THE LOW ROAD 2015 Pt 2

I write theoretically humorous and sometimes satirical columns about sport – and quite often sport coverage – which appear in The Age newspaper each weekend.

This is the second, and concluding, part of my annual compilation of equally theoretical highlights from the columns.

All the items that appear here were written in 2015, and drawn from my Sunday column, entitled From The Cheap Seats.

Some editing has taken place, for purposes of clarity, and due to the differing format here, compared to the original context.

The number following an item is the date of publication.

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Presumably business will pick up when soccer’s Asian Cup is underway in a week or so, but right now around town, anticipation and excitement levels seem to be peaking at “folks passed out in backyard hammocks” levels.

4/1

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If it is brain-shavingly bizarre to realise one is being regaled with an extended radio replay of an Essendon-Geelong game from months ago, what really drives home the general air of stale gorgonzola is being subjected to the in-game hair loss sponsor plugs of months ago. Thanks SEN, for your world of entertainment.

4/1

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Andy Harper and Simon Hill asked where the Socceroos would be without Tim Cahill. Well, presumably around 150 in the rankings.

11/1

.
A news story described a “secretive” training session held by Ange Postecoglou and the Socceroos just prior to the Asian Cup opener. It went on to say that the session would be held at AAMI Park, on Thursday evening, that it would last one hour, and that media would be there watching the opening 15 minutes of the session. Some secret session. There may be a few undetected perforations in their Cone of Silence.

11/1

.
During the Australia v England one day international, Michael Slater, in a boxing reference, referred to, “The Russian champ, Wladimir Klitschko.” This is a little like saying “Kiwi tennis great Lleyton Hewitt” only worse. Luckily for all concerned, they don’t pick up cricket telecasts in the Ukraine.

18/1

.
The final of an invitational darts event at Docklands Stadium was either ruined or improved by a disgraceful exhibition during the final in which fans threw and broke plastic furniture, and, according to reports attempted to build a “chair pyramid”. It is believed that previously these were only seen in the furniture retailers of ancient Egypt.

18/1

.
At the Asian Cup, Iran v Iraq ran for approximately the duration of a Peter Jackson-directed, full length movie adaptation of the Shanghai telephone directory.

25/1

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Courtside interviews only amuse tennis court attendees, who are also captivated by face paint, chanting, and Henri Laconte. Quite frankly, some confetti, bubble-wrap and a lollipop would just about hold them for the day.

25/1

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By now, the media must realise that the standard pre-Australian Open drivel stampede, re the purported “rampaging field of Aussie hopefuls ready to grab success by the scruff of the neck and give it an almighty towelling”, bounces straight off the electorate’s heads like news of an art gallery exhibition opening.

25/1

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Of eight knockout stage matches, the breakdown went: Melbourne 1; Brisbane 1; NSW/ACT 6. Quite some national event, the Asian Cup of NSW/ACT.

25/1

.
The tennis producer has to stop pressing the button that electrocutes Bruce McAvaney and makes him spit out inane and largely irrelevant stats like an old-time teletype machine.

1/2

.
Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch turned up for the Super Bowl Media Day, and, in response to a reported 29 separate questions, gave 29 variations on the answer: “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” Actually, that’s gold. If only tennis players would follow this policy during courtside interviews.

1/2

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Sepp Blatter – fairly transparently on the campaign trail for re-election as FIFA President – declared that Australia would be a great place to hold the World Cup, and that it deserves to do so. Going on precedent, this presumably means that Australia will never host the World Cup.

1/2

.
The crowd’s spontaneous 76000-raspberry salute for Sepp Blatter following the Asian Cup final was Super Bowl-level entertainment.

8/2

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Regarding the cricket World Cup opening ceremony, there are those of us, as the years advance, who find it increasingly difficult to recognise the fine line between what administrators consider a sparkling entertainment line-up and something designed as a punitive deterrent sentence to keep wayward youth on track.

15/2

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Not only does milk expire during the group stages of the cricket World Cup, but other items like wood, brick and gold can follow suit.

15/2

.
The entertainment at the AFL grand final doesn’t matter to anybody. You’ve seen it. How could it?

15/2

.
In a performance that suggested they’d just been informed their team bus was double-parked and players would be held accountable for fines accrued, New Zealand introduced 12 over cricket to the World Cup with an eight wicket victory over England, or as it was later termed in police reports, “the hit and run victim”.

22/2

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So, after being banned from Australia, Floyd Mayweather signed for a $250 million fight with Manny Pacquiao. And Floyd’s on the good side of a 60/40 deal. Not to mention – and nobody has yet – his cut of the pay-per-view money. Yeah, well, we sure showed him.

22/2

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James Hird decided not to further pursue legal action regarding ASADA, ending a sequence which seemed to have played out about as unpredictably and closely contested as the landmark long-running case, Coyote v Roadrunner.

1/3

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Karmichael Hunt, speaking at a media conference the day after he was fined $2500 in court for cocaine possession, and an additional $30000 by the Queensland Reds and the ARU, took the opportunity to explain that he didn’t have a drug problem. Well, one way or another, that stuff must be long gone by now.

8/3

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Indian captain M.S. Dhoni was quoted as saying that the lessons learned from recent winless tours of both Australia and New Zealand had put them in good stead for the current World Cup campaign. This should come as great news to St Kilda and Melbourne fans, as, going by that theory, both teams should be dangerously well prepared for their assault on the 2015 AFL premiership.

8/3

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During the GWS v Essendon pre-season match, the subject arose of the Giants’ Round One match against St Kilda. Dwayne Russell piped up brightly: “We’ll have that on Fox Footy!” Let’s see the Comedy Festival top that line. You couldn’t find a gun big enough on the entire planet to scare a free TV network into showing that game.

15/3

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Michael Clarke declared that the Australians would treat the quarter final like it was the final. The opposition were never going to overcome cutting-edge strategic mastery like this.

22/3

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At the cricket World Cup, the entertainment menu consists of stumps that light up, face paint in the crowd, and a handful of flyblown dance songs sounding like the local drug dealer has just pulled up at the traffic lights in the next car with his windows and inhibitions down, and his engine, libido and stereo violently overheating in alphabetical order.

29/3

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In the recent cricket World Cup semi, it was noted in commentary, “India will keep fighting, that’s for sure.”
Well, what else? Throw away a few cheap wickets so they could all pile in early for a rollicking evening at a nearby pizza parlour? Surrender the match and break out the cards for a poker game on the pitch?

5/4

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Hamish McLachlan, re concluding stages, Essendon v Hawthorn:
“Fabulous theatre! And everything relating to fabulous in the dictionary.”
Clearly the AFL season has started with a bang in the booth. Or, as Hamish McLachlan might see it, with a dimming of house lights, a parting of the curtains and a stirring fanfare.

19/4

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The value of an expert commentator can never be over-stressed.

From Fremantle v Port Adelaide, Rd 1 –
Gerard Healy: “Was it a push in the back, Johnno?”
Brad Johnson: “Hard to tell, Gerard.”

Same game –
Gerard Healy: “Is that incidental contact?”
Brad Johnson: “I was watching the ball there.”

Vaudeville might well be dead, but Gerard and Brad were apparently determined not to let it go without a fight.

19/4

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Speaking of advanced science in football commentary jargon, boundary reporter Ben Dixon, brought us “spread and run” last Saturday night.
Although preliminary reports are sketchy, one suspects that “spread and run” is like the application of maple syrup to a pancake, whereas the conventionally encountered “run and spread” is more like soft-boiled egg over toast.

3/5

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No doubt under a good deal of headphone instruction, Fox Footy channel’s Sandy Roberts was promoting the notion that viewers should get in early to buy the pay-per-view of the Manny Pacquiao v Floyd Mayweather fight lest they otherwise miss out.

At a crucial juncture the genial host misspoke ever so slightly, resulting in the memorable slogan:
“Don’t avoid the disappointment.”
In Sandy’s defence, apparently thousands later agreed with this accidental prediction.

10/5

.
During Fox Sports News, a reporter announced in grim, somber tones:
“Manny Pacquiao faces a five million dollar lawsuit.”
That wasn’t at all hilarious, right up until you thought about it. The only problem Manny might have had there, would be scrabbling around his pay envelope from the Mayweather fight, trying to find small enough change to pay the tab.

10/5

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Nowadays, you are about as likely to see a brontosaurus on field as a drop kick. But coaches probably feel that, of the two, you’d have greater control over the brontosaurus.

17/5

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WADA may incorporate just about everybody on the planet who believes the Essendon supplements saga hasn’t rattled on long enough, and that there may be a decade or two’s extra mileage left in it.

17/5

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From 3AW’s half-time summary, Melbourne v Western Bulldogs:
“The difference between how the two forward lines have looked at either end is piles (sic) apart.”
How many piles, and of what, remained indeterminate. As did the reasons why there were apparently two forward lines at each end of the field, making four in total. Or what happened to the poles that usually feature in that idiomatic expression.

31/5

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Credit must also go to a Fox Sports News reporter, ahead of rugby league’s annual State of Origin series, who referred to the ultra-professionalism exhibited by the teams these days, noting there was “Virtually no alcohol at all.”
Clearly, a standout example of very nearly iron will.

31/5

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Even those who felt the entire situation to be redolent of bug-nuttiness raised to new heights of fruit-cakery had to be impressed by what followed the dubious FIFA election – Sepp Blatter’s celebrated address in which he seemingly declared himself the “President of Everybody”.
This had to come as a major body-blow to Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin, and hardline US patriotic types, who presumably all harboured disparate beliefs about who would have the inside track on becoming the President of Everybody.

7/6

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This sequence of events seemed to allow the inference that Sepp Blatter had become the kind of person who could go to the theatre by himself and still qualify for the group rate.

7/6

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The other major development to emerge from current FIFA news is an expression that may become a new world standard in euphemism for the inexplicable evaporation of major public funds – i.e. “A legitimate program to develop football in the Caribbean”.
This could receive quite a workout. With a catchy tune behind it, it could be a worldwide smash hit.

7/6

.
To further underscore the unadorned bleakness of his situation, Lance Armstrong explained that he had “more or less” fallen out of love with cycling. However, he gets out on the golf course most days, so it’s not a total loss.
Hmm. Come to drink about it, this may be one of the least gripping sagas of former sport celebrity suffering of all time.

14/6

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At the MCG for State of Origin II, Nine’s rugby league commentator Ray Warren got the inevitable reference to “”This massive colosseum” away very early in proceedings, thus relieving those concerned about any creeping trend towards tinier colosseums.

21/6

.
Gerard Whateley, on Fox Sports News, philosophically noted:
“You never recognise these things till hindsight.”
Hindsight – that’s a period of time now. There was yesterday, there were the dinosaurs, and somewhere in between those, but after New Kids on the Block, resides “hindsight”.

28/6

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“They were dangerous when they went inside 50,” reflected Seven’s Cameron Ling of the Western Bulldogs at quarter time of their ultimately successful outing against St Kilda.
He presumably takes a cautious, OH&S-oriented approach to danger, does Cameron, as the Bulldogs managed all of 1.3 in the first quarter. Maybe if they’d gone absolutely haywire a second goal might have erupted.

5/7

.
If you happen to be loitering around our neck of the woods, the footy season had rounded the corner and was barrelling towards the pointy end – a time which, at least to some sports fans’ minds, needs a cricket test series dropped on top of it like a giraffe needs an automatic transmission.

12/7

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Regarding Australia’s 60-run first innings cameo in the fourth Ashes test, the national team was out there for 90 minutes in total, or roughly long enough for the opening credits, a stunning image of a snow-capped mountain, and a couple of introductory lines of dialogue in a Peter Jackson movie.

9/8

.
Hamish McLachlan, at the Geelong v Brisbane game:
“He’s sort of the ‘Let’s see what you can do’ type player.”
No earthly idea there. Sounds like the guy should be hosting an activities-based kids’ show on afternoon television.

9/8

.
Gerard Healy to Swans coach John Longmire, prior to the Swans v Eagles game:
“I guess the chessboard has been out all morning, John, and you’ve been throwing the pieces around.”
By the sounds of things, you probably wouldn’t want to play chess with Gerard Healy, at least without a protective helmet.

9/8

.
Following the Geelong-Swans match, Dermott Brereton noted:
“The Geelong crowd were sensitive to [Adam] Goodes and his situation.”
Yes, the Kardinia Park crowd has long been famous for the delicacy of its sensibilities in all situations. There’s not a man, woman or child among them that couldn’t pick the correct asparagus fork out of a cutlery line-up.

16/8

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Regarding stats in footy coverage, there’s never been a supporter, player, coach or club who said they didn’t mind losing a match so long as they were leading on all the other numbers. And it doesn’t matter how high you pile the statistical horse hockey, it still won’t turn around and analyse the match for you.
These are statements so obvious that it’s conceivable a TV commentator could have come up with them.

16/8

.
Back in free TV land, Seven network nabob Kerry Stokes was defiantly unambiguous:
“We’d like to play football every day of the week.”
In case anyone ever wondered just who was driving the general barnyard insanity regarding matches on Monday night, Tuesday lunchtime, Whistler’s Mother’s birthday, and any remaining parma-and-a-pot nights strewn across the urban calendar, arguably they’ve now got a pretty fair idea.

23/8

.
Thursday night football seems an awfully high price to pay to drag Channel Seven thrashing and squawking into the age of high-definition television. Well, according to the terms of the agreement, they will discover it by the 2017 AFL season. But in an extraordinary outburst of swashbuckling experimentation, the Seven daredevils haven’t ruled out a dabble in HD as soon as 2016. Shazam!

23/8

.
GWS Giants coach Leon Cameron had descended from the coaches’ box and was conducting business at ground-level. According to varying rapid-fire theories from the Fox Footy channel experts, this was for strategic reasons, was “excellent hands-on coaching”, or was because his phone upstairs was broken.
Yeah, it was probably one of those anyway. That, or the guys upstairs ran out of jelly snakes and magical sports cordial, and the coach drew the short straw and had to go get them.

30/8

.
Dwayne Russell, Fox Footy channel:
“Coming up, a couple of massive games.”
The problem there was context. The “massive games” to come were St Kilda-Geelong and Adelaide-Brisbane – a double-header about as appealing in prospect as a major dental procedure followed by a three-day business seminar.

30/8

.
Jon Ralph, Fox Footy channel:
“Deledio said he only came to when the trainers arrived, which indicates that he lost consciousness.”
If they ever make an updated version of the medical investigation drama series Quincy ME, clearly television already has its new Jack Klugman.

6/9

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“The theatre of this place is incredible!” raved Dwayne Russell, at Port v Fremantle.
He didn’t specify whether he meant the commentary booth or Adelaide Oval, but on a whim we’ll go with the overall venue. Anyway, there’s a theatre there now, apparently.

13/9

.
“There’s no such thing as a dead rubber,” enthused Leigh Matthews at Collingwood v Essendon. Matthew Richardson had shared a similar sentiment with viewers about Port v Fremantle the night before.
And no-one could raise the slightest objection to those comments, unless it was the objection that both of those matches were dead rubbers.
Dead as a door-knob. Dead as the Ashton Kutcher episodes of Two and a Half Men. Deader than entertainment feels when featured in the expression, “grand final entertainment”.

13/9

.
Basil Zempilas at Pies v Bombers tried for a more measured optimism:
“The second half has been enthralling in its own way.”
An expression which may well prove invaluable if you ever feel compelled to say something complimentary about friends’ holiday snaps or the Comedy Channel’s Open Slather.

13/9

.

“The only Premier League side to pick up a single point was Chelsea, which picked up all three,” noted a BBC reporter with an apparent tendency to confuse the numbers one and three. One imagines a degree of suspense at his table at the pub, when it’s his turn to go to the bar and order a round of drinks.

20/9

.
Luke Darcy, Bulldogs v Adelaide, Seven:
“Everybody in the industry is zoned in on this game tonight.”
Luke brought his own episode of Entourage with him in his mind there, apparently. The jargon in this description set new peaks in the fields of both zowie-dom and nausea.
However, given that there was only one AFL match on Saturday night, you couldn’t fault the accuracy.

20/9

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Sir Richard Branson turned up on camera in full Western Bulldogs replica regalia so new it was remarkable he wasn’t obscured from view by price tags.

20/9

.
From a sideline reporter at the rugby World Cup match, New Zealand v Argentina:
“Down here it’s electric. I know that term’s very used a lot. (sic)”
You know, that expression IS “very used a lot”. Given a language that runs to hundreds of pages in larger dictionaries, maybe someone could dredge up another term one of these days. But you wouldn’t be holding your breath.

27/9

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“It’s absolutely going to go all the way to the end, this one,” vouchsafed Matthew Richardson, reassuring football fans who are tired of all those matches that pull up irritatingly short of a conclusion.

Noted David King of the Eagles in the first quarter:
“They were on the ropes. They were on the rack.”
Tough enough to be a boxer, but apparently this one was being tortured by the Spanish Inquisition.

“They have a diabolical need for a goal!” yodelled Brian Taylor, proving he had a diabolical need for a dictionary.

4/10

.
You can’t really defy the laws of physics, or – as was suggested of a goal replayed during the Brownlow telecast – the “laws of geometry”. All of science doesn’t have to make an accommodation just because someone dribbles in a squirrelly-looking one from the boundary line.

4/10

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You can say what you like about ads for pergolas, concrete pendant lights, chickens, the armed forces and cars, but at least they stay right in the ad breaks where they belong. It might be a novelty if the gambling ads followed suit.

4/10

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The many nominally entertainment-oriented TV programs about Australian football, or “Footytainment” shows, follow an ironclad, and iron-brained, formula.
Invariably, Footytainment sprinkles ex-footballers, a few journos and the odd comedian around a desk to achieve a punishing alternative to humour, which, if left untreated by vigorous manipulation of the channel-changing button on the remote control, may result in dangerous erosion of the will to live.

11/10

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The grand final edition of The Footy Show was strangely reminiscent of long-time AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd, as watching it seemed exactly like eight months of home detention.

11/10

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Samuel L. Jackson has undoubtedly seen more screen time via his sport betting ads than all his motion picture appearances nailed together.

18/10

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“Gamble responsibly” is arguably the great unhailed non-sequitur and oxymoron of our time.

18/10

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“Hallowed” may be one of those words, like “analogy” and “reactionary”, that may require further research as to what the sporting fraternity THINK it means, as opposed to drearily conventional definitions supplied by dictionaries.

25/10

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“Just look at the elation on the blue and white shirts!” exploded one match caller, as Argentina secured victory against Ireland.
It was difficult to spot it there, to be honest, but horizontal stripes may reveal more to the expert observer than others.

25/10

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Incidentally for those of you playing catch-up netball here, Sepp Blatter is FIFA president. Except he’s currently suspended. It’s hard to know what he is right now. Reuters went with “suspended FIFA president Sepp Blatter”. Proverbially speaking, that’s got a heck of a beat and the kids can dance to it.

1/11

.
Mark Nicholas declared:
“Cricket is a game of patience in general. Patience in watching it.”
No doubt this was not in specific reference to the match commentary, but viewers may have found it barely possible to make a connection.

8/11

.
As the mercilessly thorough reports revealed, Sam Burgess seems a fairly likable sort of fellow, loves the South Sydney Rabbitohs, has an interesting arrangement of teeth, and is making plans for his upcoming wedding with his fiancée Phoebe.
Had the pay-TV channels concerned run this story just a couple more times it may have been technically legal for viewers to claim Sam Burgess as a dependent for tax purposes.

15/11

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Barely had Mundine’s 11th round TKO loss to Charles Hatley occurred when Fox Sports News lurched to declare him, “One of the greatest boxers Australia has produced.” Maybe they should investigate the decaf option once in a while.

15/11

.

One of the hazards of being a known football supporter at this time of year is that a number of people are bound to ask you what you think of the AFL draft.
Probably the best move here is to simply respond that it’s an underrated drop if served in a chilled receptacle in a pub that keeps its beer lines nice and clean. Your inquisitor may be flabbergasted enough to let you walk out of range before they can indicate that wasn’t the kind of draught they had in mind.

29/11

.
While a scientific calculator app might bail you out on tangents and cosines, they haven’t yet built the contraption that can handle the AFL draft. If they did, it would presumably be the size of mainland China.

29/11

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No doubt the whole FIFA mess has wound up exactly where everybody thought it would – i.e. with Russian president, and previously unsuspected comic genius, Vladimir Putin, insisting that suspended FIFA president Sepp Blatter should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. One thing we learn from this is that it would be very interesting to pick President Putin’s brains on what he thinks are the criteria for winning a Nobel Peace Prize.

Beyond that, the Putin pronouncement is a little starved for anything resembling sense. President Vlad may as well have nominated Blatter for the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, the Brownlow Medal, and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscars while he was hanging around the microphone.

20/12

.
Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger may have even given it his best attempt at a smile, which would presumably look not dissimilar to someone who’s forgetfully chewed a Christmas nut on a bum tooth.

27/12

.
Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were gifted with twin eight-year bans by the unexpectedly resolute FIFA Ethics Committee. It was like Dracula HAD been put in charge of the Blood Bank, but had then run it equitably and transparently.

27/12

.
Sepp Blatter’s response to his ban was reminiscent of the famous cast-iron defence of the arrested criminal mastermind, George “Mother” Machree, in the vintage Daffy Duck cartoon Rocket Squad:
“I didn’t do nothin’! I didn’t do nothin’! Like I said, I didn’t do nothin’!”

27/12

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