THE LOW ROAD 2014 – Part Two

FROM THE CHEAP SEATS

In spite of public demand, I return with the 2nd half of the purported highlights from my newspaper columns in The Age during 2014.

These come from the Sunday sport section column, From The Cheap Seats.

The numbers underneath indicate date of publication in 2014.

Again, the various one-liners and jaundiced pop-offs have undergone minor degrees of editing, mostly due to differences between newspaper format and this one.

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For those wondering about Polish tennis player Grzegorz Panfil, his first name is pronounced “Grzegorz”.

CS 5/1

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[re Big Bash League cricket]

The extra yard was gone during Friday night’s monumental encounter between the Perth Heaps and the Sydney Plungers, when one commentator, having served up a particularly transparent Dorothy Dixer to a miked-up player, then extravagantly praised the quality of the player’s answer. Perhaps they could save on voice-strain and just put up a graphic saying exactly how stupid they think the viewing audience is.

CS 5/1

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[re tennis commentary]

It’s hard to understand what the point is of having Roger Rasheed whisper all the time when, in the end result, you can still hear him.

CS 12/1

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The New York Knicks’ J.R. Smith was fined $50,000 by the NBA after two successive games which saw him unleash the greatest tactical masterstroke of his sporting generation – untying the shoelaces of opponents. One has very little idea of what is going through J.R. Smith’s head, but if he ever gets hold of a tube of super-glue it could irrevocably change the landscape of professional basketball as we know it.

CS 12/1

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Fox Footy channel used to offer the option of just hearing the crowd and game sound via the FX mikes, while turning off the commentary. Perhaps the Government could look into the potentially enormous boost in national morale if Channel Seven were to offer the same option for the tennis.

CS 12/1

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Australia’s greatest and most cherished comedy figure, Anthony Mundine, declared he is open to the notion of running for the position of Prime Minister of Australia, thus arguably making this a heck of a time to consider investment in Indonesian government bonds.

CS 26/1

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Any mention of the Mumbai Mumblers, the Punjab Palookas, the Rajasthan Ringadings or any other Indian Premier League cricket reference is a cast-iron guarantee of an instant, slumped sideways in the armchair, full blown, power snore-athon.

CS 2/2

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The preamble to the Sochi Winter Olympics wasn’t entirely fabulous, not to say there wasn’t extensive coverage of such attractions as the stray dog culls, and the unusual numbers of athletes splattered around during trial runs on the new facilities. The one break that the hosts got was that rock group The Eagles had already used the slogan, “Hell Freezes Over”.

CS 9/2

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The AFL has indicated that one of the improvements we will notice this year is less deliberation time during video reviews. Just as well, given that people were using the time taken by these to plan holidays, and in some extreme cases, take them.

CS 9/2

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It was hard not to notice that this week’s extensive coverage of the Essendon supplements saga was effectively the long way around saying: “Absolutely nothing new has happened. No further detail has come to hand. There will be no film at 11. And this just in – nothing. Say hasn’t there been some weather lately?”

CS 9/2

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After some years of hovering around the lavatory of indecision on the notion of variable pricing for regular match tickets, the AFL finally put both feet right in the bowl and decided to go for it.

CS 16/2

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US bobsledder Johnny Quinn became trapped in one of the Sochi Games’ finest toilets and had to smash his way out. His explanation was that he didn’t have a phone, so “used his bobsled training” to destroy the facility. Finally, the vexing mystery of what occurs at bobsled training is definitively resolved.

CS 16/2

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The Channel Seven commentary team and population crisis for the Collingwood-Fremantle season opener was so large that on the graphic revealing the names, Tim Watson and Richo had to be squeezed in together like a vaudeville comedy duo down the bottom. There were about six all up. Had instruments and straw hats been made available, they could have struck up a sprightly bit of Dixieland Jazz.

CS 16/3

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Sandy Roberts, back on commentary duties for Fox Footy at Bulldogs v North, indicated that that the game was as good as over by way of a cutting edge pop culture reference:
“Say goodnight to the folks, Gracie.”

George Burns’ partner in life and comedy, Gracie Allen, passed away in 1964. Maybe that was the official 50th anniversary memorial announcement. Basically, if Sandy makes reference to “Chaplin and Goddard” we won’t know whether he means Troy and Brendon, or Charlie and Paulette.

CS 6/4

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Apparently the AFL Players Association has been campaigning for State of Origin football. It can’t be that time again already, can it? Interstate footy has about as much chance of catching on again with the general public as horse-drawn buses, cod liver oil or movies starring Andrew McCarthy.

CS 27/4

Friday night’s edition of the Mick Malthouse post-game press conference series was the usual platinum standard in grisly car crash entertainment, albeit with a new twist from the old master – a good cop/bad cop routine of stunning virtuosity, in that Mick played both of them. One senses a Gold Logie brewing.

CS 4/5

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On his return from his 4th round stoppage loss to Wladimir Klitschko, Alex Leapai was presented with the keys to Logan City. (South of Brisbane, apparently.) Presumably if he’d won, they would have made him Governor General.

CS 4/5

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Australia’s top ranking male tennis player in 2000 was Lleyton Hewitt, as opposed to 2014 when it is – let’s just check the listings here – oh, dear, Lleyton Hewitt again. Mm, clearly gigantic strides have been made.

CS 11/5

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Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew, in complimenting his players for their performance against Cardiff City, commented: “I take their hat off.” A surprisingly tricky bit of idiom, that. It was pleasingly reminiscent of Mike Tyson’s fine effort some years back, after losing to Lennox Lewis: “I take my hand off to you.”

CS 11/5

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Adelaide sells out an upcoming Thursday night game against Collingwood and immediately flags a request for at least two more next season. Yep, sure, the Thursday night timeslot is box-office magic. No doubt there are also people who think that when they open their curtains in the morning, it makes the sun rise.

CS 11/5

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The Australian Rugby Union announces it is going to put experimental rule changes in its new national championship comp to a public vote, as ARU chief Bill Pulver stresses the importance of maintaining the game’s “integrity”. Maybe next it’ll be a bouncy castle and exploding touch lines to add to the general integrity.

CS 18/5

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Here’s a handy hint on how you know a conversation has gone on too long. If it’s on television or radio, and includes any discussion of how field umpires bounce the ball, or boundary umpires throw it back into play, by definition it’s already gone on too long.

CS 25/5

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[re ruling that, other than the MCG, there are no other suitable grounds in Victoria for interstate cricket]

How lofty are Cricket Australia’s requirements? Basically you need a decent pitch, a reasonably flat ground, somewhere you can stick a table for the scorer to sit, and the capacity for around 27 spectators. Other than perhaps a moderately sized car park, a coin-operated barbecue and a pub across the road, you’d think that pretty much ought to cover it.

CS 25/5

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Seeing the Swans whitewash Geelong on Thursday night was like watching one of those modern-fangled street magicians who all have their own TV shows and look like they could use a decent wash. They’re doing the trick right out in the open and you can see exactly what’s happening, but you can’t quite work out how the hell they’re doing it.

CS 1/6

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Contrary to many cynical predictions, the Socceroos did manage to extend their stay in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, by the cunning ploy of turning up earlier than anyone else. Officials may have been confused trying to work out if the Australians were turning up early for this year’s event or late for the 1950 Brazil World Cup.

CS 1/6

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According to an AAP report, FIFA’s “top official in charge of the tournament”, Jerome Valcke pulled out all the stops in greeting the Socceroos, by warmly extending a welcoming Twitter message. There’s nothing like the personal touch.

CS 1/6

It has been announced that, in an aid to ending a quarter of football when the quarter is actually over, the clock seen on TV will be upgraded to hundredths of seconds and count all the way down to zero. Zowie. The Rolling Stones were probably still considered untested for career longevity when the Olympics brought in clocks to two decimal places.

Also, the guy pushing the siren button will bellow “Siren!” into the umpires’ earpieces. Maybe if they gave him a megaphone, they wouldn’t need a siren. Presumably all this will be powered by a little guy called Gilligan riding a bike on a wooden treadmill.

CS 1/6

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Sam Soliman, a likeable boxer, with a style sufficiently eccentric that a passing arts reviewer might mistakenly hail it as an exciting new frontier in modern dance.

CS 8/6

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As Craig Foster noted in his incisive analysis following Australia’s 3-1 loss to Chile, “Don’t worry about the score – means nothing.” Yes, no doubt far too much emphasis is put on scores in sporting events.

CS 15/6

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There is a state of suspended human consciousness somewhere between dreaming and a waking state where it is difficult, if not impossible to tell one from the other. Personal research suggests this phenomenon can be directly triggered by Fred Stolle’s commentary during the French Open.

CS 15/6

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[re Essendon supplements saga]

One particular has to admire the pluck of some analysts with no demonstrable legal training – and who, with great consistency, had conspicuously failed to anticipate roughly 100 per cent of previous key developments throughout this shemozzle – who are once again embroidering speculative tapestries of dazzling detail over how it will all play out.

CS 15/6

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Those accreditation cards they’ve got the coaches and others wearing at the 2014 World Cup are among the larger laminated objects you’re ever likely to see. There are restaurant menus that are smaller. If Maradona had worn one during his time as Argentina’s manager, it would have needed to have eyeholes cut in it. It seems possible that one might light up and flash a sign reading “Eat at Joe’s”.

CS 15/6

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Impressive to see that, in the face of an angry snarl of fuming protest, the brains trust at Sportsbet stuck by their well thought-out promotion of launching a giant hot air balloon likeness of Jesus to promote sport gambling. Finally, someone with real integrity.

CS 15/6

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Apparently FIFA has seen its way clear to investing roughly 29 million dollars in a movie which celebrates the most important jewels in world football’s crown – the talented executives of FIFA. It is entitled “United Passions”; your humble columnist’s suggestion, “Days of Chunder”, having been inexplicably overlooked.

The movie was launched in Portugal and is scheduled for release in Serbia soon, followed by Russia. This suggests that the heroic executives of FIFA have roughly the same acumen at booking movie dates as they do at selecting venues for a World Cup.

CS 22/6

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Peter Drury, re Colombia v Uruguay, World Cup 2014:
“Divided by the full breadth of the very continent that divides them.”
Also, if it wasn’t for the large portion of South America wedged in between, they’d be quite close together.

CS 6/7

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Having succeeded in expertly siphoning thousands of fans away from attending Collingwood v Carlton, the AFL puts its hands up and admits Sunday night football might not have been the greatest “Eureka!” moment since the phonograph record. Then puts its hands down to shoot itself in the foot, trumpeting that Thursday night footy has been a runaway winner. Yeah, well, you know, it’s been running for about a lunchbreak.

CS 6/7

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A certain amount of the preamble to Glasgow 2014 centred, strangely, on the matter of whether the Commonwealth Games still had any relevance. This is a lot like sitting down to watch one of those movies or TV shows featuring dragons, and magicians making blue spells come out of their fingers, and then getting all concerned as to whether the content is credible and historically accurate.

CS 27/7

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Possibly the reason they call the GWS Giants home ground “Spotless Stadium” is because it remains largely unstained by spectators

CS 27/7

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So the clock struck 10 million years BC and there was Sam Newman being “controversial” on “The Footy Show” again – portions of him falling out of pyjamas on national television as part of some dramatic presentation that no doubt enriched the lives and football knowledge of all those fortunate enough to witness it.

CS 10/8

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Without the MCG being regularly put to work for footy purposes, what we’d all have there, roughly 350 days of the year, would be a sport museum attached to the world’s largest, professionally maintained, 100000-seater sunbathing lawn.

CS 17/8

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Without invading something, marrying royalty, catching fire or actually winning a championship of something from time to time, nobody seems to get more media space than Richmond.

CS 24/8

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Debate hilariously continues to flourish regarding whether the experiment of financially press-ganging Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau into AFL expansion ranks was worthwhile. Here’s one opinion. For all the effect the AFL achieved for “the spend”, they may as well have stationed Gillon McLachlan in Rooty Hill and had him wave a wooden wand with a cardboard star on the end, while intoning the words “Abracadabra a la peanut butter sandwiches”.

CS 31/8

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New Zealand produced a spirited haka prior to its game with the USA team at the basketball world championships. This may well have been the tallest haka ever conducted in public view. Certainly no-one could deny it was inspirational. For their part, the US players were inspired to win 98-71.

CS 7/9

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One authoritative newspaper report informed us that Heritier Lamumba’s manager had indicated that the player “might still stay at Collingwood or he could realise he needed to move clubs”. That seemed to cover most of the options.

CS 7/9

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The Greens may insist that our grandchildren will live with the consequences of environmental decisions made now, but nobody told us the grandkids might still be dealing with the ASADA probe into Essendon.

CS 21/9

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Worldwide interest has been attracted by the “Tiger-3”, an Australian-developed digital radar system built out of “modified rugby goalposts”. Some of us always said they’d eventually find a good use for those things.

CS 28/9

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The Brownlow telecast – football’s most glittering occasion – incorporated a goal of the year segment sponsored by a fast food chain, a highlights package of primary school kids being interviewed, and another of rather puzzling Saturday night comedy spots. Maybe next year there’ll be candid camera footage of funniest parallel parking attempts in the Channel Seven car park.

CS 28/9

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After opening the scoring for Italy in the 44th minute, Giorgio Chiellini equalised for Azerbaijan in the 77th, sticking one away past his own keeper Buffon. He then completed the hat-trick – or whatever it was – in the 81st minute with a headed goal, on this occasion to the benefit of his own team’s account. It is believed that, prior to the next round of matches, UEFA is considering spinning Chiellini off into a stand-alone team.

CS 12/10

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Once the spring racing carnival media chatter heads in the direction of “fascinating fascinators”, “dazzling frocks as far as the eye can see” and revelations along the lines of Caulfield expecting big crowds and sunshine, the patient is already losing consciousness and crashing towards a truly monumental mid-afternoon doze.

CS 19/10

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UEFA President Michel Platini stated firmly that if there is the slightest hint of corruption regarding Qatar securing the 2022 World Cup, there will be a new vote to determine the venue. For some reason a vision comes to mind of a sports administrator standing in a boardroom rapidly filling with smoke, announcing, “If there is the slightest hint of a fire anywhere in this facility, I’m going to declare an immediate extraordinary general meeting to get to the bottom of it,” as the place burns to the ground around his ears.

CS 19/10

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At Partizan Stadium, Belgrade, for the Serbia v Albania 2016 Euro qualifier, some eager football fancier came up with a new wrinkle in match day entertainment – what the world media is determined to call a “remote drone”, or what those of us from ye olden days used to call a “model plane”.

CS 19/10

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When it comes to crowds packing the stands for top level sport, you certainly are at no risk whatsoever of seeing that during international cricket in scenic Dubai. Seriously, if they’re looking for a neutral venue, no national team plays at the Junction Oval and they’d draw at least enough people for a decent poker game there.

CS 26/10

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Lucy Zelic’s sideline reporting on the SBS A-League coverage has strong cult potential. Of one injury she noted, “He took a knock on the lateral side of the knee” before continuing, “In less technical terms…”
Realistically, there ARE no less technical terms.

CS 26/10

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It seems possible to arrive at the conclusion that if FIFA had to organise a few rounds of sandwiches for Saturday afternoon pennant bowls, the money would go missing, the tea urn would leak all over the new carpet, half the sandwiches would go to each of Russia and Qatar, and the mice would get the best of the biscuits. And shortly afterwards, FIFA could conduct a full investigation and exonerate itself.
CS 16/11

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Time to fill on cable TV? Step up Indian Super League, a competition steeped in that great Indian sporting tradition – of soccer. Not even Indian people are sure soccer is played over there.

CS 23/11

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According to a Fox Sports News report:
“Arsene Wenger reveals he tried to sign Lionel Messi when he was 15.”
Basically, they mean Messi. If it was when Wenger was 15, not only was there no Messi, or soccer, but there was probably still a land bridge you could have walked over from here to India, presuming the dinosaurs didn’t eat you first.

CS 23/11

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At a media conference on Friday, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke stated that the World Cup is a sporting event and is nothing to do with politics. Now there’s a guy that someone at FIFA head office really has to show around the whole operation some day.

CS 23/11

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We heard a great deal about the AFL draft and the young tearaways engaged therein. One is a midfield player who is also a one-kick goal specialist and polished key defender, apparently. The next is an in-and-under tagging type who is also a roaming forward ace, has a truck licence, can run a specialist medical library, is a dab-hand at the tango, and enjoys long walks on the beach on rainy days.

CS 30/11

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Mickey Rourke’s opponent in the “boxing match” had first round jab stats of one landed from nine thrown and power punch stats of zero from zero. In boxing terms, technically, he was a spectator.

CS 30/11

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FIFA investigating anything that happened under the auspices of FIFA is a lot like Count Dracula chairing a sub-committee to investigate rumoured outbreaks of vampirism in the greater Transylvania region.

CS 20/12

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The most decorated Olympic athlete in the history of ever, Michael Phelps, was put on probation and handed a suspended one-year sentence after being found guilty of driving well over the legal alcohol limit, after leaving a Baltimore casino. The shame of it. The drink-driving is bad enough but a casino in Baltimore?! It’s like a major world celebrity getting arrested at a rave in somebody’s parents’ garage in Nunawading.

CS 20/12

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There’s this amazing event called the Boxing Day test. Blue skies. 70,000 people. Great tradition. It’s in Melbourne – the sporting capital. Unbelievable crowd. Great scenes. Apparently it’s an annual type of arrangement. There’s even some sort of cricket match attached to it. You really should have been watching on Channel Nine. Even though it was apparently new to them, they were all over it.

CS 28/12

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Early on the first day, it was suggested on Nine that the Boxing Day test is special and “You like to lock it in to the diary.” Well, it’s already locked into the diary – it’s on Boxing Day. December 26th pretty much every year. A little reminiscent of the famous US news vox pop with the rushed lady shopper who observed: “Christmas is great – they ought to have it every year!”

CS 28/12

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