The Low Zone – 2011

 

[As promised, here’s a new compilation of old rope – from my columns in the Sunday Age newspaper, entitled From the Cheap Seats. Those columns are one guy’s (generally) satirical view of the week in sport, so taken together they arguably offer some kind of snapshot of the memorable but less than outstandingly wonderful moments from the sporting world in a given year – in this case, 2011.

I didn’t have the opportunity to compile this material for newspaper publication at the end of that year, so this is a first time airing in this form. (As a French character once observed in a US sitcom, “Large deal.”) I was originally going to cut the material back after I’d extracted it from the original columns, but since the interweb doesn’t seem to be imminently closing down for lack of space, I decided to, either (a) give you tremendous value for no money, or (b) bore on regardless (starring Sidney James and Hattie Jacques). I have indulged in a little mucking about in terms of copy editing, but it’s generally pretty much as it saw print, and who in the blue hell is keeping score on that anyway?

The ‘Cs’ under each item refers to the From the Cheap Seats column, and the date given is the publication date within 2011.]

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THE LOW ZONE – 2011

 What’s actually most amazing about various video-based ‘decision review systems’ is how administrators can brilliantly devise procedures and deploy technology, to consistently derive a result that is 100 per cent contrary to what thousands of people in the stadium saw for themselves, using that remarkable 21st Century technology known as the human eyeball.

Cs 9th January

+++

On departing the Brisbane International tournament 0-6, 1-6, Jelena Dokic reportedly commented, “We think it’s a stomach virus. I was flat. I had nothing to give. I wasn’t in the match at all.” She then continued, “I don’t like to make excuses for anything. I never do.”

Incidentally, this is probably why most people prefer to have a cat around the home, rather than a tennis player. The cat might well throw up in the hallway, but at least it doesn’t preface the act by saying, “I never like to throw up in the hallway, but…”

Cs 9th January

+++

Seriously, is there anything Jeff Kennett won’t express an opinion about in public? That’s not just sarcasm, incidentally, it’s more of a hopeful plea for someone to find at least one example.

Cs 16th January

+++

 [re Eddie McGuire’s ‘falafel’ comment concerning Greater Western Sydney Giants]

The great international heritage of falafel should never be sullied by cheap association with some semi-imaginary football club.

Cs 13th February

+++

[re Melbourne Rebels Super rugby debut]

On the positive side, you can readily tell it’s socially upscale athletic activity by the Premier getting all excited  and giggly about it, not to mention the share trading and Volvo ads during the telecast, neither of which are exactly mainstays during, say, kick-boxing nite from Parramatta.

Cs 20th February

+++

[re Andrew Demetriou’s remuneration reaching the $2 million mark]

There’s a lot of debate about what makes our national football game unique. The one irrefutable answer is that we have the only sport that by some peculiar example of oversight or dementia pays its chief administrator more money than any of the players. This is a strange furphy that will begin to make perfect sense around the time that 100,000 people can be assembled to watch some guy in a suit press buttons on a calculator.

Cs 27th February

+++

Iowa student Joel Northrup was eliminated from the state high school wrestling tournament when he refused to wrestle scheduled opponent Cassy Herkelman, due to religious convictions, which he stated prevented him from wrestling a female opponent. This is one time where you really have to feel for the tournament officials. Just their luck they strike the one Year Ten male kid out of millions in the US who doesn’t want to wrestle a girl. You can almost see them out the back afterwards, fists raised to the skies, crying out, “What were the ODDS?!”

Cs 20th February

+++

AC Milan captain Gennaro Gattuso put the icing on a 0-1 home loss to Spurs by headbutting Tottenham assistant Joe Jordan after the match. “I lost my head,” noted the wordsmith Gattuso, in a subsequent apology. Well, not to worry. They apparently found it in Jordan’s face.

Cs 20th February

+++

Talk about any other clubs trying to “snap up” Brendan Fevola seems, well, somewhat premature. Maybe in weeks to come, we’ll be reading about other sitcoms being anxious to snap up Charlie Sheen.

Cs 6th March

+++

[NRL season launch is accompanied by a volley of betting scandals]

In terms of timing, NRL supremo David Gallop can perhaps be ruled as somewhat unfortunate in being quoted as saying: “We have had a terrific launch yesterday – probably the best-received launch and television commercial that I can remember.” You know, the Titanic probably had a terrific launch as well, only that’s not the part of the voyage that people talk about these days.

Cs 6th March

+++

[re Brendan Fevola]

AROUND the time someone tells you they’re self-treating their gambling addiction by playing poker for money, you realise that you’ve probably now heard just about everything.

Cs 13th March

+++

IN this week’s Jeff Kennett instalment, the Kool Mint Kid proposed a 34-round AFL season played over 24 weeks including matches being played mid-week. Jeff Kennett has now clearly cemented his legacy as the most reliable provider of football-related comedy since Rod Butterss.

Cs 20th March

+++

FULHAM FC owner Mohamed Al Fayed, who is clearly not mad or anything, is going to erect a statue of his pop singer buddy Michael Jackson at the club’s Craven Cottage ground. No doubt there will be a reciprocal honouring of Franz Beckenbauer and Zinedine Zidane at next year’s Grammy Awards.

Cs 20th March

+++

Chris Judd suggested that games need to be played on more days of the week. Giving the AFL ideas like this is arguably akin to throwing dynamite and a lighter into the monkey cage.

Cs 20th March

+++

Some sections of the media seemed intent on making a federal case out of Bernie Ecclestone not turning up for the Australian grand prix. Don’t sweat it. Content yourself with the knowledge that Bernie’s magical briefcase was filled with all our cash again before vanishing back to Castle Ecclestone in the usual cloud of sulphur and brimstone. That’s the main thing.

Cs 27th March

+++

Michael Schumacher advanced the case that the Australian formula one grand prix was a success because the event in Melbourne had “character”, and thus we needed it, or it needed us, or something in that vague vicinity. You know, Goldfinger had character. Dracula had character. Doesn’t mean you wanted them to move in across the road from you.

Cs 27th March

+++

Basically footy needs live bands like a pizza needs a handbrake.

Cs 27th March

+++

[re complaints that the substitute rule in the AFL was confusing]

If this is really too complex for anyone, they’re going to have a devil of a time with this year’s tax return.

Cs 3rd April

+++

FOR those of us with longer memories, it would be hard to top the monumental irony of a St Kilda team complaining because someone had over-watered the playing surface. In days of yore, the only things Moorabbin lacked in terms of being a perennial swamp were crocodiles and rescue boats.

Cs 24th April

+++

Football needs to be spread over even more days like a moose needs a stock portfolio.

Cs 24th April

+++

THE AFL finally landed its billion dollar TV deal, which led to some golden quotes in coverage, eg:

“Mike Fitzpatrick said the deal was not driven by financial motives.” Sure, they negotiated in magic beans instead.

Cs 1st May

+++

A considerable amount of comment was inspired by Essendon’s dismantling of the Gold Coast Suds, an AFL fixture offering the innovative spectacle of three quarters of junk time.

Cs 8th May

+++

Of Collingwood’s victory over the Bulldogs, one senior pundit opined that it was “like watching a cobra suffocate its quarry”. This should clear up any lingering confusion in the general public about why football experts don’t usually double as reptile handlers.

Cs 8th May

+++

Could someone please execute a mercy-killing on this whole change-strip mania now? It’ll only be about fifteen years too late, and then we can go back to football players coming out in something resembling menswear.

Cs 15th May

+++

[re scheduling Melbourne v Adelaide at the MCG on Mothers Day]

Clearly the Australian comedy boom is far from over. Melbourne-Adelaide would struggle to draw against a nearby baked goods sale, much less Mothers’ Day.

Cs 15th May

+++

Bernard Hopkins is like the Yehudi Menuhin of dirty boxing.

Cs 29th May

+++

[re football and betting]

While the AFL rajahs are rattling on for miles about “integrity”, the reality is that the clubs are taking sponsor money from betting agencies, the league has “partnerships” with Betfair and TAB, and when that guy Jack once sold the family cow for some magic beans, at least we didn’t have to listen to him popping off for the next several hundred years about how he did it with “integrity”.

Cs 29th May

+++

There are roughly six months of the year without footy in them, thus presenting a dandy time-frame in which football league executives could schedule holidays.

Cs 5th June

+++

[re a spot of trouble at Royal Ascot]

The British horse racing industry has inadvertently stumbled onto a potential winner here. If there’s one thing the average person might like to watch rich twerps doing, it’s having at each other with table legs and champagne bottles.

Cs 19th June

+++

Historically speaking, the AFL Players Association has been roughly as militant as a puppy chasing a rubber ball around a garden.

Cs 19th June

+++

The AFL’s latest burning issue blockbuster is – a drum-roll please – whether runners should be allowed on field. Oh yeah, that’s what you hear the folks in the stands, on the trams and in the pubs firing up about – runners. Can’t shut ’em up about it.

Cs 26th June

+++

During the Djokovic/Tsonga Wimbledon semi, one of the BBC boys chirped that a serve had “brought up the 50th ace of the tournament”. There are times when a commentator observing, “I have absolutely nothing of value to contribute at this point,” looms as a viable alternative.

Cs 3rd July

+++

Following Richmond’s disintegration at the hands of Carlton, coach Damien Hardwick apparently suggested that the Tigers didn’t have a crack. Captain Chris Newman later refuted this, stating that the team had done its best. Well, in the Newman version, doing “their best” they’re 103 points worse than the third best team in the league. That’s kind of a potential dance-floor clearer on the ol’ Tiger bandwagon.

Cs 10th July

+++

AFL umpires advisor Jeff Gieschen vowed that a crackdown on players illegally disposing of the ball would be imminent, after a season full of players throwing the ball without being penalised. What, so it wasn’t a rule the rest of the year? However, if you’re expecting logic in this area, either you just haven’t been paying attention, or, alternatively, let me wish you a hearty welcome to our wonderful country.

Cs 24th July

+++

In recent memory absolutely every host nation has claimed that its Olympic Games would be all but drug-free, and feature “better testing than ever before”. If you’ve got the sheet music handy, you can probably sing along with this sentiment by now.

Cs 31st July

+++

This week, a meeting of club executives and AFL officials concluded it would be jolly brill if State of Origin football returned to the calendar. Just imagine anyone sitting in their office, deep in thought for hours, if not weeks, before suddenly thumping the desk sending paperclips to the four winds, shrieking “Eureka!”, and announcing that they’ve just come up with the very masterstroke that will rocket football into a new golden age of prosperity – State of Origin football. Fair dinkum. Last time that much of anyone in the general public was interested in AFL version of State of Origin, Gloria Estefan was still making hit records.

Cs 7th August

+++

IF any Australian citizen has yet to be named in the media as a possible coach of either Adelaide or Melbourne for next season, he or she might want to check whether they’ve also been excluded from the national census this coming Tuesday. Possibly excepting Rhonda Burchmore and Sylvie Paladino, pretty much everyone else has been nominated.

Cs 7th August

+++

Apparently Andrew Demetriou still doesn’t believe that tanking exists. Must be a happy sort of life. Wouldn’t you like to just BELIEVE your electricity bill doesn’t exist and thus make this come true? We could all learn a lot from this man.

Cs 7th August

+++

If we want to name something after cyclist Cadel Evans that is gigantic and always open to all Melburnians, maybe somebody should build a statue of Jeff Kennett’s mouth.

Cs 14th August

+++

Japanese rugby player, Ryohei Yamanaka, is suspended for two years by the national rugby body, for use of a steroid, which he blamed on a cream used to aid him in growing a moustache. Now we’ve heard everything. Maybe he should look on the bright side. Lucky he never absent-mindedly brushed his teeth with the stuff, or rubbed it on his knees mistaking it for liniment.

Cs 14th August

+++

[Re rampant speculation on AFL coaching positions]

Basically, if you listen to everybody in the media on this stuff, there’s going to be roughly 23 coaches wedged into three clubs, and a resultant significant shortfall of Gatorade supplies in the coaching boxes.

Cs 21st August

+++

[re Shane Warne’s changed appearance]

From the pictures in the press this week, the situation can perhaps best be summarised by saying that, much like any existing Madame Tussaud’s wax figure of Shane Warne, he looks almost lifelike.

Cs 21st August

+++

Apparently Ricky Nixon has entered into some new decades-spanning romance. Well, on the upside, at least one young Australian will find out who Bill Haley and the Comets were.

Cs 28th August

+++

Any proximity between the terms “selling” and “candy” in Australian football commentary reliably provides a mixture of drowsiness and nausea in equal proportions.

Cs 4th September

+++

In response to Hawthorn dropping eight regular players ahead of the Gold Coast game yesterday, GC football manager Marcus Ashcroft remarked, “If we were in the same position, we would probably do similar.” One doesn’t know quite whether to respond, “That’s it boys – reach for the stars!” or “Err, tell you what, guys – don’t fritter away any hours of sleep worrying about that one for a year or two.”

Cs 4th September

+++

I find gambling ads during football matches less offensive than having to listen to actor Patrick Dempsey inform me constantly, with barely contained delight bordering on a tone of ecstatic personal discovery, that due to some unguent or other, he can now shave every day.

Cs 4th September

+++

Andrew Demetriou informs us that “we all know” that the matches are too long in the AFL. Anyone can say whatever they like, but most of us are still yet to observe widespread outbreaks of Scrabble boards and canasta games in the crowd during the closing stages of footy matches.

Cs 11th September

+++

[During an Andy Roddick-David Ferrer match at the US Open, Roddick notices a crack behind the baseline from which water is seeping]

Six workers laboured for an hour to attempt to quell the problem, using such sophisticated, specialised tools of the trade as duct tape, towels, and – wait for this one – blow dryers. This ultimately did nothing to resolve the issue, but presumably the baseline wound up with a shiny manageable perm.

Cs 11th September

+++

Some of the Gold Coast Suns boys getting in a brawl, a spot of bother, and an alleged dust-up with a representative of the constabulary during their end of season trip in Thailand is a disturbing threat to an important part of our culture. End of season footy trips are typically a nice, quiet getaway for the players, with a strong flavouring of cultural exchange, as the Aussies visit historical sites and art galleries and the like, while impressing the locals with their gentlemanly sporting ways. If elements of rowdyism, whoopee-making and immoderate consumption of alcoholic beverages are allowed to taint proceedings, a previously honourable Australian tradition may be irrevocably besmirched.

Cs 18th September

+++

You can learn a lot with Seven’s tennis coverage. Not about tennis, necessarily, but you learn a lot.

Cs 18th September

+++

For all those weeks and months seeming like aeons that we had to endure everybody and their Uncle Fred regaling us with theory, counter-theory and general hamburger gas concerning which coach was going where, not one measly straw-vote came up with what actually happened, i.e. Ross Lyon going to Fremantle.

Cs 18th September

+++

According to AFL Commission chairman, Mike Fitzpatrick, “The proclivity of the AFL to fiddle with the rules has been really creative and constructive.” Uh huh, that’s what you always hear all the folks in the stands and around the bars saying – how much they love all this creative and constructive rule-fiddling. Can’t get enough of it.

Cs 18th September

+++

Any reference to the purported feud between Brian Taylor and his former radio colleagues at Triple-M has a magical, instantaneous effect of seeming to add around 50 kg apiece to the weight of human eyelids.

Cs 25th September

+++

IN another triumphant breakthrough in Australian show-business sophistication, some brainwave decided to put the Brownlow Brides up on a sort of rotisserie device for the benefit of the Channel Seven cameras. All in all, it bodes ill for the budding entertainment career of the guy from the chicken shop they must have signed up to stage that part of the proceedings.

Cs 2nd October

+++

Before all those evil scalpers were banned, you could have been fleeced a few hundred dollars extra for a grand final ticket. Now, thanks to brilliantly conceived anti-scalping laws, you can instead pay $1500 or $2000 for a “legal” grand final ticket worth about $300, but you get breakfast thrown in. That must really be one heck of a great bowl of muesli.

Cs 2nd October

+++

Robert Murphy noted in this newspaper, “The Cats are like the Beatles.” Perhaps, somehow, but a few points of difference may also be noted. Geelong players don’t make music for a living, have yet to break up and record solo albums, and the Geelong guy is named “Wojo” not “Ringo”. Also, 50 per cent of the Beatles are dead, and 100 per cent of them never took a set shot for goal from 45 metres out on a slight angle into a tricky breeze. Other than that, it’s an uncanny similarity.

Cs 2nd October

+++

TV is riddled with ads for Hugh Jackman’s latest movie triumph, which if one’s own incredulous eyes are to be believed, features that eternal hot-button subject matter of general water-cooler conversation, giant robot boxers of the future.

Cs 9th October

+++

Still mentally grappling with the phenomenon of the fellow who chose to hurl a hot dog at Tiger Woods during the final round of the USA PGA Tour’s Frys.com Open event. Despite the snack item landing so short of the mark it failed to turn up in the same camera shot as Tiger, the genius concerned claimed he had wanted to do something “courageous and epic”. Right, maybe he should try starting a Mel Gibson fan-club chapter in Tel Aviv.

Cs 16th October

+++

Remember last year? There was so much media jabber about Bart Cummings that the Queen could have SURFED atop that tram down St Kilda Road and still got squeezed out of the papers.

Cs  30th October

+++

[re adjustments to the AFL pre-season competition]

The “improved format” for the draw suggests that Jackson Pollock may have come back from the dead and touched up the blueprints. One gathers the prevailing principle is, “If something’s not worth doing, it’s worth screwing up properly.”

Cs 30th October

+++

England’s Francesca Cumani, opined during the week that the Melbourne Cup was a big enough deal that it was not conspicuously improved by having nominal celebrities imported from overseas to decorate the occasion. Maybe this is something she should bring up with the Australian network that brings her out here and puts her on television during the spring carnival. Nothing particular against Ms Cumani, but this does seem a little like Anthony Mundine coming out and saying he’s had a complete gutful of loud-mouthed athletes, and that there’s far too much violent sport on pay TV.

Cs 30th October

+++

The World Anti-Doping Agency lab in Rio de Janeiro is under investigation after “mistakenly” coming up with an erroneous positive for a beach volleyball player. Previous problems have occurred with WADA labs in Turkey (false positive on US basketball player), and Malaysia and Tunisia (both labs suspended for “unspecified reasons”). Err, they’ve got one job to do – test a sample and rule it positive or negative. They’re not being asked to discover the fourth dimension or anything. If they’re just going to flip a coin, there wasn’t much point buying them all those test tubes, white coats and Bunsen burners.

Cs 30th October

+++

Boy, how about that? A dead heat in the Melbourne Cup between Dunaden and Red Cadeaux. Luckily they had someone on hand with Clark Kent-like powers to analyse the photo and prove it wasn’t a dead heat. The announced result was presumably a bonanza for the electronics industry, as thousands who’d bet on the second horse probably kicked their TV screens in, and will now be forced to purchase a replacement.

Cs 6th November

+++

To the vast majority of citizens here, Cup Day consists of about ten minutes of television coverage, and the one bet they have on the gee-gees all year. To most of the folks who toddle along to Flemington, Cup Day consists of dressing up like a regional theatre production of “Guys and Dolls” gone strangely awry in the wardrobe department, drinking too much, and then going home with less money and sorer feet than they came with.  Cut, print, end of movie.

Cs 6th November

+++

Former Pakistani cricketers Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammed Amir pick themselves up a set of striped pyjamas and hit the cooler after being found guilty of spot-fixing in a test match against England in 2010. The general tenor of commentary was that a great blow for cricketing integrity had been struck, and apparently every pundit on the block had even better ideas for striking more blows and cooking up even more integrity. Anyone who can come up with a formula for abolishing both gambling and human greed will probably be in the box seat here.

Cs 6th November

+++

The second international rules test between Australia and Ireland provided unexpected intrigue during the third quarter, when a unilateral display of player crankiness resulted in the refs – or umpires, or whatever they are in this stuff – sending off pretty close to 20 per cent of the players on the field. Had they gone any further in this direction, remaining players may have developed psychological stress from deprivation of human contact.

Cs 6th November

+++

[re first test, South Africa v Australia]

On the brighter side, seeing all the Australians’ second innings batting totals listed individually may have reminded many forgetful shoppers that they needed to buy eggs.

Cs 13th November

+++ 

The National Basketball Association salary negotiating process is starting to look like good news for the more fringe-oriented portions of the religious spectrum. By the time the NBA, owners and players actually get around to resolving anything, there’s every chance that some crackpot predicting a date for the end of the world will have finally been right.

Cs 27th November

+++

Somehow, reports on the England squad’s rugby World Cup campaign, intended for the eyes of the (English) Rugby Football Union, the players’ union and professional clubs, ended up in “The Times” instead. Apparently the word picture painted was an unflattering one, of an ill-disciplined, divided crew, obsessed with making money. Coincidentally, that sounds like an uncannily accurate description of the electricity retailing companies right here in Victoria.

Cs 27th November

+++

Why not blissfully slumber right now, and avoid cricket’s mid-December Big Bush League rush?

Cs 4th December

+++

[re the governmental Smith report into Australian soccer]

Another highlight was the report’s praise for the failed Australian World Cup bid, which it apparently described as “technically excellent”. One wonders whether, in the wake of the Hindenburg disaster, aviation authorities of the time subsequently announced to the public that that the craft was “technically excellent”.

Cs 4th December

+++

Former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally takes over running the NBL, in what may be the week’s second most galvanising news item, behind Kevin Rudd revealing that Australia was sending a new ambassador to Poland.

Cs 11th December

+++

[Former Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds is added to the cast of the Indian version of “Big Brother” aka “Bigg Boss” (sic)]

Symonds was quoted as saying, “I am looking at this as an opportunity to showcase the Australian culture which involves fun-filled activities like barbecues, throwing people into the pool and being completely at peace.” For some reason, the term “international incident” flies to mind.

Cs 11th December

+++

Apparently, Mardy Fish of the US and Canadian Milos Raonic have been confirmed as the last two entrants in the 2012 AAMI Classic at Kooyong. Well, hopefully they’ve reinforced the stands to cope with the inevitable spectator rush.

Cs 18th December

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One thought on “The Low Zone – 2011

  1. Thanks for posting these Leapster, I’m a bit of an old-timer and prefer things in hard copy so am gonna have a read once my wife prints them at her work.

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