15 October 2010

The Commonwealth Games & Lateralism

In years gone by, I've scoffed at the Commonwealth Games. Why? Because next to the Olympic games, they resemble the proverbial red-headed stepchild. Every four years, Australia seems pre-destined to return home with more gold than the Spanish conquistadors of old.

But for some reason, I quite enjoyed these games. I didn't watch a lot of them, but what I saw, I enjoyed. Why? Because people were doing their best. I can't begrudge them that. The Americans may not have been there, but England was. And I never tire of beating England. And any prejudicial dismissal of the efforts an athlete in his or her quest to achieve to their full potential on the grounds that the competition is inadequate seems a little flawed. One might as well toss out the fixtures in the AFL for all but Round One, and subsequently ensure that first plays second (and so on down the line) for the next nineteen weeks. (Which is actually not a bad idea, now I think about it.)

I'm not a monarchist (although I admire the Queen very much), but have no issue with an arbitrarily formed group of nations gathering together in the name of sport. To that end, I'd like to see other international groups gather every few years. The NATO games would be well worth checking out, I reckon. Perhaps all nations that the USA has engaged militarily could gather together and settle a few old scores with javelins and the like. Could be fun, no?

And I think the Indian organisers did a pretty good job in the end. I mean, give them a break. It's a hard to build a stadium around a cow that won't keep still. Speaking of cows, I would have liked to have seen at least half a dozen of them inside the main stadium at all times. And at least one at the hockey (and other teams sports), and couple splashing around in the pool, for good measure. And competitors can dodge or collide as skill and fate decrees. I mean, if you're going to have games in India, they better damn well be Indian games.

Further to this point, nowhere near enough athletes got the runs, in my opinion. It should have been compulsory to contract a bowel-shattering dose of diarrhoea the moment you put your foot on Indian soil. Runners should have been excreting indiscriminately whilst they squelched their way around the running track. The pool should have been brown by the end of the first day of competition. That would have been an Indian experience.

And what's with the crowds? A stadium built to hold 50,000 being "filled" with about nine people? That's not right. Last time I checked, India was about as short of people as Ricky Ponting is of excuses. So really, a stadium built to hold 50,000 should be packed with about 2.5 million, in my estimation. The word is "atmosphere", people; a human tidal wave is what India has to offer. So, bring it on!

And I think that in the midst of trying to run a race, swim a race or put a shot, it would have been entirely appropriate for all concerned to have to field calls from tele-marketers determined to sign you up to an irresistible mobile phone deal. (Actually, that would have been appropriate at the Melbourne games, too, given how often it seems to happen here.)

I just don't see the point of building an endless sequence of identical, hypothermic, hermetically sealed bio-domes all around the world. The games should reflect the spirit - and conditions - of the country in which they are held.

To that end, I'm looking forward to Glasgow. Running a marathon is hard enough as it is, but in 2014, the runners are going to have to try and do it after drinking nine pints, breaking an entering and being stabbed. Tough, but great for the spectators.

The Commonwealth Games may not be everyone's definition of the apotheosis of sport, but in the end, what possibly could be? The notion that there is a mythic "best" simply reduces the status and importance of everything else. I refute that notion. Let athletes be athletes, and countries be countries. Then all we have to do as humble spectators, is sit back and enjoy the ride.

13 October 2010

Lateralist Art

I like the cut of this bloke's jib. I encourage you to have a look, and support his quest to be given money to keep doing what he's doing. He is, by any measurable standard, a Lateralist, through and through.

And to quote Darryl Kerrigan, look at the dogs. Don't they love it?

They sure do, Darryl; they sure do.

Lateralist Funerals

I couldn't help but smile when I walked past a billboard the other day, and noticed that it was promoting a company called "Chipper Funerals". At least, I'm assuming it's a moniker derived from a surname, rather than an ethos. But I hope I'm wrong.

I like the idea that there's a company out there who thinks joviality and death make a lovely couple. And I mean real joy; not the schadenfreude that is sure to bubble forth for many should it be announced that Kyle Sandilands has been hit by a bus. No, the joy a life lived, whether it be lived well or not, and regardless of notional afterlives.

Although that said, the thought occurs that perhaps the title refers to wood chippers. I'm all for sustainability, but a company that wants to feed the newly dead into a mulcher is probably going to struggle to get mourners (or joy-ers) to feel the love. I've seen Fargo: human sawdust is messy to make. (But wonderful for the roses, apparently.)

Chipper Funerals? In our youth-obsessed, increasingly superficial world, death is something we try to keep at arms length. And it's hard to be egocentric and think of death as anything other than the end of the world (especially if it's my death.) So making death seem ok surely requires a bit of a re-think of our definition of life.

Sounds a long ways off. But I hope one day we give it a try.

01 October 2010

A Third Way

Much has been made of last week's drawn AFL grand final. On On the Couch on Monday (it's an awkwardly named program, I agree; the "on-on" double-up doesn't exactly roll off the tongue) Andrew Demetriou attempted to justify the grand final re-play in the face of some rather stern resistance from both Gerard Heally and Mike Sheahan. James Hird said he liked the re-play but then he said that he wouldn't put his hand up to coach Essendon next year. Among Demetriou's admittedly flimsy arguments was that Australian rules football is a unique game. Excluding fledgling Aussie rules competitions in Canada, Western Samoa and New South Wales, that Aussie rules is unique is beyond argument, the flimsy part was the reasons Demetriou provided as to it's uniqueness; "a game played with an oval ball on an oval field"; well, rugby's union and league are played with an oval ball and I would question whether the MCG is oval or round but the most annoying part was the implication that a drawn game, final or otherwise, being replayed is unique to the AFL.

All Australian sports, whether indigenous to this country or not, have their genesis in Anglo-Saxon/Anglo-Irish roots and Aussie rules and the AFL is no different. Traditionally in European football, which I'll begrudgingly call soccer from here on in, in any given season two principal competitions run in parallel; a league and a cup. A league for the uninitiated is a competition where each team plays each other team an equal number of times both at home and away, points are awarded for wins and draws and the team with the most points at the end of the season is deemed the winner. A cup, on the other hand, is a knock-out competition where if you win, you progress and if you lose, you don't. (I think Dennis Cometti said it best before the Cats v Magpies preliminary final when he said, "the preliminary final; the winners play next week, the losers play golf") Traditionally however, if a cup game was drawn, it was re-played at the other team's ground the following week/fortnight. If it was drawn there, it went back to the original ground and so on and so forth until a team could be bothered winning. I say "traditionally" but it still exists today. It's for that reason that you hear of English teams playing as many as four games a week due to fixture congestion.

Viewed through a traditional sporting framework, the AFL is a kind-of league, in that the teams don't play each other an equal amount, followed an abridged kind-of cup, abridged in that only half the teams play and kind-of in that you can lose and are not knocked out. In that respect it's not unique either but it can be yet.

At the denouement of last week's game the major talking point was whether or not a drawn grand final should be determined on the day by way of extra time or re-played the following week as is presently the case. Posed as such, however, the question is unnecessarily restricting and rigidly binary. There is a third way. In the event of a drawn grand final the CEO of the AFL should take to the dais, thank the crowd, the umpires and the ground staff and announce that no team has won the premiership because no team had what it takes to get up on the day; no team wanted it enough. If he wanted to rub it in he could outline that after 176 home-and-away games, eight preliminary (as in the definition of the word rather than the proscribed "preliminary") finals and 120-odd minutes within which, initially, any team, and on the day, either team, had at its disposal to stand taller than everyone else, none had managed to do so. He should then apologise to the crowd and tell them that he looks forward to seeing them at the MCG on the Thursday before Easter for the tradition round-one blockbuster between Carlton and Richmond aka the Ben Cousins testimonial. If that fat dickhead Demetriou wants a peg to hang the uniqueness of the game on, that'll do it.