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Friday, 5 December 2008

Is F1 Running Out Of Gas?

A busy week for the Almost Daily Sports Blog. Three posts! You'd know exams are around the corner....

So Honda have withdrawn from Formula One. Wow. the credit crunch has bit hard on the world's most glamorous sport. That a car manufacturer should decide to leave a luxury sport in a time of economic down turn is not surprising. What is surprising is the timing of the announcement. Honda were said to be close to having a much improved 2009 and, under Ross Brawn, had tested next year's car in Barcelona in recent weeks.

There are still hopes that a buyer can be found for the team, particularly since the car giant are expected to be willing to take a nominal fee to shift the team from it's books. Yet in such a recession, who in their right mind would be willing to take on a team that has an annual operating budget of almost $500m??

I've been following Formula One for over fifteen years. My earliest memories are of private racing teams winning Grands Prix (Ferrari aside). Williams were the dominant team then, today they are small. This is due to the advancement into the sport of giant car manufacturers. They viewed F1 as an expensive advertisement for the superiority of their cars. Yet now, when the cash runs tight, F1 could be the first thing they drop.

I have it on good authority that there are three more teams in danger of dropping out of the sport in the short-to-mid term. That turns the sport into a farce. Who would watch 12 cars race for two hours?

The problem is not just that teams are pulling out, but that it is impossible for teams to join. Eddie Jordan started Jordan F1 and scored points the first time his cars went to the grid. That could not happen today due to the exponential increase in spending that the sport has seen. And now the cash has dried up, so that money is even more difficult to come by. It is a vicious circle. I do not see a way out. The 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix may yet turn out to be the sport's grand farewell...

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Thinkin' Of Z

I'm a little slow on this one - it's a busy week in college, and in my own personal life too. On Monday, Peter King announced in his Monday Morning QB article on si.com that the much-loved Dr. Z is recovering from two strokes he suffered on November 20th and 21st. The title was aptly Dr. Z is best football writer of our time. Simple, truthful.

I'd just like to pass on my very best to Paul Zimmerman and Linda, The Flaming Redhead. Z is a great writer, though that's almost irrelevant at a time when his health is at stake, something obviously far more important. Describing Z to a non-football fan just now, I described his impact like this.

There's just so many run of the mill writers today that don't contribute anything to an articles and then there's grumpy farts like Z who's pieces tread that delicate line between being factual and insightful while retaining an input from the writer's actual personality.

I'm a grumpy fart too. That's a compliment toZ in a rant from me. What I would love is to have his deft choice of language, his humour and most importantly his knowledge and passion for the sport. Z picked the Giants to win XLII you know, and he in a style which encapsulates the man.

As an Irish American Football fan who has learned so much about the sport and its history from Z, and someone who would love one day to be paid to write about sport, I genuinely hope that we'll get to read his views on XLIII as well.

Get better Z.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Golden Goodbye For Oscar?

So Oscar De La Hoya has said that he's not going to retire after he fights Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas on Saturday, preferring instead to fight Ricky Hatton in Wembley next year.
Christ. Another clown and another travelling circus. Just what boxing needs.

I really couldn't use any other picture....

Oscar burst onto the scene at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 as a blubbering young man not long off burying his mother. His sad story captured America's heart (oh what we'd give for another boxer to do the same now... a Heavyweight per chance... Too bad Dick Ebersol doesn't think boxing deserves a spot on NBC any more...) and within two years he hadbecome a Champion. Since then, the Golden Boy has won titles at five weights and has undoubtedly become the sport's biggest pay-per-view star.

Saturday's fight was to be his goodbye, in a town where he is loved, against a 'name' fighter that he should soundly beat because of their difference in size. Sure, Manny will have the speed, but as we saw in Hatton's recent demolition of Paulie Malignaggi, power is king.

Oscar will win on Saturday. The fight will do reasonable business - lower than expected on account of the downturn but probably somewhere near 1,000,000 buys at $54.95, pleasing bosses of HBO. And then... Oscar won't go. In a comeback as unwelcome as Hendrix's vomit, he'll be back next year, for another 'one last fight.'

I love boxing. It is art. I mean that. Nothing beats the purity of the sport and nothing matches the excitement of two gladitorial copmetitors giving their all. Yet as a business, it has many failings, among them the reluctance of a former star refusing to go away.

Oscar - go away.

You've got money, you've got a family and most importantly you have your health. You've given the sport some and taken away a lot more. Fight Saturday, win Saturday and then (and I mean this with all the love and goodwill in the world), fuck off.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

The Best Sporting Event No One Follows

One of the best and most undercovered events of the year is taking place this weekend. The European Tour Qualifying School Final is taking place in Girona in Spain. It won't get much coverage - I'm pretty sure it's not on TV, while the website of the European Tour itself isn't giving the Tournament much prominence.

Yet this is golf, and indeed sport, at it's purest. Men, and their caddies, playing for a living, for a livelihood. I'd love to talk about the stories but they're difficult to find out! I'd love to advocate that you follow it but, again, that's not the easiest thing to. The drama is easy to imagine though. One putt, one hooked shot, one lucky bounce could be the difference between getting a Card and not. Sure, it's for money rather than winning, but it's an event where dreams can come true...or not.

Yet I shall say this - good luck to the Irish who are competing in Girona this week. The Almost Daily Sports Blog wishes long, straight and true shots onto Michael McGeady, Simon Thornton, Michael Hoey and Johnathon Caldwell.

And for the rest of you, check out the account of the USPGA Final Qualifying School Tournament in John Feinstein's A Good Walk Spoiled. A compelling read, and a great book.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Fantastic F1 Finale In Store

Lewis v. Felipe.

McLaren v. Ferrari.

Tomorrow's Brazilian Grand Prix promises to be special. World Title deciders often fail to deliver but tomorrow's could be special. Today's Qualifying has thrown up a grid that should give us an interesting struggle for Hamilton, and the weather (80% chance of rain according to weather.com) will also give us another wild card to deal with.

I've been lucky this year to have attended two Grand Prix. Thanks to the fine people at Bridgestone for that one! I won't pretend that gives me an insight into the Championship battle, but I did on both occasions get to see Lewis up close. He is an affable guy, one who represents the sport well. In Barcelona he was good enough to show up and lend his support to the GP2 Series, while in Monza I personally witnessed him laugh at Italian fans who heckled him as he entered the paddock.

I'll still be pulling for Massa though. I've a bet on him.

Either way, most importantly and in all seriousness, my one true wish is for a good race, a tight battle and for a lack of controversy, something which has been all too prevident this season.

* * *

Also, as a quick aside, tomorrow's race will be the last covered by ITV in the UK for the foreseeable future. From 2009, the contract returns to what many call the sport's spiritual home at the BBC. I, for one, was delighted when I heard the news but tomorrow will nonetheless be an era for fans of the sport. ITV are unlikely to have a grand farewell like the BBC did in 1996 (though I did like the montage before today's Qualifying session) but when tomorrow's race ends, I know I will not be the only Formula 1 fan from this part of the world thanking Mark, Ted, Martin, Steve and even James for their work over the past 12 seasons.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

There's Hope For Me Yet!

If this woman can get a job then surely even I can too!!

What a gaffe. God bless Youtube!

Gavin Grace....your potential employee!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Time To 'Execute' Racism in Boxing

You have to learn one thing. You have to learn that slickness that black fighters have and then you'll really be a great champion.

Bernard Hopkins, speaking to Kelly Pavlik after winning their non-title 170 pound fight on Saturday.

What can you say about Bernard Hopkins? From the moment he entered the ring in Atlantic City on Saturday night, wearing (for the first time in many a year) his trademark Executioner mask, we should have known something was up.

What a performance.

For those of you who didn't see it, B-Hop dominated Pavlik from start to finish with a comfortable unanimous decision. I had it 118-107 but in truth it didn't matter - this was a (surprising) whitewash.

However, his comments after the fight (shown above, taken from Dan Rafael's account of the fight on espn.com) are sickening. Coming from the man who said he would 'never lose to a white boy' before he fought Joe Calzaghe, this is another racist statement which should not be tolerated.

I have no problem with Bernard as a fighter. Sure, he's not the most exciting to watch, but to see him mentally as well as physically deconstruct an opponent is a great sight. It is art. Yet for this statement to go virtually unnoticed is a disgrace.

Bernard - you are a first ballot Hall of Famer. In a time when boxing shoots itself in the foot with alphabet soup organisations and too many champions, you were for many years an undisputed champion in one of it's key divisions. In terms of dominance and superiority, you were a throwback to halycon fighters such as Sugar Ray Robinson and Carlos Monzon. Yet statements such as this, as well as your chequered history, make you unlikeable as a human being.

Now, more then ever, boxing needs strong leaders in the ilk of Ali, Louis and Marciano. MMA, though I don't rate it myself, has become a threat. It is taking money and attention out of boxing. Yet it is struggling as well, and in the fight of the pugilistic disciplines, 'faces' would go a long way. These men need to be likable, these men need to be exciting and, Bernard, it makes no difference if they're black or white.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Baseball = Politics?

Saw this picture just now, over here.

Is it a case of the second one will be right?
Or, one down one to go?
I know which one I want... but I won't say. Sport and politics should never mix... ;)

Monday, 6 October 2008

Agony and Ecstacy

So why do we like sport? That's a question I'm often asked. I'm passionate about my sport, just ask anyone who knows me, including Ash who's on the couch beside me watching the Gilmore Girls... and she says I'm sad.

This weekend I experienced the highs and the lows of sport, the reason that I follow teams, sportsmen, my country, my province.
On Saturday night the Chicago Cubs were dumped out of the MLB Playoffs by the Dodgers. Another sweep. Christ.. Now I'm not the biggest Cubbie in the world. I'm only a recent convert. Nonetheless, I really wanted them to win this year. It would have been great symmetry, 100 years after their last World Series win, five years after Steve Bartman. However, it was not to be.

By the way, Ozzie... Fuck you too.

Then, less than 24 hours later, Connacht took on Leinster in the Magners League in rugby. Oh Connacht... being a fan of the worst province in is the definition of a labour of love. We are given less money then every other team, and are less successful then the others also. Yet sometimes...sometimes the underdog wins. That was last night. Connacht beat Leinster 19-18. It was amazing. I cried. Genuinely, I cried. It was beautiful.

That's why I love sport. Joy, despair.. I laughed, I cried. It was everything that sport should be about. It was life at it's purest. Sport gives us moments we yearn for, ranges of emotion that re only otherwise hit in times such as family deaths, births and weddings. My life is sport. Sport is my life.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Lance Is Back

Astana? Astana? I've blogged about Lance before. I'm not a fan, but if his comeback brings attention to the world of cycling, in a positive way, then great. But to go to a team with the history of Astana....? Jeez Lance. You're making loving you even harder then I thought possible.

Friday, 12 September 2008

I'm A Cubbie

I love sport. If you don't know me, then you've probably gathered that by now. I hope. I am passionate. I love sport, and I love the teams I follow. Galway hurlers. Galway footballers. Galway United. Manchester United. Connacht Rugby. Kansas City Chiefs. Anyone who dons an Irish singlet. I follow them all.

I like other sports though, but sometimes I do so without following a team. I love the sport. I watch baseball, college sports in the US and can enjoy them without the manic obsession of devoting myself to one team. Tonight... I became a Cubbie.

I watched this film and, honestly, I cried. More than once. It is a piece of art - a stunning 90 seconds of video. It is the testimony of ten people, ten life-long Chicago Cubs fans. They range from 7 to 100 and all share one thing - they've never seen their side win the World Series. They are living through anguish - anguish known by Chiefs fans, by Connacht followers, by Galway United fans, by those of us who follow a side for reasons beyond the scoreboard. I empathise with these people - with Helen Kieling who has followed the Cubs for all of her life, and still hopes that she will experience the win some day, though she has all but lost her sight and hearing.

Sport gives hope. It gives pain and anguish, and pure joy. I love it. It gives me life. Watch this video - you'll understand.

Go Cubs.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Pollard Didn't Go Gillooly

I'm a Kansas City Chiefs fan. For my sins. Don't get me wrong, I love the red and gold. Love. There's a long story behind that, but feel free to ask some time.

We're set for a bad year. In fact, our high point may have been on Sunday when we lost to the New England Patriots. We will not get the same level of coverage again me thinks.

For those of you who don't know, Tom Brady is out for the season after a hit from our safety Brandon Pollard. It wasn't malicious. It just happened. It's a contact sport. I'm being neutral here. Honest. Check the hit out on nfl.com for proof. It did remind me of something though. The song below was written last year when the Patriots were invincible. It's very apt.

Explanation of title is here

Monday, 1 September 2008

The Premier League - Raging Bull Or Cash Cow?

It's transfer deadline day. Between work this morning (in Spin Southwest) and keeping an eye online since I came home, I've been keeping one eye on it most of the day. Well done the BBC!

The interesting move of the day, for me, is the purchase of Manchester City by a UAE based business group. SKY News say that these guys have ten times the money of Roman Abramovich and judging by the rumours today, they're willing to spend it too. They're just the latest club to be bought up by oligarchs - Aston Villa, Liverpool, Manchester United and of course Chelsea have all been purchased by owners from foreign lands in recent years.

I don't mind their origin. They can be English or Estonian for all I care. What does worry me is that these are businessmen, with their eyes fixed firmly on the ca$h they can make from these deals. SKY, Setanta (and increasingly foreign TV companies) have boosted the coffers of the Premier League as a whole. That money makes today one of the most fascinating days of the year, when (literally) hundreds of millions of pounds are spent on players from all corners of the world.

I worry about the future though. What happens when the bubble bursts? What happens when the owners pull out? Where will that leave the fans who have been loyal in the dark days of terraces, muddy pitches and All-English XI's? The bubble may not burst for some time - the Champions League etc. mean that the clubs have several sources of income. Yet, this will dry up in time. That's the nature of the market.

Speaking of the market, that very same commercialism has brought about these riches. It is the reason that the League is the strongest in the world. It is the reason that these oligarchs are here and, it is the reason that they cannot simply be banned/removed. The future is bright, for now, but in these times of economic uncertainty clouds will soon gather on the horizon.

Friday, 29 August 2008

First Non-Sports Entry!

Michael Jackson turns fifty today. Sure, this has nothing to do with sport, but any excuse to watch one of my favourite scenes in the history of cinema. Well, I say cinema... Made-for-TV counts, right?

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Hitler Shuns Michael Phelps!

It's less than a week since Michael Phelps beat Mark Spitz's record and clinched his 8th Olympics Gold Medal. I've seen criticism of the US commentator, Dan Hicks, in some quarters but I don't think anything is as bad as this guy. Here's how the people of Venezuela saw the start of the 4x100m I.M Relay last weekend.

Friday, 22 August 2008

All That Glistens Need Not Be Gold

So, a mixed day for Irish boxing. I'm not going to buy into the hysteria of 'Fabulous Friday', not when two of our three boxers in action were beaten. I watched all three fights, live - I've seen every Irish Olympic medal since i was born and I wasn't going to stop today.

Kenny won. Hardly a surprise. Jeffries looked scared in an interview this week and acted like it in the ring today. Sutherland showed no grit or determination. Not happy with his performance at all. However, I want to talk about Paddy Barnes.

Paddy is 21, from Belfast, and did very well to medal in these Games. Against the two-time World Champion and home favourite Shiming Zou he was always up against it. What interested me, however, is the interview he gave after the fight. If you're in Ireland you can see it here and if not, then allow me to summise. Barnes attacked the judges for not awarding him a single point - a valid argument. But when Marty Morrissey (who looks oddly like Betty Boop) tried to cheer him up by saying that he did well, Barnes was indignant. The bronze medal is for "losers", he said, and "[the organisers] can keep it, I don't care."

I hope Paddy regrets his outburst. He has done remarkably well to get this far and could go on to greater things in London in 2012. However, that attitude is the wrong one. He's been a major part of one of our most successful teams in over 50 years. He has done his country, his club and most importantly himself proud in Beijing. He's done a lot more than some 'athletes' in this country who are revered as heroes. I hope that he becomes more positive about his achievements very soon.

Remember Paddy, bronze ain't bad.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Enjoying the Olympics??

I somehow think this girl isn't!

I'd make a 'pain in the ass' joke but I'm afraid you'd think it's crap!

Bolt From The Blue

So how have they been for you? The Almost Daily Sports Blog has been thoroughly enjoying the Games at the expense of many other aspects of my life...such as The Almost Daily Sports Blog.

Ireland are doing magnificently. Well, certainly our boxers are. Don't rule out Denis Lynch tomorrow though...nor Olive Loughnane later on tonight. Ok Olive is unlikely, but since she's from my hometown that's a real homer pick.

The Games have belonged to two people - Phelps and Bolt. So, who's the star?

Let's assess the facts. Michael Phelps has won 8 gold medals in Beijing. More than Spitz. He's won 14 overall. More than Ireland. He set seven World Records along the way, in every event bar the 100m Butterfly, which he did win despite the claims of some people.

Usain Bolt on the other hand, so far, only has two gold medals and two World Records. However, to me, he is the star of these Olympics. He is the first man in 24 years to complete the 100m/200m double. He is the first ever to win both in World Records. He also has the chance to win a third medal this weekend in the 4x100m relay with the all dominant Jamaican sprinting team.

So which tally is most impressive?? For me... it is Bolt. Just.

Phelps' records have as much to do with a technological fluke than anything else. The pool is deeper and wider than most and the new LZR suits from Speedo add an estimated 2% to an athlete's performance. Sure, everyone else has the use of the same technology, but that gives him a distinct advantage over those who went before him. As for these games, but for Jason Lezek, and the previously mentioned squeaky bum touch over Milorad Cavic, there would have been no gold rush.

Bolt, on the other hand, is in a different class. He set the 100m World Record by running only 85 of them and today, broke one of the most impressive records in the book, Michael Johnson's 19.32 in Atlanta in 1996. Both performances were phenomenal. Simply stunning. His winning margins are impressive. In events where margins are measured in the hundredths, he won by a chasm. He is brilliant.

I confess that I had my doubts about Bolt. Too often athletes have shown us flashes of brilliance, only to rob us of the joy of what we have seen. Like someone in the audience of a magic show, I wondered where the rabbit came from. However, I have been assured that he is clean. I sincerely hope he is. Track and fired needs a star. It needs an instantly recognizable face. It needs an L.T., an A-Rod, a Wayne Rooney. It needs a Michael Phelps. Usain Bolt is that man. Usain Bolt is a super-star. Usain Bolt is the greatest athlete in the Games of the 29th Olympiad.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Gremlins... And Not The Furry Kind

Apologies or the absence of this blog. Laptop issues have struck in recent weeks. Hoping to get them solved very shortly.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Me Tarzan, You Jane

Does sexism still prevail in the world of sport?

The inspiration for this topic comes from an article in this week's Sunday Independent (no, I personally didn't buy it). Written by Eamonn Sweeney, it argues that Padraig Harrington is Ireland's greatest ever sportsman. A valid argument, perhaps, and most certainly a topical one. It's even one I proposed last Monday morning in work. Yet, I was struck by one line in the article.

Ronnie Delany's Olympic gold medal over 1,500m in 1956 marks him down as one of our very greatest as does John Tracey's silver medal in the 1984 marathon in a time which would have won any Olympics before or since. Eamonn Coghlan and Sonia O' Sullivan were world champions in their day and world class for many years....

Three of the athletes in this sentence have won Olympic Medals - only two of them are mentioned. Why did Mr. Sweeney omit O' Sullivan's silver medal in the 5000m in Sydney? He goes on

Harrington's current number three position (in the World Golf Rankings) is...uniquely impressive in Irish sport.

Yet this is not unique. In 1995, O' Sullivan was named Women's Track and Field Athlete of the Year and as recently as May of this year, Jessica Kuerten was also ranked Number 2 in the world in show jumping. (She may have been higher at one point but I can't prove this, yet I think she was. She is Number 7 for the month of July.)

Now, I'm not accusing Mister Sweeney of sexism here. I read his articles every week. Opinion pieces on sport are designed to provoke discussion and that is all that I am doing here, albeit not on the topic he proposed. However, I do wonder whether there is sexism in the coverage of sports and if this is justified?

Studies show that men's sport gets the lion's share of coverage. This is a broad statement but is generally true for almost all sports and almost all countries. A quick trip to an academic library will show bias both in the amount of coverage, and in the way women athletes are personified. Galleries such as this one are often devoted to women athletes, but rarely to men (not that I'd be looking!). This is an issue which has been discussed in other blogs by people far more qualified than I.

Yet, I regard this as fair. I recently discussed this with a friend of mine where I (successfully... I think) argued that men are superior to women. I don't mean better, but I mean of higher rank or importance. It's a controversial argument, and I'm not saying that men are better than the fairer sex. However, I do argue that due to historic and social reasons, men are the prevailing sex in society.

The same is true in sport. Women's sport has always been second best. It was 1984 before women were deemed capable of running an Olympic marathon. While men's finals in football, rugby, GAA and basketball were given prominent TV coverage in markets across the world for years, only recently have women's finals come close to this. Even then, viewing figures and attendances are rarely comparable.

This does not mean that the accomplishments of female athletes should be devalued. O' Sullivans medal should be mentioned and journalists in particular should ensure that they are not discriminatory. My mum was angered by this article. She emailed Eamonn Sweeney who kindly replied admitting his mistake. A small victory for feminism!

So what do you think? I'm quite happy with the status quo, because I think it reflects what audiences want. Journalism should not be sexist, but the coverage of sports should reflect the wants of it's audience. However, I am a man, and would love to know if any of the gals out there disagree and think they're under-represented. Leave me a comment.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Swinging For The Olympics

Not long left now. Only 12 days until the Opening Ceremony of the greatest show on earth. As a forewarning, this could be an exclusively Olympic zone for two-three weeks in August. I enjoy them a lot, and intend to live on Chinese time throughout.

The TV companies are ramping up their coverage of the Games already. Here in Ireland RTE are running an excellent documentary series on our athlete heading over there - well worth checking out. Across the pond, the BBC will have their usual excellent coverage, the ad for which was released this week. Take a look.

The ad is based on the 70's TV show, Monkey. It in turn, though Japanese, was the story of a Chinese folk tale from the 16th Century, hence the Beijing link. Now, I never got into it when it was on Saturday mornings so I may be biased, but I don't get the Monkey/Olympics link.

As a piece of animation it's lovely. Don't get me wrong. Technically the piece is flawless. However, while I may be in the minority, I do not understand the thinking behind using this TV show to advertise the games.

There are celeb links to the piece. The score for it is composed by Damon Albarn from Blur and Gorillaz. Now, he's also the brains of a stage version of the show which would no doubt see increased business as a result of the Monkey nostalgia, though I'd never be one to suggest that the BBC are getting a famous name to promote the Olympics in return for some fringe benefits for him...

I'd love someone to explain the thinking behind this to me. Why is Monkey a better choice than, say, athletes running over the Great Wall Of China or RTE's more traditional offering. (Can't find a link to that, but I like this news story about Olympic preparations on rte.ie)

So, if anyone out there can convince me I'm wrong about the Monkey link I'd love to hear from you. I hope that this is the only fault I have with this year's Olympics, but if I do have an issue, then I shall air my grievences here. Let the (monkey) Games begin...

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Looking Back On Liston

Sonny Liston is still the heavyweight king. God save the king. God save boxing.

That was the opening of the Sports Illustrated report on Sonny Liston's win over Floyd Patterson which took place 45 years ago today. To call it a fight would be an insult - Liston knocked Patterson out in just over 2 minutes and had him on the deck three times. It was to be the only successful defence of his short reign s World Heavyweight Champion. In February 1964, Liston met a young fighter named Cassius Clay and the rest, as they say, is the greatest story in the history of sport.

Tonight I want to talk about Liston. The Big Bear is, for me, the most fascinating character ever to grace the ring. No other fighter has drawn the scorn given to him. In life, and in death, he is an enigmatic man who deserves more than the footnote currently given to him in the annals of boxing history.

I'm not defending Sonny Liston. His links to the mob are undeniable and the fifth round against Ali in Miami in February 1964 was not the only time that he used a dirty trick in the ring. However, I am saying that boxing should remember Liston, and realise that we should remember him as much more than a brutish thug.

The rematch in Knoxville, Kentucky is a case in point. The common consensus is that Liston threw the fight, taking a dive in the first round after Ali threw the so-called 'phantom' punch. However, let's suppose for a moment that the punch caught Liston off balance and knocked him to the canvas. Would you get up if this was the scene waiting for you?? Liston did, after Ali was sent to a neutral corner (a rule which is staandard today but was new at the time) before he got up and fought on for 20 seconds. At that point journalist Nat Fleischer told referee Jersey Joe Walcott that Liston had been off his feet for more than ten seconds, prompting Walcott to end the fight there and then. Liston may have taken a dive, but if he did not, then he was robbed in this fight.

His death was also strange. He died in suspicious circumstances Las Vegas in December 1970, as a pauper. Once feared (rather then revered), he was buried in a pauper's funeral in the town where only years earlier, millions had been bet on his fights. However, as a boxer, his professional career got an even less respectful passing that night in Lewiston. Sure, he fought on for five more years, but for all intents and purposes Liston was never to be the same fighter again.

I've always wanted to make/see a film about Liston's life. It would be a fascinating story, one that could put a human face on the man who has been characterized as a villian. It could tell us of a man who wanted to be accepted, who cried when he was neither applauded nor even respected as the Heavyweight Champion of the World. We could learn of a boxer who never could shake off the 'born on the wrong side of the tracks' tag, not even in death.

Liston once said that "Some day they're gonna write a Blues for fighters. It'll just be for slow guitar, soft trumpet and a bell." Mark Knopfler has already written one for Sonny alone.

The writers didn't like him

The fight game jocks

With his lowlife backers

And his hands like rocks

They didn't want to have A bogey man

They didn't like him

And he didn't like them

Monday, 21 July 2008

Tough Times For Le Tour

Just noticed this article on Sports Illustrated. RIDER IN DRUG TEST SHOCK. It seems that they now regard it as news for a cyclist to be tested for drugs. How sad. I love the Tour De France. Genuinely. For drama there is little to equal it. By that I only refer to what happens on the roads. The drugs lark afterwards merely saddens me.

I'm also deeply annoyed by the coverage of the Tour, particularly by the American media. They're not interested that Frank Schleck is in yellow, more that he is being tested. They're not looking to talk about the race but in the race to catch the next cheat (with the notable exception of former rider Bobby Julich on ESPN).

This does not help cycling. As a sport, it is ridding itself of the scurge of drugs. It could ignore the problem of steroids like the NFL and MLB have done, but instead cheats are outed, champions are stripped of their crowns and teams who have transgressed the rules are no longer welcome back.

What always got to me was the coverage of Lance Armstrong. Europeans are cheats but he is a legend. The cancer survivor could do no wrong in the eyes of some. Nike ordained him a hero, his autobiography was lapped up by his fans and for a time, cycling was the sport to follow for three weeks every July. The smell of EPO may have tainted his wins in Europe, but on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Lance could do no wrong.

I'm not saying that Lance Armstrong took performance enhancing drugs. Let me make that clear...if only for legal reasons! I'm sure there are plenty of legitimate reasons for the sudden improvement in form that he expeienced post-cancer. I like this one, taken from his Wikipedia.

A recent article claims that the American legend's testicular cancer actually helped him during the Tour de France.[8] The article outlines that surgical removal of testicles (even one) re-positions the body's hormonal system, playing with the feedback system of normal testosterone production. Consequently, a cascade of events which allegedly favour or enhance endurance performance is proposed by the authors.

I'm sure.

Armstrong has never tested positive for drugs and is, officially, clean. That must be made clear. However, one other thing should also be pointed out. Last week, Manuel Beltran tested positive for EPO. This is the same Manuel Beltran who spent three years as a team-mate to Armstrong at U.S Postal/Discovery Channel, during the last three years of Lance's domination of Le Tour. Lance was also, at one stage or another, helped to his titles by Ivan Basso, Tyler Hamilton, Roberto Heras, Floyd Landis and Gianpaolo Mondini who have all tested positive or admitted to using performance enhancing drugs. This is not proof of systematic doping at the team, but if it were the team of a leading French/Italian/German/Spaniard as opposed to an American, then the US press would certainly take a different tone.

So please, continue to follow the tour. If you are not a fan of cycling then at least watch Wednesday's stage, finishing at the summit of the fearsome Alpe D'Huez. However, be mindful of coverage which is filtered through Lance-tinted glasses.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Shut Your (Get In The) Holes!

Today's a great day for Irish sport. Padraig Harrington has, for the second successive year, collected the Claret Jug as the winner of the British Open. His last nine holes took just 32 shots and his approach to the 17th green was, in a nutshell, remarkable. (bit early to provide a youtube link but if you find one then leave a comment)

Golf's a great spectator sport, even on TV. I enjoyed this afternoon, even if it did not have the drama of last year's playoff win over Garcia. To be fair, it never could. The problem with golf though, is the peons who go to tournaments and, cleverly, shout 'get in the hole' at every shot.

I'm not the first to give out about this problem. I won't be the last either. But when drives from over 400 yards are sent off to the mantra of the morons, you have to wonder how can we fix this problem?

Personally, I advocate a shoot on sight policy. Seriously. It's not like these guys are suggesting something that the golfers haven't already thought off. These people are useless cretins and are destroying the sport from within. At the very least they should be kicked off the course by some burly bodyguards, never to return. Ever. I have never heard a logical argument that explains the enslaught of this stupidity. I hate them. Even one of the greatest shots of all time is forever ruined by them. Happy Gilmore has a lot to answer for...

Let's Remember The Best Of The Memory Man

Tonight I watched The Lee-Gibbs fight from the University of Limerick on RTE Two. Grand fight. Good to see Lee back fighting fit. I felt he was robbed against Vera but toinght he put that behind him. He took some nice shots but threw more of his own. Good to see a genuinely nice guy get on in the world.

However, I'm not going to talk about him tonight. I want to talk about Jimmy Magee.

For those of you not from Ireland, Jimmy Magee has been one of the key voices of sport here since before the Stone Age. He commentated on some of the biggest moments in sport - Ireland's Quarter Final in Italia 90, McGuigan beating Pedroza and England-Argentina in 1986. However, as you've probably noticed... Jimmy isn't the youngest these days. His Wikipedia entry says that he is 73, though I wouldn't be surprised if it's off by a century or two.

Now, I am a big fan of The Memory Man. He was involved in Know Your Sport (God rest it's soul) which is worth three thumbs up from me right off the bat. Yet I'm almost certainly in the minority. Forum posts here and here give you an idea of what some people think of him, and they're just from tonight. Unfortunately, they're probably correct too.

I realise that Jimmy has had a tough year. It can't have been easy to bury a son, and I know he's not long off a serious illness. For him to come back to work is remarkable. He's also probably the most suited man to talk about the history of sport - I for one would love to read his thoughts on some of the great sporting events his been to. Yet, I really never want to hear him commentate again. His best days are behind him - just see the 'Blue Panther' episode for proof. There was also one line tonight which really does not belong in the commentary of a fight:

Lee is like poetry in motion...But not like poetry you get in a book...This poetry......... has a hammer on the end of it!

Like a lot of people, I'd be very happy to see Jimmy hang up his microphone and take a well deserved retirement. However, I won't attack him like others. Jimmy was a fine broadcaster, a man who has an enthusiasm for sport that is remarkable. He loves his job, and if I were him I'd be in no rush to leave it either. And to those who want him to leave, and attack him for a lack of knowledge, remember the great times. Remember how he let Maradona's feet do the talking and how he named every Irish Olympic medalist as John Tracey won silver in 1984.

Yes, it may be time for Jimmy to go, but not before we thank and hail him as a broadcasting great.