The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Archive for the ‘Other Sport’ Category

On why would TMS hire Kevin Pietersen?

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So I’m reading BBC Sport this morning and an article caught my eye about Kevin Pietersen joining TMS for the World Cup and I shook my head in despair. I have no particular issue with KP but it just goes to show that when it comes to broadcasting, stations often prefer to go with the ‘name’ instead of the person best suited to the job.

When Sky Sports decided to bring in Andrew Strauss for England Test Matches, it was just more of the same. Strauss is a very poor pundit and has not developed at all in the years since he first became part of Sky’s top tier.

KP had a brief go at commentating during the Big Bash. I adored the Big Bash and found the level of cricket and the level of coverage first rate (although the constant promos and discussions for who the Australian cricket player going into the I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here did seem to be flogging that horse one too many times). In a game he he chomping at the bit to get in the booth and after a bit of a batting collapse, he came in before his planned time.

Now the Big Bash had four guest appearances this season from what I saw. Sir Viv, who is an absolute legend and one of the greats of the game has been involved in BBL coverage for a while and whilst he’s great, he’s not a great voice. Andrew Flintoff was involved in the BBL this year and was fantastic and a natural behind the microphone. If Sky wanted to add a younger voice to its team (and kicking out Strauss) then they could do a lot worse than Flintoff. He would be tremendous if involved in the T20. Bumble did a guest stint as well and was typically great. Then we get to KP…

He came in like an over excitable schoolboy giggling at everything he said. Laughing at your own jokes is bad enough but laughing at everything you just say is poor. He was ‘interviewed’ by Ricky Ponting and I think it is fair to say that only one of the two came out with any credit and it wasn’t the English batsman. He circled around issues and never seemed comfortable. It wasn’t car crash TV but it was certainly the low point of the whole coverage of the Big Bash and his performance in the booth was the worst of all the commentators by a significant margin.

I just wonder why TMS (and Sky with Strauss) value the name over the actual quality. Yes of course some pundits can get better with time but TMS has many pundits who can do a good job on radio but they felt the need to get a big name to bring something extra to their coverage. They are wrong. They didn’t. TMS has such a good reputation for putting out excellent coverage of cricket with good play-by-play voices and good pundits.

In the Press Release linked to earlier, they listed some of the names who KP will be joining and they include people who have developed and become very good at punditry. KP never seemed like a natural pundit when he was playing and on the brief occasions I’ve heard him, he hasn’t impressed either. To be good at this job you need to be either insightful, engaging or funny and preferably a good mix of all three. KP isn’t and nor is Andrew Strauss. This is just another case of the value of a name instead of adding quality to the broadcast and for that, the BBC should be disappointed in itself.

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Written by neilmonnery

February 4th, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Posted in Other Sport

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On how to fix the domestic T20 competition and how great the BBL is…

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First of all let me put this one there, I freaking love Test cricket. Like can hardly get enough of it. A couple of weeks back it was possible to watch non-stop Test cricket from 9:30PM to 7AM and then have the South Africa v West Indies Test start up an hour or so later. I watched a lot of this. Watching good Test cricket is the pinnacle of sport watching in my opinion. However this blog post isn’t about fixing Test cricket (which doesn’t need a root and branch fix but is clearly struggling in many parts of the world *cough* sub-continent and West Indies *cough*) No, this is about our domestic T20 competition.

The thing is I have never been a true lover of the 50 over game. It seems too long for a short format but not long enough to get into the individual battles and nuances of a Test series. T20 though is fantastic. A game that lasts roughly three hours with shows off a very different aspect of the sport. I watch our domestic T20 competition a lot in the summer and until last year, it was in a fixed window in the calendar so you knew that if there wasn’t a Test match on then it was very likely a domestic T20 match was on. Even if it wasn’t the mighty Hampshire it was likely that I would have it on. Last year though they re-branded the tournament and played it primarily on Friday nights and it just didn’t work.

Now here in deepest darkest winter my mornings (well in reality my afternoons as I sleep in and either Sky+ or watch the replay) are being livened up by the Big Bash from Australia and let me tell you this folks, this tournament is terrific and Cricket Australia has to be lauded for how it has firstly embraced the format and also how they have marketed it from both a spectator and TV viewer point of view.

Firstly we have too many teams. Yes I know the county system is in place but T20 needs to be separated from the county system. Have nine franchises playing at the nine Test playing venues (Lord’s, The Oval, Rose Bowl, Sophia Gardens, Edgbaston, Headingley, Old Trafford, Trent Bridge and Chester-le-Street – and yes I know I’ve not used their proper sponsorship endorsed names…). I know the other nine counties will wonder about money and for some of them T20 is their lifeblood but find a way to sort that ECB.

The people in charge of English cricket are getting huge piles of cash thanks to their Sky contract and who has a clue what they spend it on? They have to ensure the future of the sport and that is by getting kids excited by the game and they do that by T20. The reason I say 18 teams is too much is because the product gets diluted. If we had nine franchises then only half the amount of players would get contracts and they would be the better players.

T20 is clearly the vehicle to get kids enthralled by the sport. Young people need to be able to see their heroes and this brings me on to my next point. After two years of being behind a pay-wall and doing ok, for the third season of the Big Bash the rights were bought by a FTA station and they scheduled their evening programming around the Big Bash for the whole tournament and the TV ratings took off along with the crowds going to the games. A whole generation of people were watching domestic T20 FTA for the first time and they were attracted to the sport.

Also Cricket Australia play the games at the right time – the summer holidays and in a block. Our domestic T20 game should be in a block in the summer holidays so people can go and see. If it battles with the Ashes or with other big Test series then it isn’t a problem. The live game can be in an evening like they do in Australia and like most televised T20 games are here anyway. In Australia the Test matches are on Channel Nine and the T20 on Ten, so people can watch both, they aren’t in direct competition.

Next up is a biggie, the TV contract. Sky have exclusive rights to the T20 competition and all live county cricket through 2019. They pay an awful lot of money for this but in reality they are paying for the Test matches and the domestic game is a small percentage of what they are paying overall. If the ECB wanted to look forward instead of just looking at short-term money then they need to split these contracts and find a FTA partner for the T20 competition. Whether that is BBC2, ITV4 or Channel Four or Channel Five I don’t know but find a partner and start making it work. Channel Ten are seeing audiences grow but also all importantly the advertising revenue is set to rise between 80-90% compared to last year. Advertisers are seeing that people are watching and they are flocking to give Channel Ten their money.

I’ve never been a big IPL man as the cricket just seems secondary and it seems like a lot of rich businessmen having a very expensive toy, also the questions of corruption have been rife. The BBL hasn’t had that and instead has just been full of great hard-nosed cricket with innovative marketing and strides forward in terms of technology and interactivity with players and fans. I know over here we have players on the mic but over there they speak to them more often, the players know they are part of the show and embrace that. They are also marketed as stars. They bring in overseas players and they light up the competition.

I have just been so impressed by the whole BBL and would love the ECB to go to franchises for this competition. Play it n a month block, nine franchises, eight games, four home and four away each season so families are only paying out four times a campaign, top four go into semi-finals that are either played like they are in Australia on separate days with the final on another separate date or if they wanted to keep Final’s Day then they could find a way to do that but whilst I adore Final’s Day, I prefer the Aussie system of two semi-finals with the top two teams rewarded with the final at home in front of their home fans.

The final could either be played at the highest seeded team left or at different venues that can bid for the final a la the Super Bowl. Lastly find a FTA partner who is willing to not only invest money but more importantly invest air time and marketing into getting it right. The domestic T20 competition here can flourish but it needs balls and vision. That is not something the ECB has ever really shown us but they have the opportunity. The rest of the world is not playing cricket in July and August bar the West Indies. The big names will come and with a plan the English T20 competition can be as much of a success as the Big Bash is becoming. I just fear the ECB don’t have the vision or the cojones to take it to where it could be.

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Written by neilmonnery

January 13th, 2015 at 6:00 am

Posted in Other Sport

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An ode to the Cheltenham Festival (10th – 13th March)

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When the Cheltenham Festival begins on March 10th the excitable crowd of 75,000 spectators in the Grandstand will honour an age old tradition as the tape is cut for the opening Supreme Novices Hurdle. The normal, gentle buzz of noise will become a throaty rumble which is so iconic it has acquired its own name – the Cheltenham Roar.

The Cheltenham area has a long association with racing; the first event called the “Cheltenham Gold Cup”, now the name of the festival’s most prestigious race, was run in July 1819. By 1860 there was an established National Hunt Meeting at Cheltenham – the first direct precursor to the modern festival. However it wasn’t until the current course was established at Prestbury Park, in 1904, that the “Cheltenham Festival” was officially established. After a hiatus it returned in 1911 whence it has continued from strength to strength – save for 2 extended pauses rudely imposed by our German cousins.

Part of The Festival’s magic is that the 2 courses at Prestury Park (the “old” and “new” courses), are particularly challenging and can wrongfoot even the most powerful thoroughbreds. The new course, in particular, has a downhill fence and a gruelling run in for steeplechasers; while hurdle races have the majority of their jumps early – with only two fences in the last 7 furlongs. This requires that champion horses are able to jump well but also keep pace in a long final leg.

In recent years animal rights protesters have begun focusing their attention on the big festivals – particularly Aintree and Cheltenham. The tough courses and large fields at marquee events leads to a higher risk of serious injury for both jockeys and riders. In fact Animal Aid claim that 4x as many horses have died at Cheltenham as on any other British racecourse since 2007. Although this could be a statistical fluke, but it is unfortunately true that in the last several years horses have been put down at each Festival. It can be quite a disturbing sight to see a writhing horse covered by vets and destroyed – but for the moment the racing community is averse to significant change. Last year jockey Ruby Walsh received death threats after downplaying the significance of horse fatalities, so it seems the public may not agree.

Nowadays, The Festival is run over 4 days; which this year are 10th-13th March. During that time Cheltenham plays host to a circus of owners, trainers, jockeys, press, paparazzi, bookies and, of course, over 250,000 raucous spectators determined to get the most from this spectacular event. Bookmakers will swarm the tote pool at Cheltenham – where slatted chalkboard are only just being replaced by digital screens. Although plenty of cash will change hands there, most of the £600m wagered over the 4 day event will be online or at high street shops.

For British bookmakers Coral, preparations for Cheltenham start months in advance. Every race featuring a potential contender is methodically examined for information which could affect pricing – a fractional mistake in offered odds could take millions from the bottom line. Like several other bookies they also sponsor one of Cheltenham’s premier races – The Coral Cup.

The Festival is firmly rooted in tradition – not surprising as members of the Royal Family are frequent visitors. The Queen, who owns a stable of racecourses, has fielded entries to the Cheltenham Gold Cup and members of the family including The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have made appearances in recent years.

We’ll also be treated to full page newspaper spreads after Cheltenham’s “Ladies Day” on March 11th. Racing takes a back seat to fashion as elaborate dresses and enormous (some might say ridiculous) hats take centre stage. However the day after, St. Patrick’s Day, has a completely different tone and becomes a raucous day long celebration of Ireland and the Irish!

The Cheltenham Festival is a peculiarly British event which soldiers on oblivious to changes in the social fibre or animal rights norms of the general population. Like it or loathe it, you’re bound to hear a lot more about Cheltenham as the big day approaches.

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Written by Ian Pope

December 31st, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Other Sport

On falling out of love with football…

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Someone said to me the other day when I wasn’t watching a football match that usually I’d have on my TV that I’d have been watching it if they were trying to cook something. A fair point. For you see over the past few months I may have just become over saturated on football and I’m just footballed out. I sit here racking my brain trying to think of a game so far this season where I’ve been genuinely engrossed and I’m struggling. Not even the big matches have really grabbed me (although some games I have certainly watched and been more than entertained by).

I wonder if this is just a general malaise or whether it is more to do with me changing as a person. Maybe I’m growing up, maybe I’m diversifying but whilst years ago I was a football nut I think most who know me well will have noticed over the past few years (namely since I left my previous role of a Sports Editor) that whilst I still thoroughly enjoy watches some sporting events, they don’t rule the landscape as much as they did previously.

Take as an example last week. On the Tuesday I was in town doing some food shopping and saw a poster for a Dave Gorman gig the next day and instead of thinking ‘well Liverpool v Real Madrid is on otherwise I’d go’ I went home and looked up whether they had tickets left and when I saw they did I went ahead. I didn’t even think about missing a big time football match on the tellybox that I usually would factor into my thought process.

This isn’t an isolated incident. I have missed many football matches on telly recently to do social things instead. Obviously this year for the first time in three years I’m not working on radio broadcasts of games and maybe lacking that exposure to live action has been further part of the malaise but it has been a much longer process than that. I thoroughly enjoyed the early part of the World Cup as there was some terrific action and enjoyable matches before the coaches reined in the beautiful attacking play that dominated the early stages of that tournament.

Way back when the result of my team would affect my mood, now I am so disenfranchised it is ridiculous. If teenage me saw me now and how little I care about Pompey he wouldn’t recognise me and wonder what the hell had happened in my life for such a lax attitude to football to have come to the fore. I just think that as you grow up your interests and priorities change and whilst it is a slow change, you don’t notice it for a while until it is stark in your face.

I did contemplate whether it was just football or all sport that is I’m currently suffering a malaise from and looking back over the past few weeks there have been two matches where I’ve been totally into it. Penn State @ Rutgers and Denver @ Seattle. Both games I was completely into and enjoyed (and endured) them immensely. Had I not been unwell over the weekend and gone to bed early then I have no doubt that I’d have been completely engrossed by Penn State’s comeback but ultimate failure against Ohio State as well. Still though for me that is what, three games in the past couple of months that I was into.

This weekend sees Tom Brady v Peyton Manning (again) or more accurately Denver @ New England and I’m trying to get excited about it but I just can’t. I have no doubt if I’m at home I’ll watch but I can’t say I’m circling it in my calendar knowing that I can’t be doing anything else in the Sunday night window although lets be honest here, I don’t see me doing anything else in that window so no doubts I’ll be watching.

I was watching highlights of the 2010-2011 Ashes series on YouTube the other day and I immensely enjoyed that series. I watched so much of it live and was totally riveted by it. Looking back and there are several instances where England cricket away from home has done this to me so maybe cricket is relatively safe from this sport watching doldrums I seem to find myself in.

The thing is I must be into some other things to replace sport from my time and well maybe I am. I seem to be forming more of a strong political leaning and whilst I won’t say anger, I will say disquiet at what seems to be going on. The race to the bottom on immigration is repulsive from all sides of the political spectrum. I know politicians seem to think that you have to appeal to the lowest common denominator to win but that makes me feel sick and I am reading more about what interests me, not fiction, I’m not a fiction guy but non-fiction and enhancing what I understand and having a thirst for knowledge.

So maybe I’m just not the guy that I was and maybe I am just changing. Maybe it is just a phase, who knows but I certainly feel like I’m much less of a slave to the TV schedulers and that chain to the TV is a lot, lot looser than it was. We all change as we get older and we get new interests and maybe, just maybe, this has been going on for a while but I have just failed to notice it. The thing is when all is said and done is I am not upset about the changes that are seemingly going on. I am feeling like I might just be going through a bit of an identity crisis but it isn’t a bad one and it is just the evolution of me. In a way looking back I can see so much of teenage and early 20s me the now 30s me and maybe I should’ve evolved just a bit more than I have over the past decade…

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Written by neilmonnery

October 30th, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Andrew Strauss calls Kevin Pietersen a c*** on live TV but keeps his job – what bull

with 3 comments

Oh an open microphone. Broadcasting is a strange beast. I have dabbled as many will know and whilst many may have sympathy for Andrew Strauss following events yesterday. I do not. For the record I am no big fan of Strauss but nor am I a big fan of KP. I don’t really have a horse in this race.

For those who don’t know what happened then here is the article from the Independent – Andrew Strauss ‘mortified’ and ‘profusely sorry’ after he calls Kevin Pietersen a ‘c**t’ live on air. The former England captain thought he was off air (Sky were on an ad break) but in fact they were still live in other parts of the world and decided it was a good time to call Kevin Pietersen the c-word whilst his microphone was on.

Sky quickly made an apology, tweeting the following, Earlier comments were made during a break of play which were heard overseas. We apologise for the language used and Strauss followed suit by stating I apologise unreservedly, particularly to Kevin Pietersen. I am mortified and profusely sorry.

Sources seem to suggest that this will be the end of the matter but that just rings hollow to me. I have been a staunch admirer of Sky’s cricket coverage for many many years. I genuinely think their team is the best in the sport and might well be the best in any sport I watch. They hired Andrew Strauss specifically because they wanted him, fresh out of the sport after his issues with Kevin Pietersen, to essentially give a good insight into the inner workings of the England dressing room. Sadly for them, all he’s done is not comment or criticise because he’s still mates with except everyone bar Kevin Pietersen, who he’s been happy to tear apart, this is unprofessional and poor broadcasting but it is still not an open personal attack, which now he has done.

If Sky really believed in their brand and product then they would fire him on the spot. In all fairness the fact they extended his original contract (which covered the two Ashes series last year according to reports at the time) seems highly questionable. His broadcasting talents are well below the standards of his fellow top tier of Sky cricket commentators. Strauss can’t hold a candle to the likes of Atherton, Holding, Bumble, Hussain, Warne, Gower and yes even Botham and his constant grumpiness that he’s watching cricket and not fishing. Strauss adds nothing to the team but yet he seems to be being molded for big things by the corporation.

He should be gone and even if they chose not to fire him, he should be taken out of the spotlight of their Test team sooner rather than later. The first test against India starts on Wednesday and if Strauss is involved then we’ll know what Sky think is more important, keeping Strauss happy or allowing personal vitriolic attacks on people. Andrew Strauss is perfectly entitled to his opinion on KP but he is not sitting around watching the game on his sofa with his mates, he’s being paid a good amount of money by a big company to professional broadcast.

If Sky won’t remove Strauss from the firing line then he should do it himself. Ask to be stepped down or offer his resignation. I doubt he’ll do either but Andrew Strauss has never come across as a man high on principles anyway. Many many people have been involved in many many broadcasts and knowing what you can and can’t say isn’t exactly rocket science. If there is a chance your microphone is on then it is best not to say anything that can get you into trouble. Strauss fell foul of this and because of what he said and who he said it about (given their history) then his position would seem to me to be untenable but Sky have a history of backing their people beyond where they should so come Wednesday I fully expect to see the previous England captain on my screen and it will push me further towards TMS even though I’d be loathed to not listen to Michael Atherton or Michael Holding, who are supreme.

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Written by neilmonnery

July 6th, 2014 at 9:30 am

Posted in Other Sport

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Oh my word – my heart – she cannae take any more captain!

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So. This evening I was out on the radio so I was unable to sit here and watch the Hampshire v Lancashire T20 Quarter-Final but I was full of confidence. I kept away from the interweb including twitter, Facebook et al as I didn’t want to know the result. I did see a tweet early in proceedings so I knew Hampshire were batting first and James Vince had batted really well but apart from that I knew naff all.

So I sit down to watch the game when I get in and oh my word. Talk about going through the wringer. Had I been watching it live I know exactly what I’d have been like. I’d have been pacing up and down and cursing as Lancashire stayed in touch with the Royals.

Hampshire had batted marvelously and put on 202 and in a way that might have been a disappointing score as the home side could easily have scored 15-20 more. James Vince and Michael Carberry were just electric at the top of the innings with Vince who frustrates me more than any other Hampshire player breaking out getting 60 off 30 balls and then getting out to a waist high full toss that he probably should have deposited for six wherever he liked. The reason Vince frustrates me is because I know how talented he is. He has all the shots and power and always gets in and then gets out to a sloppy shot for 20 odd but tonight he out-paced Carberry to get the Royals off to a flyer.

Speaking of Michael Carberry that man has to be in the England T20 squad and pretty much has to open. He is just so destructive and has been in great nick all summer long. In all honesty the IPL should come calling and next spring he should be in the sub-continent plying his trade. He scored an unbeaten century with an inside edge scramble for two off the last ball of the innings. It was magnificent from Hampshire but 202 might actually have been short considering we only got 23 off the last 20 deliveries.

Lancashire though hadn’t read the script. Dimitri Mascarenhas was expensive which isn’t exactly the norm and the away side kept up with the mammoth run rate needed. Two wickets in two balls from Danny Briggs looked set to call a halt to any hopes of a Lancashire win but they just wouldn’t go away. Chris Wood bowled a fantastic four balls in the penultimate over but then a ramp four and a big six meant Lancs needed 17 off the final over and when Sohail Tanvir bowled a dumb waist high no ball with the first delivery of the last over that meant 14 off six needed and that was very much in play.

In the end it came down to the final ball and I was pacing up and down my living room ready to curse but Tanvir just about came through as a low full toss was only straight driven down the ground for two and the defending champions squeaked home. I have said all summer long that Hampshire are the best team in this competition but tonight for the first time I saw the bowlers struggle but somehow we just got there and have made it two south group teams already at Finals Day with Essex still to play tonight.

I am not a huge fan of international ODI and T20 cricket but I think the domestic T20 tournament is fantastic for the game. Little things made the difference tonight. James Vince made a quite insane save of a boundary and Jimmy Adams drove a ball straight into the umpire that would have been four. Such small margins but my plans for Saturday week seem more solid than they were. I still think Hampshire should be regarded as favourites for the competition and this close run thing should help.

The Royals know how to win games and winning is a great habit. The other great thing on show tonight was a terrific spectacle and a huge amount of entertainment. A belter of a wicket led to a belter of a game and whilst the game has probably led to more colours of shall we say a lighter shade appearing on my head, I think it is fair to say any naturals watching will have been well and truly entertained and isn’t that the point of sport? We all love winning and don’t love losing but we all love is to be entertained and tonight both Hampshire and Lancashire helped by a stunning pitch delivered a quality nights entertainment.

Having said all that though. Thank fuck we won.

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Written by neilmonnery

August 8th, 2013 at 1:09 am

Posted in Other Sport

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The ‘casual sexism’ of Andy Murray’s win stopping 77 years of hurt.

with 5 comments

My blood people. My blood. You have endangered that blood by trying to make it boil. All afternoon and evening last night and now this morning. I need a hot tub to relax in (well ok I just want a hot tub and think that this would be the perfect excuse) but what has got my blood boiling you ask? The faux sexism regarding Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon yesterday.

You see it has been 77 years since a British man has held aloft the Wimbledon Men’s Singles trophy. The thing is though instead of enjoying that triumph people are looking for every way to attack and use this victory to make their point. Twitter was full of ‘Don’t you remember Virginia Wade’ such quotes yesterday as she was the last woman to hold aloft the Wimbledon Women’s Singles trophy to have hailed from the British Isles and she did so in 1977, which as basic mathematicians will tell you is more recent than 1936.

Now that is a fine point but if we are looking at all British victories at Wimbledon in the main events (singles and doubles for both men and women as well as mixed) then of course it was only last year when Jonathan Marray held aloft a Wimbledon trophy having won the Men’s Doubles. In 2007 Andy’s own brother lifted the Mixed Doubles trophy and if you really want to be pedantic and say that they had help from non-British partners then go back to 1987 when Jo Durie and Jeremy Bates were British winners of the Mixed Doubles at SW19.

Stephen Tall today blogged about the headline in The Times today which was ‘Murray ends 77-year wait for British win’ and exclaims As if it would have killed the headline writer to say 36 years (accurate) instead of 77 (inaccurate). Well Stephen as you well know 36 is not accurate. It cannot be accurate. The only accurate responses are either one year or 77. At no point does the headline writer refer to singles play so it either has to be one (the last British winner of any sort) or 77 (the last Men’s winner) you can’t just decide that singles play was intimated because it fits your point.

See this is the type of thing I have seen for the majority of the past 24 hours. People manipulate things to fit their own agenda or point. Facts get thrown out of the window and accuracy that people are pleading for is something they have missed entirely. Now if anyone – whether face to face or in the media – says that Andy Murray’s win ended 77 of singles hurt at Wimbledon for British players then that would be inaccurate and sexist. If they say that Andy Murray’s win ended British hurt at Wimbledon then either they mean the Men’s singles or instead of being sexist they just don’t know about Jonathan Marray, Jamie Murray, Jo Durie, Jeremy Bates, Virginia Wade etc.

The thing is folks I have yet to see any commentator, yet to see any media outlet, yet to speak to anyone – let me repeat that – anyone – who has said that Andy Murray’s win ended 77 of singles hurt at Wimbledon for British players. Not one. They have either just said hurt at Wimbledon or hurt in the Men’s singles at Wimbledon. So either they are correct or they don’t care about all other events about from the Men’s singles including Men’s doubles and male participants in the Mixed doubles.

However why let facts get in the way of faux outrage. This is why sexism kills me. People will see sexism in everything. I know people who think holding a door open for a woman is sexist. I know of people who don’t. I know of people who thought it was sexist that the Men’s marathon awards ceremony at the Olympics was during the Closing Ceremony. They thought women should have just as much right to the final awards ceremony as men. So do these people think that the Women’s Wimbledon Final should be played on the same day as the Men? Should they be played at the same time and given equal billing? If they are played on the same day and the Women’s final is first then is it sexist and demeaning and making the Men out to be more important? At Wimbledon women are asked to play back-to-back days (Monday/Tuesday of the second week) whereas men aren’t. Some say that is sexist.

I could go on and on but if you are to plead sexism – and we all depressingly know that there is more than enough sexism to go around – but if you are to see sexism then actually find something sexist to be mad at. Don’t manipulate a story to fit your agenda. As for Stephen’s take on would it kill the headline writer to say 36 years which would’ve been accurate. If Stephen can point out in the headline where it says ‘singles’ then I’ll grant him that it is casual sexism. However he won’t be able to so it cannot be sexist. Either it is ignoring all men and women who have won Wimbledon trophies since 1936 or it is talking about the Men’s Singles. It cannot be anything else.

Who cares about facts anyway. Outrage people. Outrage!

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July 8th, 2013 at 9:57 am

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BBC drop Monaco GP to pick up Canadian GP – Full BBC/Sky F1 Coverage for 2013

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The BBC and Sky have started to make announcements about their coverage of Formula 1 for the 2013 season. Sky basically have announced that it is very much status quo. David Croft & Martin Brundle remain as the voice and face of the sport as expected. Simon Lazenby keeps his spot as presenter despite criticism. Damon Hill and Antony Davidson remain and Johnny Herbert returns to the channel after joining early in 2012 and becoming a firm favourite. Georgie Thompson stays as well and Ted Kravitz leads the pit team with Natalie Pinkham getting drivers interviews. So as expected Sky very much have kept with its team from 2012 with only Herbert added to the opening race team and he had become a mainstay since early in 2012.

Over at the BBC though decisions had to be made as Jake Humphrey quit the BBC to become the face of Football on BT Vision. Well they’ve made their first decision as surprisingly Suzi Perry has replaced him as the anchor. Most thought Lee McKensie would be promoted but they’ve gone for Suzi Perry – who has worked on Moto GP for the channel although she quit that role in part because of the excess travel involved – so coming back to do F1 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but of course presenting Moto GP and F1 is two very different things – with two very different salaries.

No word yet from the BBC on whether Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard will be returning but with Sky having named their line-up there doesn’t seem to be room for them unless they went to a three-man booth and personally I wouldn’t like to see that.

The other thing we now know is which channel will be showing which races. The full calendar is below:

17 March Australian Grand Prix – Sky
24 March Malaysian Grand Prix – Sky
14 April Chinese Grand Prix – BBC/Sky
21 April Bahrain Grand Prix – Sky
12 May Spanish Grand Prix – BBC/Sky
26 May Monaco Grand Prix – Sky
09 June Canadian Grand Prix – BBC/Sky
30 June British Grand Prix – BBC/Sky
7 July German Grand Prix = Sky
21 July ‘A.N. Other European Grand Prix – BBC/Sky
28 July Hungarian Grand Prix – Sky
25 August Belgian Grand Prix – BBC/Sky
08 September Italian Grand Prix – BBC/Sky
22 September Singapore Grand Prix – Sky
06 October Korean Grand Prix – Sky
13 October Japanese Grand Prix – BBC/Sky
27 October Indian Grand Prix – BBC/Sky
03 November Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Sky
17 November United States Grand Prix – Sky
24 November Brazilian Grand Prix – BBC/Sky

The biggest difference is that the BBC have used their first three picks on Britain and Brazil again but Monaco has gone with Canada having gone to the Beeb. An interesting choice as the Canadian Grand Prix has long been one of the very best and is held in prime-time. The Italian GP also goes to the BBC this time around (guessing Australia, USA, Monaco were Sky’s first three picks) but overall you’d probably say that the BBC are getting a better quality of race this time around.

The July 21 race is expected to be either Turkey or possibly a return of either the Austrian or French Grand Prix. I’d love to see the Austrian race return as I think the A1 Ring brought us a few really good races as the track as several really good overtaking opportunities. This race has been added to the calendar because the second race in the United States (New Jersey) has been postponed until 2014.

Last year was a thriller for Formula 1 fans and if next year can be as good then we’ll be in for a fantastic year of Motorsport. Whether you watch on the Beeb or on Sky the coverage should be some of the very best in the world.

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December 22nd, 2012 at 5:41 pm

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Picking my Test Match XI of my generation

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Last night (well in the early hours of today) whilst watching Australia v South Africa in the second test from Adelaide I was laying in bed and trying to work out my Test team of my lifetime and decided to blog about it so here we are.

I am only including players I saw who were at the height of their game in my watching life. This means that players like Botham and Marshall – two players who would certainly be in the mix are not going to be considered. Also this is not a ‘best team of my generation’ but more a team that I’d put out if I had to win a Test match. Also for the basis of this team I’m saying the Test is not on the sub-continent so only one spinner will play.

So we start with my openers and one is easy – Graeme Smith. Smith I think is a class act both in mind and skill. He averages a tick under 50 as a Test Match opener and has that gumption about him. His opening partner was more tricky. I love Chris Gayle but could I trust him? Matthew Hayden was terrific and Virender Sehwag is explosive but I think I’ll have to go with the little master Sachin Tendulkar. He averages a tick under 55 in Tests and is a magical player.

Next up we have the middle order (3-5) and boy have we seen some great5 players in my time. Here is a brief look at the players who I’m not picking…Steve Waugh, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Hashim Amla, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Kevin Pietersen, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Rahul Dravid. That is some list of players but I think 3-5 is actually really easy. I’d have Ricky Ponting at three, Jacques Kallis at four and Brian Charles Lara at five. Kallis also provides the fourth seamer option as he can easily give me 10-15 overs in a day.

Now at number six is without a doubt my most controversial choice and in so a player who most people wouldn’t even think of. I think in the middle order you need at least one player who can be the glue is everything is going wrong. This is another spot where Rahul Dravid could easily have been picked or Mr Cricket himself – Michael Hussey but I’m going with my only English player – one who played 100 Tests for England and was always the guy you wanted to see coming in at 30/3 if times were hard – Graham Thorpe. He averaged ‘only’ 44.66 but was always the anchor when England needed him. A team full of All Stars probably doesn’t need that anchor but I’d still want one so Thorpe is in for me.

Coming in at seven is Adam Gilchrist who has the gloves. I don’t think anyone would argue this. Averaged 47.60 in Tests and changed the way we viewed wicketkeeping. Do I need to say much more about this? Not really. Don’t have to justify it as no-one else really got a look in despite my love of Mark Boucher he wasn’t in Gilly’s league.

Coming in at nine would be by spin bowler and in was a two horse race. Either you pick Muttiah Muralitharan or like me you select Shane Warne. Also here is the surprise. Warne never captained Australia in Test cricket but he would be my captain. I think Warne is one of the finest cricketing brains out there and there is no doubt he is the greatest captain Australia never had.

With Warne coming in at nine that means I have a pace bowler coming in ahead of Warne (which shows great depth in batting). I just about saw Wasim Akram in his prime and for me he has to be in this side. His pace and swing was years before his time and his long time opening bowling partner Waqar Younis could be seen as hard done by not to make the side. However Wasim is my first change bowler so I have a strike pair yet to be announced.

Glenn McGrath is a no brainer. Australia had the best spin bowler of all time and the best pace bowler of his generation in McGrath playing in the same team. That is in no small part to why they dominated the sport. He’ll bat at 11 and at 10 and taking the new ball with McGrath is Curtley Ambrose. I know Courtney Walsh had a better record but I always felt that when at full pace and when he was really up for it Ambrose was the hardest and fiercest pace bowler of his generation. I was a huge Ambrose fan. Players like Walsh, Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock and Andrew Flintoff got a brief glance. Flintoff as a bowler was extremely good but he was never an all-rounder (apart from his very early years).

I think this team has every angle covered. I know a couple of players would be questioned (Thorpe and Ambrose certainly) but this is all subjective. If we were just having a ‘best players in my generation’ team then Kevin Pietersen may well had made the team instead of Thorpe and Walsh’s consistency may well have knocked Ambrose out but I think Thorpe and Ambrose bring something to my team that Pietersen and Walsh don’t (steel and raw aggression).

So to recap:

Gilchrist (wkt)
Warne (Capt)

If I was picking a squad of 16 for a tour you can add Sehwag, Pietersen, Boucher, Muralitharan and Walsh and I’m still not picking players I truly loved like Chanderpaul, Ul-Haq, Hussey…we have seen real quality in recent years. I might well do my generation team for T20 games in the near future and if I do I’d be interested to see how many of the Test players make that squad…I’m putting the over/under at five but I haven’t really thought about it yet.

Who would make your Test team if you had to pick a team to win a Test match of only players you’ve seen play?

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November 25th, 2012 at 1:43 pm

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More PE each week is good but it isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ problem

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I don’t think it would be a shock to anyone that knows me that I was would enjoy two hours of PE a day. In fact not a lot would’ve made me happier at school than spending ten hours a week playing sport. Yes I said playing sport and not doing Physical Education. I think there is a distinct difference between the two and one that should not be ignored.

When the Mayor of London said last week that he thought two hours of PE a day was a great idea then he’s right. It is. However great ideas in theory don’t always equate to being great ideas in practice. If there was compulsory two hours of PE a day then most schools would need to either find eight hours extra a week or cut time from other subjects. Now if you were to ask me whether PE was more important than algebra then I’d say it was but many would disagree.

How many students would like the school day lengthened by an hour each day so extra PE time could be taught? Not many I suspect and those who don’t like PE anyway would be distraught but maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing. We have a very short school day as it is so what is there to stop the school day going on an extra hour each day?

I remember in Year 8 we had double Games and double Geography back-to-back between morning break and Lunch. Our Games teacher was also our Geography teacher so it was ok as we often came in late all hot and bothered when the girls were sitting there waiting for five minutes for us to turn up (he often overran the Games lesson as a) we liked it and b) he’d forget the time) and we had no issues being late as he knew why. However this also happened in Year 7 but this wasn’t the same teacher. Luckily he was a good teacher and was understanding. I know other kids didn’t have that understanding. I do think PE and/or Games should preferably be taught in a period where there is a natural break after it or preferably at the end of the day although a whole school having PE last thing doesn’t really work.

I can hear the tens of you that will read this yelling out ‘but I didn’t like PE so I wouldn’t like this’ but the reality is most of us didn’t like most of our lessons anyway. The important thing is to give options. At school we didn’t really have many PE options. The choice was made for us. Also looking back I think at both my senior schools there were only four full-time PE staff at both so that doesn’t leave to much wiggle room for multiple choices. So staffing levels need to be addressed if this government are genuinely keen on making PE a vital part of the curriculum again.

Personally speaking I think there are many things that students need to learn but don’t and I like the Japanese model of after-school clubs that cater for all. Whilst Japanese classes may finish at say around 3, kids won’t go home until nearer 6 as they have a variety of after-school clubs that they have to attend but they get the choice of what to attend but I’m digressing away from just the PE aspect and into the whole make-up of school days and that is probably not the way to go at this juncture.

Back at PE. At my first secondary school we had both PE and Games. So PE was things like Gym and working on general fitness and Games was whatever sport you were playing that half-term so Rugby, Hockey, Basketball, Cricket etc… – we were a Rugby school and not a Football one. Lots of talk about Indian dance and I do recall somewhere in the annals of my mind that we did do dance for a half-term at some point. I see no problem with dance being taught in a PE lesson. PE should mostly be about getting kids active.

PE is not a ‘one size fits all’ lesson but to be blunt neither is any subject taught in school. Schools are often about things you enjoy and then things you endure. Technology for me was something I had less than zero interest in. Whether it be graphics or woodwork or design or cooking I just didn’t care. I possibly could have used that cooking skill now as I live off microwave meals and bunging things in the oven but I still had to do it for two hours a week. The same should be levied at PE.

I have read so many people saying that they had bad experiences of PE at school and that we shouldn’t force it upon those that don’t like it because they didn’t. Well that’s crap. We can’t pick and choose what we do at school until we are 14 pretty much and PE is not only part of a broad education it is part of making this country a healthier one. PE can inspire just as much as Maths or English can. Reading Shakespeare or Dickens will inspire a writer but running around a muddy field will inspire someone else.

Physical Education can and should become part of the Olympics legacy. They want to inspire a generation well this is the opportunity. If I was Michael Gove I would find a way to extend the school day and get an hour of PE at least three days a week and community projects in two days a week. Education isn’t just about learning stuff but also about maturing and getting interested in things. After-school clubs were in my day pretty much limited to sporting endeavours but how good would it be if lots of other interests were catered for? Building robots or making a community radio station or fashion design or whatever. We need to inspire kids and get them interested in things after school that aren’t going home and watching cartoons, playing on the games console, surfing the internet or wandering around the shops.

PE can be a big part of this but there are other things that will inspire people. Yes this would involve more work for teachers but for me the onus on teachers now to fill students brains with useless information to pass exams and to get up league tables. Teachers should be there to inspire kids in whatever interests them. All teachers have hobbies that they are interested in and no doubt they’ll be many students who would also be interested in that.

So to conclude as I have again waffled off subject. I think the school day should be extended. PE options should be wide and varied. However inspiring a generation isn’t just about sport it is about everything. Students need inspiring or they’ll do nothing and a motivated student in one capacity will lead to doing well in others.

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August 14th, 2012 at 11:08 am

Posted in Other Sport,Politics

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