Thursday, February 09, 2006

Murdoch's Law of Extreme Sports

Here I am, watching Jimmy White and Steve Davis battle it out in Premier League (gasp!) Snooker. If you're thinking I've lost my mind a little bit, worry not. I don't sit down in front of TV every evening to watch grown men attempting to pot polished little balls as if their life depended on it. But such is sport, isn't it? It can be so trivial, almost absurd, yet require some sublime skills at the same time. To be fair, I do like snooker and nine ball pool (as opposed to billiards, that dreary cousin of theirs) - in fact I do enjoy playing nine ball pool myself, and I must admit it is a natural consequence of living in apartment complexes in America for too long. At the rate we are going though, snooker is beginning to look more and more like the mainstream, mass (TV) spectator sport that it already is in the UK. Ah TV! Such a wonderful thing - what would I have done with half my lifetime without it? And the Sports Channels - these are in a class of their own. Especially when you have too many of them sprouting up in the hope that they can make it all hang together by getting some lucrative contract or the other. The more contracts a broadcaster has, the more sports channels they can conjure up, delivering a more comprehensive package to the paying customer. Of course, it's all about the customer. Anyhow, when the contracts fail to come in, we have issues. Because we have a half-a-dozen channels each of which promises 24-hour thrill fests. Lest we upset the viewer - can't have that - we start pioneering. Did the BCCI bidding process turn out to be more complicated than getting land registered in Orissa? No worries mate, let's get Vijayan and Bhutia all fired up and unleash them, and some pretty young thing, on unsuspecting viewers. I mean, who decides Poker isn't really a television sport? Especially given the venue is usually a most tastefully decorated casino and that the winner takes in a cool couple of million greenbacks (displayed in all their glory during the course of the event). Or that podgy gentlemen firing darts in the middle of a grimy looking pub isn't worth the valuable time of young men who usually respond only to Kanye West? There you go - so we have extreme motorcross, where the names don't quite roll off the tongues because they're mostly Scandinavian; we also have Bass fishing, Texas Hold 'em Poker, Darts and so on and so forth. But beat this - Fox Sports (don't ask me which one, they're all equally dreary - this is in Australia) has Cha-Cha (or was it Salsa?). And why not? The winter olympics has figure skating, doesn't it? Isn't rhythmic gymnastics an olympic sport? After all, all this is based upon a very sound principle - programming expands to fill the time available. - NK

Tuffers the party pooper

When I read about the Allan Border medal night coming up, I was instantly reminded of Gideon Haigh's view of it as a rather tepid, over orchestrated show not worth the hype. Having watched, with some bemusement, a good part of last year's show, I could readily relate to Haigh's sentiments. But then, this is the age of the 'awards' shows, so the Allan Border medal night is just another speck on the horizon. At least, people at this particular event are well behaved. Rather too well behaved, one would think. Not surprisingly, Channel Nine decided to sex it up a little bit this year, without quite offending anyone Janet Jackson style. Australia is probably quite relaxed about it all anyway (or so I think) and thankfully there is no Michael Powell or FCC. Oh I'm sure there is an equivalent organisation somewhere in the bureaucratic scheme of things, but that is beside the point. Some were offended in the end, and none more than Ricky Ponting it appeared. To be honest, for once, it wasn't a lame TV idea of fun. Having Phil Tufnell mock the very centrepiece of the show, the Australian cricket team and in particular its outstanding icons, took some genuinely original thinking and a striking courage not often on display in this age of faux-reality. Ponting should lighten up, really. And take it in his stride the same way many Australians have done, including newspaper columnists. A columnist in The Age made the point that for years the Poms were at the receiving end of all manner of ridicule, so they had pretty much earned the right now to have a go at their rivals. To attack Tufnell's comments based on his Ashes or other cricketing achievements, though factually correct, is just plain silly. As someone mentioned, Tufnell was just being Tufnell. Perhaps Ponting, Warne and Gilchrist should really thank Tufnell - now they have an added incentive, if they needed one, to regain the Ashes. They can then start dishing it out once more! As for the show itself, believe me, it desperately needed the controversy. Even the winners were so predictable - The Age got them exactly right - well, it's not exactly rocket science (oh I hate that phrase!). It gave the papers, fans and talk radio all something to talk about. God knows we all need some comic relief in these times of sanitised television and depressed political environs, as hard as that is! - NK

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Superbowl Jinx

First, the good news - Superbowl is LIVE on SBS. Hooray! Now the bad news - Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons are nowhere to be seen. I'm kidding...I know they didn't even make the play-offs, but after last season's run, I was expecting the Falcons to get better. Getting back to the bad news, the real bad news, I mean - is that the telecast is at 10am. What is it with Superbowl and me? Last year I was in Melbourne as well, although I managed to sneak out for a while from work and catch some action. The year before, I was travelling to Chicago for a client and was in a taxi on my way from Midway when the game started. Fortunately, I caught the last quarter in my hotel room and what a finish that was! In 2003, believe it or not, I was at work! One of the few Sundays I ever had to work, although admittedly I was still new to football. Once again, I came home to just catch the last minutes of the Buccaneers' mauling of Rich Gannon and the Raiders. Even as I type, my mind is working away furiously, trying to drum up any excuse it can, so I don't have to go to the office on time come Monday. Hopefully, it will be worthwhile. - NK

Dada, ei rokom kotha chilo na!

Hey, you asked for a good wicket, you got it! Now, take this 341-run defeat. Well, didn't really bargain for that part of the deal, did we? Irfan Pathan isn't the first man to finish on the losing side despite taking a hat-trick, but one cannot but feel he was let down by his teammates. What more could he have done in the first innings? Watching Pathan bowl in the series against Sri Lanka and South Africa, I got a feeling he was bowling well within his limitations, especially from a pace point of view and felt a little uneasy about it. If you don't try to bowl as quick as you can at 21, you probably never will. To be fair, pace is not really the most important component in Pathan's bowling, but an extra yard always helps. In any case, Pathan has always been a handful (ask Mohammad Yousuf) on wickets that have a bit in them, and by all accounts this one had a lot on the first morning. I digress, but only because I'm still coming to terms with the disappointment. Hopefully, the one-day series will have a happy ending. One word for Sehwag - if he was talking it up as part of a psychological warfare plan, it was alright, even if it didn't work in hindsight. Hope for his sake, though, that he didn't really believe what he was saying after the first test. Or, was it Pakistan's strategy to lull Sehwag into a false sense of complacency and then spring a nasty surprise? That would be a wicked twist ;) What about Ganguly now? Where does this leave him? It's obvious he's ground it out in all his innings trying to get back among the runs, although he hasn't quite got there. A substantial score from him in the first innings could have tilted it in India's favour, and a part of me was secretly hoping for it. Not that I would have cared who bailed us out. But the real disappointment was the twin failure of the big four. - NK PS: I love that line - first heard it from a colleague of mine after he got a pasting at one of our Saturday net sessions - so had to use it :)