The Low Zone – 2006 Edition



[In not entirely atypical fashion, while looking for something else in the computermaphonotronic files, I stumbled over this – a collection of excerpts (nominally highlights) of my Sunday Age newspaper column, “From the Cheap Seats”, all taken from 2006.

I’ll be doing a more recent compilation soon, plus a few from the years I haven’t previously done, but in the interim, although I’d previously displayed this on an earlier version of the site, it struck me as having just about enough life left in it to get another airing. The ‘Cs’ under each item refers to “From the Cheap Seats” – originally I was going to draw the compilation from both of my columns – and them numbers are the dates of publication.]








Those darn AFL rights again. The amount of sheer, unadulterated, speculative hot air blown in the faces of the public on this issue over the last couple of years would be sufficient to start a viable domestic airline based purely in the ballooning industry.

Cs 1-1-06



The minute the new stand is up and running, the MCG gets a heritage listing. Folks, I’ve got stubbies of light beer in my fridge that are older than anything at the MCG.

Cs 1-1-06



Re. the star/point-challenged Hopman Cup – if they keep this up, by next year they ought to be able to hide people on witness protection programs right there in the stands, if not out on the courts. 

Cs 8-1-06



Richmond gets Tigers fan and middleweight professional boxer Sam “King” Soliman to come in and beat the players up for a training session. Lucky Michael Schumacher isn’t a big Richmond fan, or they’d probably hire him to come in and run the players over.

Cs 22-1-06



Seven emphatically returned to its traditional Australian Open commentary mode this year, in the sense that you could have tapped the helium and filled a kids’ bouncy-castle with it. If the evil queen had skipped the poison apple routine and made Snow White listen to tennis commentary instead, that girl would still be asleep right now.

Cs 29-1-06



But there’s one guy who stood helium-and-shoulders above the field [in Australian open commentary]: good ol’ JA. “Extraordinary drama.” “Fierce competition.” “Extraordinary tennis”. Imagine JA ordering breakfast: “Scintillating coffee. Tumultuous bacon. Extraordinary Vegemite. Two eggs, runny.”

Cs 29-1-06



You could actually hear the hamstring of human tolerance ripping asunder when Seven, concluding an “Australian Open update” took us breathlessly into Garnier World, not an follicle-themed amusement park, but a large sponsored make-up tent. There both airwaves and viewer brain-cells were squandered with cavalier abandon as we were tennis-updated on Kate D’Arugula from “Strane Ordol” getting her hairdo re-stumped. If nothing else, viewers now probably have complete insight into how the Skipper felt at the moments he lost control and started pelting Gilligan with his cap.

Cs 29-1-06



Do you remember that canned fish ad with the Chinook Salmon, which wasn’t good enough for the company concerned because of their high quality standards? Well, the Chinook question of the Australian Open came when Rod Laver was asked on Channel Seven, regarding Roger Federer, “Do you feel envy when you see him play?” Great Gosh A-Mighty! Short of the prize-money schedules these days, what would Laver be envying him for exactly?! Federer’s extra height, so he could see better at the football?

Cs 29-1-06



A very earnest NFL interviewer asked whether, with all the other things the Stones had achieved, playing the Super Bowl was something they’d always wanted to do. Skilfully avoiding the diplomacy card that anyone else in showbiz would have played in a second, Mick Jagger responded, “Not really,” and enjoyed a minor fit of hysterics. Further avoiding ambiguity, Jagger explained that if the Stones had been back in London, they wouldn’t have given two thoughts to the Super Bowl, but since they were on tour in the US anyway, “It was a good thing to do.”  The temptation for the interviewer to commit harakiri on his microphone just then must have been enormous.

Cs 12-2-06



The Tamsyn Lewis-Jana Pittman double-act would stand as the prime example of taking schoolgirl politics (and dialogue) out of the quadrangle and into its rightful place in the national media, if Anthony Mundine and Danny Green hadn’t got there first.

Cs 12-2-06



On the “world feed” Super Bowl commentary, Dick Stockton always tries to make overseas viewers feel at home, usually by way of several context-defiant references to Manchester United. This year, it was a reference to a scrum-like situation on field, which we were assured we would be quite used to, due to our familiarity with the concept via various rugby and soccer competitions. Yeah, all those scrums in the English Premier League have sure slowed the play down. For some reason, this brings to mind the famous cartoon conversation, in which Elmer Fudd nervously enquires, “More bwiefing?”, and Daffy Duck wearily affirms, “More briefing.”

Cs 12-2-06


A story regarding a Western Australian stud greyhound named Brett Lee allowed for legitimate if uncommon use of the terms, “Frozen sperm fiasco” and “WA bitch” in the one family-friendly news report. However, the show-stopper was a reference to: “A $110,000 tank of frozen semen which was supposed to be from Brett Lee.” Jumping Juniper Berries! In lieu of any other printable response, this is a timely reminder that re-hydration is so important in any sporting endeavour.

Cs 19-2-06



Concerned at mismatched team lists for the traditional pre-pre-season match between the Swans and Essendon, Paul Roos’ spirited promo was, and I quote, “If you want to watch a slaughter, come on Friday night.” See, honesty is the best purgatory. You’d hope someone else is rostered onto PR duties for the rest of the season.

Cs 19-2-06



Frankly, this move from Oceania to the Asian grouping is starting to look like the most brilliant geographical adjustment since the Bundy family from “Married With Children” decided to beat the summer heat by moving into the supermarket freezer section.

Cs 26-2-06




 (With apologies to Flatt & Scruggs’ “The Ballad of Jed Clampett”)


“Wanna tell a little story about a man named Ben

From a small Western town, had some trouble now and then

Late one night, he was driving his car

Landed in a certain creek, and there we all are…”

Cs 26-2-06



[re Channel Ten shot-clock]

Most of us haven’t seen clocks this big since those ones the original rap artists used to wear around their necks back in the 1980s. Big Ben is relatively subtle.

CS 5-3-06



All footy commentary variations on the line, “And if you think the pre-season comp isn’t fair dinkum, just take a look at that!” are by now an open invitation for viewers to enter the Mr Shoe-meet-Mr TV Screen mode of criticism.

Cs 12-3-06



[re Commonwealth Games opening ceremony]

What has a tram with wings but never gets anywhere, 71 completely different giant papier-mache fish that all look exactly alike, the least captivating duck in world entertainment history, the ever-popular natural teaming of ballerinas and motorbikes, a former football coach with wet ankles, and it runs five hours too long in three hours, and sleeps a nation of 20 million people?

Cs 19-3-06



The names of the Games. Prince Octopus. Black Moses. Miao Miao. Wonder Boy Mahlungu. It’s all starting to sound a lot like the character listing for an old James Bond movie. 

Cs 26-3-06


[re Commonwealth Games]

Hands up everyone who hasn’t defected yet.

Cs 26-3-06



Bjorn Borg wanting to auction off his old tennis trophies – before later recanting after some quality nagging from John McEnroe – must be right about up there. OK, so he’s not broke, and he’s got plenty of money, and he was just sick of seeing them laying around the joint. It’s a lovely story, but personally, I’ve always preferred the one about those bears who live in a house and eat porridge. Maybe they sold THEIR tennis trophies to buy the building materials and porridge. Who knows? 

Cs 2-4-06


Anyone who thinks the Aussie rules battle is already so well won in NSW or Queensland that they’re just panting for a second team in either joint is such a flat-out visionary that they should probably start their own religion rather than piddling around with football.

Cs 9-4-06



Zab Judah had just punched Floyd Mayweather so low during their welterweight title match that Judah’s glove probably had to ride at least two levels on a service elevator to get back to the ring.

Cs 16-4-06



Australian soccer’s shiny new $120 million dollar TV deal guarantees both six years’ exclusivity to Foxtel, and an audience exclusive of well over half of the population for the same period. Well, if your name’s Jack, and all you own is a cow, you take the magic beans on the negotiating table, for sure.

Cs 23-4-06


[re mystifying scheduling of Swans matches at Telstra Stadium]

The Rolling Stones are too big for the SCG, not the Sydney Swans.

Cs 30-4-06



Vaudeville was heroically revived last Sunday, during the St Kilda-Fremantle game’s closing seconds, which closed for rather longer than anyone expected they would. For the first time in decades, people were reminded of the title of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s live triple-album, “Welcome Back, My Friends, to the Show That Never Ends.”

Cs 7-5-06



If St Kilda-Fremantle hadn’t have happened, there would have been plenty of 12-page newspapers, 15-minute TV news bulletins, and a lot more Val Doonican records on talk radio this week.

Cs 7-5-06


[re Richmond vs Carlton, Round 5]

They could take the more uproarious “highlights” from the second and third quarters alone, put the Benny Hill music on the soundtrack, and have the greatest Australian comedy hit movie of the last 75 years.

Cs 7-5-06



Laying out an attraction like the Kangaroos versus any interstate team on a profoundly lifestyle-challenged occasion like Mothers’ Day is what you might call “Desperately sucking around for rows of empty plastic seating”.

Cs 14-5-06




The theory of limiting numbers of interchanges to lower player injury rates sounds a lot like erecting a “Trespassers Prosecuted” sign to deter foxes from stealing chickens.

Cs 21-5-06



[re extravagant claims invariably made about new stadiums, or redevelopments]

A recently unearthed ancient Egyptian building prospectus claimed “The pyramids will stand as high as the cloud-line, with each having a capacity of 200,000 pharaohs. And the Glen Waverley train line will be extended to run right up to the Sphinx.”

Cs 28-5-06



Always remember that any successful soccer, rugby union or rugby league event is, above all, a “threat to AFL dominance.” 125 years of coexistence has just been lulling us into a false sense of security.

Cs 28-5-06



It’s got to the point where, each night before I go to sleep, I have to check under the bed and in the cupboards, to make sure Terry Wallace isn’t lurking there, ready to burst out with his latest opinion on how oval footballs should be, or whether boundary umpires should be paid by the arm-gesture.

Cs 4-6-06



[re Germany 2006 World Cup coverage]

When did that Caribbean nation have a referendum and change its name to “Dwight Yorke’s Trinidad and Tobago”? And at what point did FIFA officially give in and change the title from “Germany 2006” to the “Socceroos World Cup”?

Cs 18-6-06



For those nostalgic about the duller games in the Germany 2006 group section, the round-of-16 match between Switzerland and Ukraine brought it all flooding back. It was like purgatory, only with more ads for sports drinks.

Cs 2-7-06



It’s barely possible that by the time our grandchildren are watching football, the AFL might get up a committee meeting and buy a video camera. Maybe even a colour one.

Cs 9-7-06



Some fancy points system they’ve got going for the “FIFA/Coca-Cola” world rankings there. They might want to stop pouring the sponsor’s product directly into their Bat-Computer though.

Cs 16-7-06



Jason Akermanis and Leigh Matthews – a rare public demonstration of that old physics conundrum about the unstoppable mouth meeting the immovable oblong.

Cs 23-7-06


Pain-killers and the Akermanis/Brizroy affair – two apparently different topics inextricably linked by the fact that, if many of us have to hear much more about the latter, we’re going to need access to the former.

Cs 30-7-06



At a time where the public is getting its ears bent about the plight of football’s ex-players fallen on hard times, Andrew Demetriou’s smug, girlishly shrugged news-bite “I’m an ex-player and I haven’t put my hand up”, had a tremendously unappetising air of Marie Antoinette and “Let them eat cake” about it.

Cs 30-7-06




Arguably the main result of continuing debate over whether AFL is still a contact sport is increasingly violent contact between the eyelids of anyone unfortunate enough to be listening, followed by a certain amount of captivatingly musical snoring.

Cs 6-8-06




Regarding the potential use of the MCG for a rally against the Howard government’s industrial laws, Max Walker’s argument against the idea was, apparently: “I love the MCG. It should be for the good of the people, not for the bad of the people.” Frankly, once you bear in mind that “the hallowed turf” has already endured the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony this year, this argument doesn’t have much of a leg left to stand on.

Cs 6-8-06



If the AFL were a bomb disposal squad, they’d probably arrange the savouries for the after-match entertainment first, and then worry about evacuating the area.

Cs 13-8-06



Dean Jones – not much of a comedian, but he sure knows how to get the crowd’s attention.

Cs 13-8-06



It’s been many years since everyone realised what the IOC was, and now they’re just haggling over the price.

Cs 13-8-06



[re AFL v commentators barney over standard of coverage]

Someone burping the alphabet would have improved the standard of debate.

Cs 20-8-06



To be fair, the only problems with Nathan Brown’s notion of legalising anabolic steroids for therapeutic purposes in sport, is (a) that he thought it, (b) that he said it, and c) that he said it where someone could hear him say it.

Cs 20-8-06



Right here in Moomba City, historically, “curtain raiser” means something you have before the main event, so that people can find their seats, in bold defiance of the finest work of the stadium ushers.

Cs 10-9-06



The cricket world’s somewhat stockier answer to Paris Hilton, Shane Warne gets an honorary doctorate. (Actually, the word “honorary” in that sentence is probably the most redundant adjective in the history of human communication.) Mere hours later he gets hit in the head by a cricket ball. John Lennon called a song “Instant Karma”, and Bea Arthur, as the title character in the 1970s TV show “Maude” frequently chided her husband, “God will get you for that, Walter.” Both theological viewpoints seem belatedly confirmed by this incident.

Cs 17-9-06



At its heart, the Brownlow should be broadcast from a tin shed with a cement floor, decorated in a beach theme, with pizzas delivered after Andrew Demetriou reads the 11th round votes. From a deck-chair. Wearing thongs, shades and zinc cream.

Cs 1-10-06



We’ve got a leak from the tally room of the recent national census. Turns out there’s over 20 million people living in the country, and of those, roughly ten million are all front runners for the St Kilda coaching job.

Cs 8-10-06



That incredibly convoluted “Mexican quickie” style last-second mega-trade involving Fremantle, Collingwood, Richmond and Essendon was pure entertainment gold. Not that anyone from the clubs will ever admit this publicly, but at what point do you reckon everyone involved completely lost track of their stock market tickers and just started yelling numbers and throwing bits of paper around at random?

Cs 15-10-06



From an October 12 ABC internet news report, concerning planning for a new Perth sport stadium, the headline, which was just a shade duller than jailhouse cutlery, read:

“Stadium task force head appeals for managing issues resolution.”

What, Grant Thomas is writing news copy for the ABC now? If there were a Walkley Award category for ‘Dullest and Least Comprehensible Headline‘, not only would that win the 2006 prize, but they could retire the trophy in perpetuity.

Cs 15-10-06



Every year or so, some prize gazebo can be counted on to allege that cannabis, marijuana or hashish are “performance enhancing substances”. Maybe, maybe not, but what most people believe they inspire is: a case of the munchies, a tendency to giggle out of context, and bulk purchases of Korn and Monster Magnet albums.

Cs 22-10-06



 Letting Noel Gallagher speak in public about the Socceroos, Tim Cahill or anything to do with the sport is a lot like polling Vatican officials on their all-time favourite letters to “Penthouse Forum”. Actually, Noel Gallagher talking about music is a lot like that too.

Cs 22-10-06



Australian sporting legend Kevan Gosper insightfully remarked of Beijing Olympics progress, “Across the board you can tick most boxes and that’s a great sign.” And the World Cliché, Mixed Metaphors and Frontier Gibberish Festival hurls its doors open for business. 

Cs 29-10-06



Bulldogs coach Rodney Eade put a verbal Indian death-lock on himself while attempting to discuss his tenure beyond the 2009 season:

“But certainly there may be a tentative talk that hopefully we may go further.”

Personally, I find that crystal-clear other than the vague parts.

Cs 29-10-06



Sunday twilight footy. Against all the odds, against all possible lessons learned in recent times, the AFL pulls out a blinder and successfully isolates one more chunk of the weekly calendar that people don’t want to see football matches sprayed all over.

Cs 29-10-06



With regard to the apparent derailment of the International Rules series between Australia and Ireland, the general Australian perception of the event as an end-of-season international beer tasting grand prix ultimately may have been too high a mountain to climb.  

Cs 12-11-06



A newspaper front page from last Monday, in a galaxy not so far away. The headline “Cup Dream”. A picture of the Melbourne Cup with the words “Melbourne Cup” next to it. A full-page portrait of 2001 Caulfield/Melbourne Cup winner Ethereal with her foal and the relevant trophies. And in small capitals across the very top of the page, the words: “Saddam Hussain Sentenced to Death – P2”. Priorities, I tells ya, it’s all about priorities.

Cs 12-11-06



Perhaps during the week, someone in the woebegone New Zealand Knights made the mistake of saying, “At least things couldn’t get any worse.” Then they got de-licensed. What next? The pitch opens up and swallows the team? The players spontaneously combust? They’re photographed partying with Paris Hilton?

Cs 17-12-06



Boats, water, people with too much money, masts snapping off like pretzels – ah, yes, the annual Anywhere to Hobart slumber party and sinkathon.

Cs 31-12-06






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