite possibly.
What makes it even more surreal is there is already one statue on the grounds. That of Fulham legend Johnny ‘The Maestro‘ Haynes. Few players have left such an indelible mark of the history of a club than Haynes did at Fulham. Playing 658 games for the Cottagers between 1952-70, turning down moves to some of the European giants of the day to stay on the river, Haynes was also England captain in between the era’s of Billy Wright and Bobby Moore.
Here is an artists (my) impression of what the statue will look like.
(I see a budding career as a watercolour painter in the offing for yours truly.)
Goodness knows what Johnny would make of this news. A furrowed look coupled with the famous hands on hips pose wouldn’t go amiss. And why Fulham anyway? Surely if a statue of Wacko Jacko is to be erected at a football ground then Young Boys FC in Switzerland would be most appropriate?
Across the pond and the protracted negotiations between the NFL and the players seems to be no nearer a conclusion, putting the 2011 season even more in jeopardy. Not helping matters is Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who this week compared NFL players to slaves. Yeah, that’s right, AP compared his ‘plight’ to that of the African people forced onto ships headed to the new world and forced to work for no money and with no freedom of speech.
Adrian, you earn $10 million a season. Being forced to take a pay cut during a national recession and asked to work 18 weeks a year instead of 16 is NOT slavery. You sir, are a disgrace, and a dumb disgrace at that.Still, it gives me a chance to air this little beauty.
More weekly highlights here…
This is funny and the guy is briefly seen of a football pitch, therefore (tenuous as it is) this is ‘spomedy’.
I’ll tell you what else is also ‘spomedy’, the new game of baby tossing. Great aerodynamics, just lovely.
‘Spomedy’ at its raw, aggressive best here, where else but on the ice.
Until new week my loyal and oh-so-trustworthy minions.