The View From Down Here #24

Sport sport sport sport sport. If you didn’t know better, living in Australia at this time of the year that is apparently all that happens. Hamas and Israel bombing two shades of s*** out of each other? Who cares?! Australia are struggling in the cricket! And so, with that in mind…

NBL – Round 15
            Two straight weeks of basketball with no further developments in Sydney collapsing, Cairns going into debt and the new league…
South Dragons 117 def Gold Coast 87
Perth 97 def Townsville 76
Wollongong 121 def Sydney Spirit 117
Melbourne 91 lost to Adelaide 109
            Hasn’t Adelaide had the up and down season so far? Horrific losses, huge wins… from last to actually going towards the finals… And if there is one team that exemplifies what is wrong with the league it is the Adelaide 36ers. Why? Well, simple, really. A few years ago I was performing at half time for the 36ers. The arena was packed! The noise was deafening, and it was awesome! Now they struggle to get half-full stadia. And for a team to be so erratic and up-and-down and inconsistent and yet still be a finals contender indicates just how poor the other teams are as well. The new league cannot come long soon enough for the well-being of this sport…
Having a Christmas break means that the best basketball in town is not on again until January.

A-League Round 17
An interesting week in soccer, with Newcastle and the Central Coast involved in an on-field altercation which could see both teams sanctioned by the FFA, while Melbourne striker Danny Allsopp got away with dropping the shoulder deliberately into Sydney coach John Kosmina on the sidelines. Yep, he lined up an opposition coach, took him out, threatened to do it again, and got away with it. This says two things: (1) Kosmina really is hated by the FFA, and (2) Melbourne are the protected species in the FFA with the FFA trying desperately to have them win everything. Nothing else actually makes sense here, no matter the spin put on it. It’s on YouTube somewhere, watch it and see – it was a deliberate tackle and he escaped even a warning.
Queensland Roar 3 def Wellington Phoenix 2
Melbourne Victory 3 def Sydney 2
Perth Glory 0 lost to Adelaide United 1
Newcastle Jets 1 lost to Central Coast Mariners 2
            And soccer is back into the regular mode, with Adelaide capitalising on the experience gained in the World Club Cup to sit once more atop the A-League ladder.
W-League Round 10
Central Coast 2 def Melbourne 0
Sydney 3 def Adelaide 2
Canberra 1 drew with Queensland 1
Perth 0 drew with Newcastle 0

Sydney-Hobart Race
This is Australia’s premier ocean-racing event, having been occurring for 64 years now. Starting in Sydney Harbour, the 100 boats sail down the coast, then across Bass Strait. This is one of the most treacherous bodies of water, with waves as high as houses and the ever-present sun fish (incredibly large, round fish that have knocked more vessels out of the race that you would believe) or other marine animals, then around the coast of Tasmania to the southern part of the island and Hobart. A long, non-stop race, starting on Boxing Day. Quite the event. There are 2 winners – the line honours winner, or first past the post, and handicap honours. This is often decided up to two weeks later as the small vessel sail their way around to Hobart.
            So we have the line honours winner:
            First – Wild Oats XI. This is the fourth year in a row it has taken line honours, just beating Skandia. Four times in a row is a new record. And a very impressive one, too.

International Cricket
Second Test

Australia 394 & 247; South Africa 459 & 1/183 – South Africa won by 9 wickets
            South Africa were dead in the water at the start of day three… and ended up with a 60+ run lead. Australia’s bowlers just could not cut it. Okay, Brett Lee was out injured and Andrew Symonds was reduced to bowling his off-spinners with a bad knee, but, still. South Africa’s tail just wagged and kept on wagging. And then they took apart Australia’s batsmen (apart from Ricky Ponting) in the second innings, and cruised to a comfortable win, which could have been worse but Smith was out on 75 to a dodgy decision. This gives South Africa an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, their first series win in Australia ever. And Australia have lost 4 of their past 8 tests.
            A lot of the blame has to go on the captain in this case. I think Ponting should be retained as our number 3 as his scores even in the face of a crumbling rest of the team warrant his selection. But his defensive attitude, his lack of taking any personal responsibility for his side’s performances and his attitude (his vice-captain did over half the media oppress conferences) indicate that maybe the top job has got on top of him. In Australia it is not traditional for some-one to be dropped as captain and retained in the side, but it happens in India (who beat Australia) and England all the time. In fact, when England beat Australia for the Ashes, there were 4 captains / ex-captains on the field and this conferencing and use of knowledge must have helped them overcome the Australians. So drop Ponting to a batsman / fielder, promote Clarke to the captaincy. This way Clarke can learn on the job and have Ponting there as back-up, we get some young blood into leadership. Also dump the older players, suffer through a few years of losses, but build a core group of young guys around whom the team can be based for the decades afterwards, as happened when Border was captain, leading to 20+ years of domination. They need to take a chance and do it again. And yet, even for the third dead rubber test starting in Sydney on January 3, the only mooted changes look likely to be done in order to replace injured players…
            So these so-called protectors and leaders of the sport won’t do anything because, in general, Australian administrators are gutless and only care about tomorrow, not next year, and only look after their own jobs, not the future of their sports.
Australian Domestic
Sheffield Shield:
Competition is in abeyance until after the Twenty20 Big Bash competition in January.
Western Australia 8/177 (44 overs); New South Wales 5/137 (29 overs) – NSW won by 5 wickets.
            Rain and the Duckworth-Lewis system on calculation served to make this result another in the never-ending confusing line of results. I only have university level maths; I don’t understand it.
            This is the last of these until mid-January as well.
Twenty20 Big Bash
This is the cricket on the domestic scene from now until mid-January. Get used to it.
            And why is it called the Big Bash? I think it has something to do with the KFC sponsorship that is so pervasive in the sport this year. Or it could be the fact that those in charge realise that this is all just a joke of a concept for cricket. But I have no real idea, so don’t ask.
            For those unsure and querying my antagonism towards this form of cricket, Twenty20 is when each side bowls and bats for 20 overs. It takes away a lot of the tactics and is just an excuse for lots of ridiculous hitting out. An attempt to make cricket for the MTV generation, and to gain mainstream media support in the United States. And, sure, it’s entertaining. But think of it as Baseball played over 3 innings with only designated hitters at bat and you’ll get why traditionalists are up in arms about it.
            However, I enjoy watching it. I just don’t take it too seriously, despite the squillions of dollars being thrown at it in India at the moment.
Queensland 7/161; New South Wales 5/162 (19.4 overs) – NSW won by 5 wickets
Victoria 5/203; Tasmania 168 (18.3 overs) – Vic won by 35 runs
South Australia 182 (19.2 overs); Western Australia 6/121 (17 overs) – SA won using the Duckworth – Lewis system by 35 runs

Just before the season hots up, here’s a joke:
            Australian news reporter: “Tragedy struck the tennis world today when the top 100 male and female players were tragically killed in an airliner accident while jetting to the latest Middle East rich guy tennis tournament. No Australians were injured in the accident.”

Closing Paragraph
I’m off on holiday in early January and not due back until mid-January, so there will be a slight break in these. For the several dozen of you who have indicated that you read this, I am sorry, but I will be back in the new year, and will attempt to catch up when I return. As to why I won’t be doing it while I’m on holidays – well, it’s a holiday! Screw you! No, really, in Australia we have the lousiest broadband system in the Western world (made worse now because our beloved Federal government is attempting to adopt compulsory national filters that you can only bypass by going off-shore, making us slightly worse in this regard than North Korea) and where I am going they do not yet have broadband! And, I’m sorry, but a dial-up modem in order to get my fix of Internet sports is not going to work. So you have two weeks break from my whining and belly-aching.
            Have a good New Year, everyone, and celebrate this arbitrary change of dates wisely. Catch y’all in 2009!

So that’s the final view from down here for 2008!

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