THE LOW ROAD 2014 – Part One

DEVIL’S ADVOCATE

Due to unprecedented if not undetectable levels of interest, the management once again presents a selection of purported highlights from the columns about sport by Leaping Larry L which appear in The Age newspaper.

This is the first half of the 2014 edition, containing lines disinterred from my Saturday column, Devil’s Advocate.

The numbers following the excerpts are the dates of publication.

A degree of editing – mostly minor – has taken place owing to the change from the original presentation format.

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No matter how many consecutive major tournaments have been left entirely untroubled by an Australian presence after two or three rounds, we will invariably hear players characterised as “Aussie hopes” for subsequent events.
From this one learns an important principle of Tennis Think, which is, apparently, that there is no hope so mathematically slim that it doesn’t still qualify as a hope.

DA 11/1

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Many individual points were deemed “big ones” by the Australian Open commentary crew – perhaps heralding an exciting new scoring system in which certain of these are given more weight towards game than others, or carry valuable cash prizes for home viewers.

DA 25/1

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In the early going of Roger Federer v Andy Murray, Bruce McAvaney mentioned Rod Laver being caught in traffic and thus having to catch a tram to get to the match.

The remarkable thing was that, in the face of the reduced summer public transport schedule, they were able to find a tram to stick Rod on so that he arrived at the venue he presumably calls “Me Arena” before the players were finished up and back in the showers.

DA 25/1

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ASSISTANT REFEREE (Soccer)

Someone who neither conspicuously assists a great deal, nor referees.

.
STAKEHOLDERS

(1) Reference to those who generally hold no financial or other ownership interest in a given club or league. However, the term seems irresistibly jazzy to sports administrators, commentators and the easily pleased.
(2) People assisting Professor Van Helsing in a Dracula movie.

.
TECHNICAL AREA (Soccer)

Resembles a row of seats where the coaching staff sits, but, as the name suggests, tremendous advances in science and technology happen there. Just the other week, one of the assistant coaches at Cardiff City reportedly split a quasar, and more recently, one of the guys at Upton Park was able to get chewing gum off the underside of a seat with nothing more than a house key.

DA 1/2

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Following the Winter Olympics, the tourism boom ought to be due in Sochi any week now, presuming there’s a strong market for oppressive security and soupy snow.

DA 22/2

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The Australian Grand Prix purportedly brings untold hundreds of bazillions of dollars into Melbourne. The amount is untold because nobody ever tells it.
Accepting the Grand Prix generates a massive profit for Melbourne is seemingly an act of pure faith, like becoming a nun, or bungee jumping, or investing in an Australian comedy movie.

DA 15/3

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The crowd in attendance for the Grand Prix will be described as roughly 15 million all up, maybe even busier on race day. Proof? Hey, you can’t “verify” the Loch Ness Monster, but we all know it’s there.

DA 15/3

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Danny Frawley memorably described the weather as “37 degrees Celsius temperature”, presumably just in case any of the folks at home had erroneously been attempting to measure their height or tyre pressure in Celsius.

DA 12/4

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“Let’s listen to a snapshot of what he said on the radio,” suggested Sam Lane re Bruce Mathieson on Channel Seven, skipping once over lightly on the logistics of listening to a snapshot.

DA 19/4

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Once you get past whether the beer and crap food at the footy is going to cost more and whether you’ll have to pay more to get in, you’ve probably exhausted most people’s interest in the broader issues.

DA 3/5

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It might startle the impartial observer that some voices can still be heard espousing the belief that an AFL “blockbuster” can be manufactured on a whim, between any two teams, on any given occasion. The notion of the “just add water” instant blockbuster is a little like TV’s Richard Wilkins – one can’t deny it’s still hanging around after all these years, but that is no particular guarantee of any improvement with age.

DA 10/5

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Newcastle’s fifth strip for just the one season was a kind of anaemic powder blue affair, regrettably consistent in shirt, short and sock. It resembled a kid’s new lightweight PJ’s for a sleepover, or perhaps summer uniform for orderlies in a particularly progressive mental institution.

DA 17/5

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There has been a lot of idle talk lately about how hard the AFL umpire’s job is. No doubt thousands of citizens, in the grind of a normal working day, pause to reflect on this appalling situation.

DA 31/5

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Who even knows what consistency means? Well, everybody, pretty much – even the 11 year old having a kick on the concourse with his dad probably knows what it means.
Except in the AFL umpiring department where, going on precedent, they might as well be trying to tackle particle physics, or making Channel Ten work.

DA 31/5

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“Secondary Grunt” – a term ideally formulated to describe the background farmyard animals in the early Porky Pig cartoons.

DA 7/6

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“Outside Spread” – In a football context, meaningless, but the terrible fear is that the term implies there is more than one kind of “spread”, and thus multiple versions will be discussed. This is similar to the fear that gripped the community when it was realised that the term “central corridor” implied that David Parkin could see more than one invisible corridor on-field.

DA 7/6

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Noted Gary Bloom of Greece’s performance in its opening 2014 World Cup game against Colombia, “They looked promising in stages.”
Yes, presumably those stages were dotted somewhere in between Colombia’s three unanswered goals.

DA 21/6

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Commentator Dan O’Hagan, during Iran v Nigeria, noted that a player’s brother represented Iran in rugby. Sleep deprived souls around the nation enquired as one: “Iran plays rugby now?”
DA 21/6

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Brazil 2014 has been nothing if not a World Cup full to the brim of sounds and sights. Some of these even involved the occasional player standing upright, if you weren’t watching Italy v Uruguay.

DA 28/6

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Commentator Dan O’Hagan after Peter Odemwingie scored for Nigeria, against Bosnia and Herzegovina:
“The first ever player from England’s Stoke City to score in a World Cup finals match.”

You knew somewhere in a luxury box, that was what Sepp Blatter and the FIFA gang were talking about. Not to mention all the folks back in Nigeria.

DA 28/6

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Peter Drury somewhat strangely declared, re Croatia: “Their elimination not really a reflection of performance.”
Actually, elimination IS a reflection of performance in the World Cup. That’s exactly how it works. You don’t get voted off after the swimsuit section.

DA 28/6

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Going back past the Molik years to the Dokic dynasty, and even beyond the dawn of civilisation and/or pay TV, unto the Mandlikova monarchy, Australia’s tennis fans – many of whom by now were being routinely installed in commentary booths and other handy media outlets – refused to believe there was a time, or single tournament in which “we” * did not have a “rising star” who was “poised on the brink” to “win one for Astraya”. No matter how obviously this was not the truth.

(* – “We” being the Commonwealth of Australia, plus anyone in a personal relationship with one of our tennis players, and possibly, under exceptionally lean circumstances, Marcos Baghdatis.)

DA 5/7

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This week, when Nick Kyrgios has a couple of significant wins at Wimpleston, the first thing everyone did, after a quick national time-out to learn how to say his surname properly, and getting out of the way before Bewdy Newk stampeded all over his moustache to embrace the cause, was declare he was pretty much bound to go “all the way”.

DA 5/7

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Presumably black football boots are now only worn at funerals and other formal occasions.

DA 12/7

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That goal line technology stuff they use on Planet FIFA now might not be entirely foolproof, but has the inside running over our AFL system of three or four umpires milling around having a scratch while some guy in a booth confuses himself with video of blurs, shoulders and ear-holes.

DA 12/7

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“Just last week GWS Giants v Geelong was acting as a highly efficient, futuristic force-field to keep people clear of the Sydney Showgrounds area.”

DA 26/7

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Every time somebody puts up a new light tower, creates another expansion team or releases a new executive tie-pin, it is NOT the golden opportunity to try and recoup all the money back in one hit by loading it on to the supporter’s entry price as yet another “levy”. Trust me. You may as well pour sand in the petrol tanks of the fans while they’re still parked in their driveways.

DA 2/8

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Stats – footy commentary’s greatest weapon in the ongoing fight against the will to live.

DA 9/8

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A particularly popular “bigger picture” type observation among commentators now is the clinical analysis that a given team is “going all out for a top-two finish”.
Well, why not? Having a hobby like that fills up time in what otherwise might be a tediously long season. You can only play so much Xbox.

DA 9/8

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Recently, Fox Footy channel slyly inserted a graphic for a brand-new stat – “intercept marks”. Sure, why not? Next it’ll be mouthguard-placed-in-sock stats and “single-handed front of shorts adjustments” – a different type of “loose-ball gets”.

DA 16/8

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Developments in sport teach us a lot. Admittedly it can be rather like the accents of some Scottish and Dutch managers in the early going of this year’s English Premier League – i.e. you might not understand a great deal of it, but it’s good clean wholesome fun trying to work it all out.

DA 23/8

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Lance Armstrong this week explained that if he hadn’t eventually told the truth, he would still be lying today. If you really think about it, this is, quite literally, the kind of thing that goes without saying.
That is, if you start out lying, continue to lie, and then don’t tell the truth, then down the pike, you’re still going to be lying. Q.E.D.

DA 23/8

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Privately, Sepp Blatter may still be seething about the incident some years ago, when his genius-like master plan for the promotion of women’s soccer – tighter tops and shorter shorts – was received like a giant liverwurst sculpture at a Vegan wedding.

DA 23/8

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Brian Taylor, during Essendon v Gold Coast, was attracted to the significance of “structure around the stoppage”. This terminology seemed oddly suggestive of a scenario familiar from suburban streets, featuring a number of council workers down a hole in the road, with a plastic barricade around them.

DA 30/8

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Many AFL change jumpers seem specifically designed to inspire onlookers to yell at the players, “Scaramouche! Scaramouche! Will you do the fandango?”

DA 6/9

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Port Adelaide was said to be furious that it could not wear its “traditional” guernsey. This was hilarious. You know, that “traditional” garb a seven year old girl came up with in a primary school competition, roughly a largish cup of coffee ago.

DA 6/9

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[Re Port being told by AFL to wear change strip for home final v Richmond]

By this time Port was about as happy as a coffee addict with a small bladder at a Peter Jackson movie.

DA 6/9

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Just after quarter time, the punditry “stepped up a cog” – a recent quirk of commentary idiom which remains both mechanically and grammatically dubious – as Hamish McLachlan invoked “The start of the second stanza”. Stanza! Come back, Peter Landy, all is forgiven.

DA 13/9

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Baz Zempilas declaimed:
“There’s no place you’d rather be in the country than watching this game right now.”

Well, “watching this game” isn’t a place. That’s a confusion of activity and location – something for which they may well have a handy word in the psychology business.

DA 13/9

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Brian Taylor noted, of Brendon Goddard:
“[He’s] been brought to this club to do one thing – play finals and kick goals”
This seems arithmetically challenged, for one thing.

DA 13/9

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Tom Harley launched a well-judged campaign to defend the choice of venue for the Sydney v Fremantle final, ANZ Stadium.
“The surface has come up an absolute treat,” he opined.

Frankly, it was hard not to notice something of a steeplechase-style water hazard in one pocket. In terms of volume of water displaced by players splashing through, it seemed strangely reminiscent of those old silent comedy shorts in which someone would step into what appeared to be a puddle in the roadway and then suddenly disappear from view, completely submerged.

DA 13/9

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Luke Darcy, describing some play in the final quarter, invoked boxing:
“Danyle Pearce, who was down for a standing eight count…”

Well, no he wasn’t. And nor was anyone else in sporting history, because for a standing eight count to be given to a fighter – and this is unlikely to come as a shock to anybody – by definition he has to be standing. That’s why they call it that.

DA 20/9

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[Grand final day]

By the close of business today, we will likely know the winner of the 2014 AFL Premiership, and also whether Seven’s Brownlow Medal telecast is finally over.

DA 27/9

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For persistence in the face of overwhelming odds, one has to admire whoever decided to stick with the crackerjack idea of getting the team captains at the Brownlow Medal to read out the scripts for the round highlights.
With a few honourable exceptions, each captain sounded like a recently hired junior waiter reading out a specials list he didn’t understand while wearing someone else’s spectacles, during a partial blackout.

DA 27/9

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Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop: “I think to think that Australian football is the hamburger with the lot in Australian sport at the moment. And the meat in the hamburger is the A-League.”

This is, if nothing else, a timely reminder that being a sports administrator launching a new season is apparently a lot like food shopping – i.e. you should never do either of them when you’re hungry.

DA 11/1

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Without the spring racing carnival attendees trailing grape bubbles, heel marks, lead-based dialogue and iridescent orange snail trails of fake tan across the car parks of our most storied race courses, where would we be, exactly?

Probably at home watching Bruce McAvaney saying nice things about horses on television, and a darn good thing too.

DA 1/11

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Going by all catalogues and media indications, the spring carnival racegoer’s ensemble should resemble the result of a collision between a number of buses carrying road company productions of “Guys and Dolls”, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and a yet to be produced musical adaptation of one of the X-Men movies.

DA 11/1

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It’s a funny old time of the sporting year, although not so downright hilarious if you’re trying to cover it for the media. Cricket hasn’t really cranked up yet, tennis still hovers on the distant horizon, and things haven’t yet reached that point of naked desperation when reputable newspapers become festooned in yachting double spreads.

DA 8/11

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The issue of what is a sport and what is not is a vexed conundrum that has been bothering inquiring minds for a week or two, if not centuries.

DA 15/11

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“By and large, they’re holding together very well,” noted Fox Sports’ Andy Harper of the Australian defence 75 minutes in to the mid-week friendly international in Japan.

The Socceroos were down 2-0 at the time, and one gathered that the adoption of lowered expectations as a pre-emptive cure for disappointment was proceeding apace.

DA 22/11

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“I am very encouraged by the mechanisms of basically what’s taken place,” Andy Harper said of the Socceroos, apparently having entered into phonetic translation from a European language to be specified later.

DA 22/11

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An image carried by news sites and services around the world purportedly showed world chess champion Magnus Carlsen profoundly and emphatically asleep during game 8 of his recent title defence against former champ Viswanathan “Vishy” Anand.

Not only did Carlsen draw that game and later retain his title, but, with that image of deeply dozy sideways shuteye, he successfully, if accidentally, summarised the reaction of the Australian public to the international rules football competition between Australia and Ireland.

DA 29/11

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After decades of lassitude, dust and an increasingly irresistible temptation to flip the channel and see what’s shaking on Cartoon Network, the Essendon FC supplements imbroglio seems to be only a couple of orbits of the sink away from finally going down the plughole.

Admittedly, if one takes an overview of the investigative process, it has seemed to take the devil of a long time to ascertain very little – somewhat reminiscent of a particularly longwinded episode of the TV series “Midsomer Murders”, but minus the definitive dreary denouement when the killer is finally identified and dragged away weeping, presumably from boredom like the home viewer.

DA 6/12

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Even sporting administrative bodies, which traditionally strain mightily to avoid adopting new ideas, have embraced the cause of appalling music ruining sport with stunning alacrity.

DA 13/12

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No matter how byzantine the process or knot-headed the voting delegates, any other administrator faced with the determination that the World Cup should be held in Qatar would have automatically pointed out that it might just as well be staged on the crispier side of planet Mercury, and immediately set about making less crackpot travel arrangements.
Not Sepp Blatter – a man of principle. Largely indefinable principle.

DA 20/12

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Arguably what people don’t realise about FIFA under Sepp Blatter’s administration is that great comedy doesn’t just happen. It takes a well-led team working arduously all around the clock, seven days a week, to come up with that level of material.

DA 20/12

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