The View From Down Here #27

What a great week to be a sports fan in Australia! The cycling, the tennis, the soccer, the basketball, the tuna toss… Great week! And so let’s get to it:

Basketball
There is one thing the new NBL has to do and that is rejuvenate the Sydney basketball landscape. Without Australia’s largest city involved in a meaningful way, the new national league will just not work as sponsors will not be enticed to come on board with that large market not available to them. It will need a new team and a lot of advertising, but it needs to be done. The Spirit this year do not seem to have their hearts in it, and the demise of the Sydney Kings is still being felt by the Sydney sporting public. It is imperative that they get this right, or their new plans and hopes will fail.
NBL – Round 19
Adelaide 110 def Gold Coast 88
New Zealand 85 lost to Melbourne 103
Perth 96 def Gold Coast  90
            Man, that doomsday double road trip hurt the Gold Coast Blaze big time this round!
Melbourne 95 def New Zealand 89
Wollongong 95 def by Townsville 97
Cairns 89 def Sydney 83
WNBL – Round 15
Bendigo 75 def Adelaide 69
Townsville 98 def AIS 62
Bulleen 103 killed Perth 64
Sydney 82 def Perth 76
Dandenong 57 lost to Bulleen 66
Canberra 94 def Adelaide 71
AIS 68 def by Logan 71
Some strange results this week as we approach the finals as a great rate of knots, throwing the whole table into turmoil.

Soccer
A-League Round 21
Sydney 4 slaughtered Newcastle 0
Central Coast Mariners 0 lost to Adelaide United 1
Queensland Roar 4 beat Perth Glory 2
Melbourne Victory 2 def Wellington Phoenix 0
            This puts Melbourne just ahead of Adelaide in the ladder going into next week’s first round of finals.

Cricket
International Cricket
And Andrew Symonds has put his foot in his mouth again, describing a New Zealand player as “shit” on radio when, it is alleged, he was under the influence of alcohol…
            Now, I have no problem with the guy, and it’s good to see some-one with some personality on the cricket team for a change, not the media-trained automatons we see in so many professional sports. What I have a problem with is the hypocrisy of Cricket Australia. He’s done a lot to bring the game into disrepute by their own rules, and yet he always lands on his feet. And his match statistics have not been that great lately. However, if he had come from Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia or the Northern Territory, he’d be back in his state side so fast his head would spin. Cricket Australia? Cricket Eastern Seaboard seems more accurate.
Third One-Day International
Australia 269 (all out in the 50th over); South Africa 270 (in the 47th over) – South Africa won by 3 wickets.
            South Africa now go 1-up in the best of 5 series with the largest ever successful run chase in a one day match at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Or something like that. Man, cricket is as bad as baseball for meaningless statistics! But it was another good match marred particularly by a lot of fielding errors – catches being dropped, misfields, etc. But I think I am going to put it down to the pressure each team was placing on the other with some really skilled batting.
            However, one thing needs to be mentioned about the Australian innings. Australia were 2/144 in the 23rd over, and headed for a score in excess of 300. They then proceeded to slow down and lose 8 wickets for 125 runs. The middle order needs to take a good, long hard look at itself. But, of course, the bowlers who came in at the end copped the brunt of the criticism for not scoring and staying around. But they are bowlers! The specially selected batsmen failed! Being an Australian cricket fan this year has been so frustrating, no matter that we are getting to watch the best one-day cricket nations in the world slug it out in good, tight, entertaining matches.
Twenty20 Big Bash
Grand final
Seventeen and a half thousand people went to watch another good game in a series of them. I’m actually going to miss the fun of Twenty20 state cricket…
Victoria 4/166; New South Wales 5/167 – New South Wales won the title by 5 wickets
            And the best bit? They did it on the very last ball of the game! It came right down to the wire. And that’s what we wanted to see in the final match of the tournament.
Women’s National Cricket League
Final
I would like to start off by apologising for not covering this at all while I have been doing this. But that is because I have not seen any matches advertised to go down and watch, the results don’t appear anywhere in the media, and trying to find them on Cricket Australia’s website is like digging for gold in a Chicago street during a blizzard.
            And now we have come to the final!
            Victoria 117 (44.5 overs); New South Wales 4/120 (34.2 overs) – NSW won the title by 6 wickets!

Tennis
Australian Open
One week into the two week tournament, and what have we seen? The top seeds, especially in the women, have been dropping like flies, giving a new generation of youngsters a chance to shine.
            And Australian tennis is in a complete shambles as going into the second week there is one player left – Jelena Dokic, who up to now was more well known for her father being an A-class nimrod than her tennis prowess. Australians rejected her last time she was here; this tournament, with her contrite demeanour and apologies all round, they have taken her in.
            Oh, and the fact she’s the only player we have left.
            And, apart from her, it appears there is no Australian in the top 100 tennis players, men or women, at all. Sad. And even sadder because we have a Grand Slam. So what do Tennis Australia do? They take the guy in charge of getting tennis back on track – Craig Tilley – and make him tournament director! So, as well as a full-time job looking after tennis, he has to do the work of two people and run a huge tournament.

Cycling
Tour Down Under
A great race, highlighted by the return of Lance Armstrong. But he did not figure in the race much beyond attracting more media attention than a race has received in South Australia since we lost the Formula One Grand Prix to Melbourne. But that did not matter, as it was a really good event.
            So, the results:
First – Allan Davis (Australia)
Second – Stuart O’Grady (Australia), 25 seconds back
Third – José Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spain, 30 seconds back
Twenty-ninth – Lance Armstrong (USA)
            So, despite not being in the top ten, it was a good event for Lance to get back into shape for his assault on the Tour de France, especially now that it seems Floyd Landis has decided to get his druggie body back on the bike and contend again this year as well. (I would say ‘alleged’ but he was found guilty and banned, so he did it. No matter how he protests, he was found guilty. Tool.)

Movie Review
Well, everyone else is doing it, so I thought I would put my two cents worth in here as well:
            I finally went to see The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke. And, you know what…
            Hell, here’s my review of the thing:
            First, right off the bat, just let me say that this film is not a ‘feel-good’ movie. It features people stuck in the past, unable to let go. Only Ram’s daughter has any hope of letting her, but the way she does it also indicates that she’s running from the past as well, and probably won’t find peace either. A pro wrestler and a stripper, both of whom just can’t let go of past glories, and while she has dreams, these are just that – dreams.
            There are a number of times in the film when you can see the cliché coming a mile away, but then it does a turn, and twists it, making it different. And that includes the ending (and, man, did Ernest ‘The Cat’ Miller play his part there well…).
            The saddest part for me was that there were some elements in the character of Ram that I have seen in some so-called ‘elder statesmen’ of Australian wrestling, although without the big 1980s paydays.
            It has been said (most notably in Sports Illustrated) that Ram is, in fact, Mick Foley.
            He’s wrong.
            To me, the Ram is Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts from Barry Blaustein’s documentary Beyond The Mat. The addiction to fame and inability to let go for such small crowds and such a let-down after the heights of WWF fame. While Ram’s drug-taking is not as horrendous as Jake’s allegedly is, it is there. And there is the estrangement from the daughter.
            Sad film, but, really, the wrestling scenario is not what the film is about. That is really incidental to the message of the film. It is about so many of us being unable to let go of the past with dignity. Wrestlers, footballers, those old guys who sit at the pub and bore everyone around them with stories of wars… the past hangs over too many of us like a Sword of Damocles.
            And, unfortunately, for some, that sword eventually falls…

That’s the view from down here.

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