Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Most recent entries
- When what I think it is determines how ugly or beautiful I feel it to be
- Big Things with foreground clutter
- Battersea Park bird
- Colourful clothes in Cordings
- The Real Premier League and how its expansion from four to seven has revived the FA Cup
- 2012 and 2016 times 2 – London on the rise
- Stripy house can stay stripy
- Mr Ed has some metaphorical fun
- A picture of a book about pictures
- To Tottenham (8): Zooming in on some Big Things
- Playing golf versus following cricket
- Quota bicycles
- Another Capital Golf car
- Battersea Power Station then and now and soon
- Timing shits instead of forcing them
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Category archive: Sport
Spent the day doing pretty much nothing, frollowing the meeting I had in my home last night, having spent the whole of last week fretting that there wouldn’t be enough people. There were, just about, but it was close.
So, quota photo time. This will do, taken from Low Hall Sports Ground (near to Blackhorse Road railway statnion (which is how I found my way there)), in June 2012:
I went to this place to try to photo the Gherkin and the Shard directly in line, and as you can surely guess from the above photo, I succeeded. But this not-quite-aligned version come out nicely too.
What follows is the speculation of a football non-obsessive, and it could all be nonsense. So sprinkle lots of “so I surmise” and “it seems to me” all over it. And then correct me if I’m wrong. So, I surmise ...
If all Premier League teams were very roughly equal in strength, amd doing well or badly merely because of the vagaries of form and fitness and confidence and sheer dumb luck, you’d expect a few to be stretching out at the front of the field, and a few to be falling back at the back, with a big bunch in the middle. The biggest points gaps would be at the top and at the bottom, with no big gaps anywhere near the middle.
Now look at the state of the Premier League, as of now, on the right there.
We do now see gaps at the top and at the bottom. As of right now, leaders Chelsea are 4 points ahead of their nearest chaser, Spurs, and Liverpool are next, a whole 8 points behind Spurs. Bottom club Sunderland is now 6 points behind second-from-bottom Middlesbrough, who are 4 points behind third-from-bottom Swansea.
And we also see a big bunch of teams in the middle. The points gap between West Brom in eighth place and Burnley at sixteenth is a mere 4 points.
But the biggest points gap of all between adjacent clubs in the Premier League is between Everton in seventh place and West Brom in eighth place. This gap is currently no less than 14 points. The top seven clubs (Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal, Everton) are now, you might say, the Real Premier League.
I distinctly recall the times when the Real Premier League only contained four clubs: Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. And then Man City joined it, with Liverpool slipping down. So there used to be only four, but now there are seven.
This has had an interesting consequence, which is that the FA Cup is now important again. Or so I surmise (see above).
The FA Cup used to count for a lot. There was no Real Premier League in those far off times, or if there was I was not aware of it. But there was a European Cup and a European Cup-Winners Cup, or some such thing, and all clubs wanted to win either the League or the Cup and preferably both, for the sheer glory of it.
Then, the European Cup or the Champion’s League or whatever started to get seriously into its stride and to mean serious money, to spend on now seriously well paid players. “Getting into Europe” stopped being a bit of an afterthought and became what it was all about. At around this time the Four-Team Real Premier League also got into its stride, and the best route into Europe, for Real Premier League clubs, became to ignore the FA Cup. Remember when Man Utd didn’t even bother to contest the FA Cup and instead went flapping off to Brazil, to lose some mega-championship of the world game? All that crap about The Magic of The Cup, and Anyone Can Win The Cup, blah blah blah, became very tedious, because Anyone Who Was Anyone (i.e. the Real Premier League) couldn’t be bothered with exhausting themselves trying to win FA Cup, what with them always being in Europe anyway and having the small matter of the Premier League to come at least fourth in to get back into Europe again. For the FA Cup, they put out their reserves instead of a real team, just to keep them busy and amused. If they got beaten by Anyone Town, that was the fault of said reserves, was no huge surprise, and was no skin off the nose of the actual Real Premier League club. Skin on it, if anything, because the season immediately became less exhausting for any first teamers who got dragged into going through the motions in the FA Cup.
But now that the Real Premier League has expanded from four clubs to seven clubs, a Real Premier League club can no longer take its route to Europe quite so much for granted. At which point the FA Cup, which is another route into Europe, becomes of significance to Real Premier League clubs, the way it has never been since the Real Premier League got started.
This year, all four FA Cup semi-finalists were Real Premier League clubs. (Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, Man City.) When was the last time that happened?
So far, I have only managed seven photo-postings about my expedition to the big old Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which is now in the process of being turned into a bigger new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Tomorrow, Spurs play Chelsea in the semi finals of the FA Cup, and in honour of this confrontation, here is Tottenham posting number eight.
I made my way eastwards from the stadium, towards the park and then the canal beside which I hoped to walk south. But before I got there, I encountered this:
This footbridge is to be found next to the level crossing at the north end of Northumberland Park railway station. I climbed up on the footbridge and took this shot, looking south, of that railway station:
My main reason for showing this is to show you how far away the Big Things of the City are from this vantage point. This sort of circumstance being why God invented zoom lenses. Look what happened when I cranked up my zoom, on my trusty Panasonic Lumix FZ200.
What you see here is the miniscule portion of the above view that you see if you follow the railway lines straight to the horizon, and then shift a tiny bit to the left, just past that big spikey thing, to those tiny little things sticking up, just beyond the big spike and to its left, as we look:
And what we see is that those tiny things are the Big Things of the City of London. Gherkin. Cheesegrater. Shard. Plus intervening clutter of course.
Over to the far left of the station view photo you can also make out the towers of Docklands. But they aren’t that special to look at. If it weren’t for the pointy one, you’d hardly know how to spot them, because they’d just be a few anonymous lumps. What Docklands needs is a mega-skyscraper of a distinctive design. Maybe a thin tower, with a huge revolving restaurant at the top. Something along those lines. But I fear that the nearby presence of City Airport would make that impossible, for the time being anyway.
I always know when I am on the right track as a blogger. It’s when someone quotes me. (It’s usually either the Quotulator (I was most recently quotulated by him in this posting) or 6k.) This means (a) that I have said something interesting and somewhat novel, and (b) that I have said it well. (b)-ing I do, on its own, regularly. I regularly say obvious, banal, boring things clearly and fluently. Don’t we all? Nobody copies and pastes (b)-ing. Frustratingly, I also do quite a lot of (a)-ing on its own, meaning: I say something interesting, but say it very badly and confusingly, with constant self-interruptions, this paragraph perhaps being yet another example of (a)-ing. Nobody quotes (a)-ing either, because it just confuses and irritates people. You have to do (a)-ing and (b)-ing all at once before you get quoted by anyone.
So, if 6k has just been quoting me, I must have said something good and said it right, right? And 6k has just been quoting me:
First this, from earlier this week:
I still hate and fear golf.
And then this, from the posting that that recent posting linked back to:
I remember once having a go at it, when I was at my expensive public school in the middle of the last century. I still remember hitting one golf ball really sweetly and deciding, right then and there, that I would never do this again, because if I did, there was a definite danger that golf would take over my entire life. And I wasn’t having that.
Sadly for me, though, this is not the perfect piece of writing that I yearn to contrive, every time I place my fingers above my keyboard to start to type in this stuff. It was not, that is to say, the blogging equivalent of a perfectly hit golf shot. (a)-ing and (b)-ing were not perfectly combined. There is one crucial word missing. Where it says: “… there was a definite danger that golf would take over my entire life”, I should have put “… there was a definite danger that playing golf would take over my entire life.”
Playing cricket, as a life-time occupation excluding all else besides doing whatever work was needed to stay alive, never appealed to me, for the simple reason that I was always hopelessly bad at playing cricket. A cricketing life would have been a life of constant humiliation at the hands of all the other, better cricketers. The occasional well flighted off-break or decently played single out to extra cover would not have begun to compensate for all the contemptuous fours and sixes hit off me (if and when I ever bowled) or the flying stumps (if and when I finally got to bat). You can’t play cricket alone, against only yourself. You have to have opponents, and if these opponents are almost always better than you, you aren’t going to have a huge amount of fun.
But playing golf is different. Basically, no matter how they dress it up, golf is, or at any rate can be, a solitary game. It is a game you can play against only yourself, and for me that would be a fair contest, rather than the permanent humiliation that me playing cricket regularly (by its nature, necessarily, against other cricketers) would have been.
6k notes that do I “love cricket”, and I do. But to be more exact, what I love is following cricket, not playing it. And following cricket, at any rate the way I like to follow it, fits in perfectly with me also having a life doing other more meaningful things besides following cricket.
What I love about cricket is, yes, the game itself, but also the minutiae of its progress - the verbal commentaries and the numbers and the dots, the runs and the wickets, the constant flow of data.
Football is not like this, for me. The actual processes don’t appeal to me nearly so much. All that passing and tackling and dribbling and creating and missing half-chances. These processes only really matter, to me, if they result in a goal, and in a way they only matter to anyone if they result in a goal. With football, it’s only goals that count. Only goals determine who wins. And only the goals really speak to me, so I prefer to watch, if I watch football at all, the recorded highlights of football, and the more highlighty the better. (This is not an argument that you should stop loving football or playing in or going to watch football matches or watching entire games of football on your television. I am merely describing how football does and does not appeal to me.)
Cricket, on the other hand, and unlike football, emits this constant gush of truly meaningful information, information which all adds up to winning or losing. And I relish the decoding of this information in the same way that an MI6 analyst must relish being able to tell what is happening out there also only by looking at data on a computer screen.
I only ever actually attend a cricket game as a special and very occasional treat. I wouldn’t want to watch cricket, for real, in person, at the actual ground, day after day. The very second-hand and rather arms-length nature of cricket data is, for me, all part of what fun it is to be receiving it. Having played enough actual cricket in my extreme youth to have the game imprinted into me, like a first language, I know how diabolically difficult it is to do what good cricketers do routinely. When, as happens from time to time, my computer screen announces a “w” (somebody just got “out"), I feel the same lurch of emotion that the real spectators and participants enjoy or suffer. When I see a “4” reported at Cricinfo, and then read some guy telling me that it was a good shot rather than a mis-hit, I get almost the same pleasure from that as I would have got from actually seeing it.
Especially entertaining is if, say, an IPL team needs to clobber a boundary off the final ball of a T20 game (never mind – it’s just a sort of cricket game) to win, but will otherwise lose, and then a “6” shows up on the screen. Hey, how about that! Or, if a limited overs win-or-lose, no-draws-allowed game ends with, say, one team needing three to win off the last two balls (I seem to recall something like this happening in the IPL a couple of days ago), but with only one wicket left, and the penultimate ball suddenly announces itself to have been a “w”. Game over. Wow.
(Although, I have to admit that a big spread of Premier League games on a Saturday afternoon, with goals erupting quite regularly, and then final whistles all being blown in a sudden rush, is fun, provided your team’s circumstances mean that you have firm preferences for several of these games rather than just the one game. Lots of significant games then adds up to something almost as continuously amusing as a single game of cricket. To me. (This is not an argument, see above ...)
I know, all very childish. But following sport is rather childish. And there’s nothing wrong with such childishishness provided that it doesn’t totally take over your entire life and turn you into a permanent twelve-hours-a-day seven-days-a-week child. Because, what I especially love about following cricket is that I can combine it with other things. Life, when I am following cricket, can go on.
I can now even carry a 1960s mainframe computer around with me in my pocket. I can keep up with any games of cricket that are happening while being out and about in London, meeting colleagues and friends, and taking photos. My cricket machine even doubles up as an A-Z map, complete with a blue blob that says “you are here”. Amazing. In short, and although there are days when it threatens to, merely following cricket has not totally taken over my life. There are even days when my real life is so diverting that I neglect cricket entirely, and have to catch up later.
All of which means that when 6k says that what puts me off golf is its pleasure to pain ratio, and that he feels just the same about cricket, and how come I don’t? - well, with respect, and all my fault for failing to clarify the difference between playing golf and following cricket, but he has it all wrong. Following cricket is continuous squirts of fun into the texture of everyday life, all pleasure and no grief. Playing golf threatened continuous squirts of pleasure, but no everyday life at the same time. It threatened a completely different life for me, and an utterly vacuous one, like being a drug addict (very like being a drug addict), with all my spare time and spare cash consumed by it. Like playing outdoor solitaire, all the time and not doing anything else, and perhaps even stealing money to fund the habit. (I am also terrified of actual drugs, for the same reasons.)
Because the thought of playing golf during every spare hour I had filled and fills me still with such horror, I have even avoided following golf, for fear that merely following golf might become a gateway drug to actually playing golf. You want continuous data? Golf, like cricket, supplies a constant gush of it. But cricket data never says to me that I ought to pick up a bat or a ball and start trying to play the game, again. I know my limitations. Following golf? Well, I just can’t take that risk.
I just spent about an hour working on today’s posting, but it got stuck, and complicated, as postings will. So here is a shiny car to fill today’s void, photoed this afternoon, in Mayfair:
It’s the younger, racier brother of this shiny car, which I encountered in 2015.
I still hate and fear golf.
Incoming, from “Phani”, to Cricinfo, during this game:
“Raina is trying too hard. Take a cue from Mccullum, start timing shits instead of forcing them. Be there till the end, not the usual batting paradise this.”
At the end of the ninth over of the Gujurat Lions innings, if you don’t believe me. I’m guessing it will remain thus.
It’s never good to be forcing your shits. On the other hand, being too rigid about the timing of them is often what leads to you forcing them. Like Raina, you find yourself trying too hard.
And a Happy Easter to all.
You hear this phrase a lot, along with its twin “No, yeah …”. Sportsmen in particular use this phrase a lot, especially cricketers.
A couple of days ago, I was sitting having a drink with a friend, and I heard a regular human being at a nearby table use this strange expression. And straight away, I listened to myself in amazement as I immediately explained to my companion why people, especially cricketers, say this. I had no idea why this nearby person had said “No, yeah” - or was it “Yeah, No”? - but quite suddenly, it became clear to me why cricketers so often talk like this.
Consider the following example, from earlier today. Gareth Batty, the captain of the Surrey cricket team, is speaking about Surrey’s fine win, completed this morning, against Warwickshire, in a four minute video that you can watch at the Surrey website, here.
Surrey’s two best players in this game were, first, Mark Stoneman, who made a big hundred which enabled Surrey to get a big first innings score of 450 odd, and second, another Mark, Mark Footitt, who wrecked the Warwickshire first innings reply, with figures of 9 overs 2 maidens 14 runs 6 wickets, which are very good figures. Footitt in particular was a match winner. A batsmen can make sure his team doesn’t lose the game, but a bowler can, often with brutal suddenness, win the game, and Footitt won this game, in one brilliant afternoon of bowling. He got Bell and Trott, both recent major England batsmen, both for ducks, in one over. Warwickshire never recovered. Yesterday Warwickshire batted quite well in their second innings, Trott in particular, but it was too late. This morning Surrey got Warwickshire’s last few wickets and won by an innings.
So, of course, Gareth Batty was invited by his video interlocutor to agree that Stoneman and Footitt had been brilliant, as they had been. But Batty had something else he wanted to say. He wanted to say, and did say, that this was a team effort. Everybody contributed. We all hit the ground running in our first game of the season. Well done all of us. Well done all our hard work in training, all that pre-season effort in the nets, and all that. And when he’d finished saying all that he said how great the Surrey fans had been. Message: we all pull together. Not a few individuals. The team, in fact the entire club and its supporters.
So, before all that, by way of introduction, how did Batty react to the claim that he should be singling out Stoneman and Footitt for praise, and also be talking about a brilliant catch by Borthwick to get Bell out when Bell looked like staying a lot longer with Trott than he did and threatening to save the game, and giving Borthwick a name check also. By saying: “Yeah, no …” You can hear him say this just over a minute into the video.
What gives is that Batty is saying “Yeah” to the inescapable facts being presented to him. Stoneman and Footitt did play brilliantly. Borthwick’s catch was also superb, and a game-changer. So he is not going to disagree. So: “Yeah”.
But: “No”, because Batty wants to say something else instead, which he then says.
The “root cause” so to speak, of the Yeah, No, No, Yeah thing is that typically, when sportsmen are being interviewed, they are knackered, and have had no time to think what the hell to say, and in any case mostly don’t make a living doing sport after being top of their class at school in elocution, and they have to be helped. And the way that sports interviewers help sportsmen is typically by supplying them with a ready-made answer and asking them to agree. But often, the sportsman, while not wanting to contradict exactly, doesn’t want fully to agree either. If he personally did brilliantly (that often being why he is picked out to be interviewed), he doesn’t want to deny that he did indeed do brilliantly, exactly, but he would rather say that it was, you know, nice to do well, and pick out a few other team-mates by name who also did quite well. So, he starts by saying “Yeah, no”. Yeah, he did well, but no, not that well. He of course thinks that he did brilliantly, sure, but he doesn’t want to say it, because then everyone, and especially his team-mates, would think he’s a arrogant pillock.
Batty, today, agrees that two particular guys, whom he makes a point of not naming, did indeed do well. “They don’t need me to tell them” how well they did, is how he puts it, and then talks about the whole team. By saying “Yeah, no” at the beginning of all this, he is neither wholly agreeing nor wholly disagreeing with the “question”. He is more, as it were, sculpting, modifying, diluting, shifting the emphasis of, changing the balance of, what has just been put to him. Yeah, it’s not wrong. But no, he wants to say something else.
Before we entered the Royal Opera House to endure and eventually to enjoy Die Meistersinger my friend and I wandered around Covent Garden, and chanced upon a shop selling artfully decorated skateboards, in other words looking like this:
As soon as I was inside this shop I asked if I could take some photos, and they said: snap away. So I did. I took the above photo first, which gives an idea of what it was that got my attention. And then I took a lot more, of which the following were the least worst:
I know. Lots of reflections in the shiny surfaces of the skateboards. But, you get the pictures.
A cat is involved (1.3 in the above clutch). A rather rude cat, but a cat. At first, I thought I ought to hurry the posting up and have this ready for last Friday. Then I thought, no, wait until next Friday. And then I thought to hell with that, I’ve nearly done it, I will post it when it’s done.
These artistically enhanced boards have all the relaxed and unpretentious exuberance of graffiti, of the sort I most regularly observe in Leake Street under Waterloo Station. You don’t have to read some idiot art-speak essay to find out what the hell this or that skateboard is “about”, even though it is sometimes obscure. “SHAKEJUNT”. “HAND IN GLOVE”. “FIVE BORE”. “FLIP”. You probably have to be a skateboarder to get what words like those mean. Which probably explains why I like the giant TV remote the best. That I definitely understand.
However, a magic ingredient that separates these skateboards from graffiti is that the skateboards come with added property rights. Once you’ve painted your own particular skateboard, that’s how it stays painted. Which means you can really go to town on it, make it really great, confident that some other artist won’t paint over what you’ve just done.
There is also the fact that a skateboard, unlike graffiti, can be moved hither and thither, which means it can be bought and sold. This means that politically sane people will gravitate towards decorating skateboards and political ignorami will prefer graffiti, property rights and civilisation being things that go hand in hand, as do attacking property rights and barbarism. Sadly, this does not necessarily mean that the skateboard art will be better, because mad artists are often better than sane artists. Plus, you can now add the magic of digital photography to graffiti, thereby preserving it. But as art objects, these skateboards will, unlike graffiti, be profitable and permanent.
Here’s the final photo I took, complete with the guy who said I could take all the other photos, despite knowing I wasn’t in the market for a decorated skateboard, but was merely interested in an art gallery-ish way:
I asked this guy for a card or something, so I could put a link to the place here, as I have done, see above. He didn’t have anything on paper. But then he thought: have a bag:
And that’s how I knew what the shop was called and where to find its website.
I hope this posting doesn’t do any harm to this enterprise, for example by diminishing its street credibility. Do things still have street credibility? Or, to put it in more recent parlance, is street credibility still a thing?
Incoming from Michael Jennings, who encountered this sign at (a?) (the?) Jodhpur Fort in Rajasthan:
Hm, what to do?
Easy. Use a drone instead.
LATER: See first comment. It’s this:
There can only be one fort like that.
Categories updated to include Architecture, History, Sport, and War.
Blog and learn.
I spent most of today watching rugger on the telly.
In the first game Italy got beaten by France, and in the second game, Italy got slaughtered by England.
Just kidding. It wasn’t England v Italy. It merely felt like England v Italy. What it was was England v Scotland. It was a brutal game and several players, both English and Scottish, got smashed out of it. The difference being that while Scotland have about three superb players around which they have constructed a fine team, England have more like twenty superb players with which they have constructed an even finer team. Scotland lost one of their best players today. England also lost an equally good player, from an illegal tackle early on. England carried on as if nothing had happened. Scotland were utterly deranged and demoralised.
England were also riled up and determined to do really well, because although they now win every game they play, people had been saying that their last few Six Nations wins were not very good wins, especially the previous one, against actual Italy, where Italy had done some weird stuff with the rucks and had England all confused. People were saying that Scotland, who have been playing really well, had a decent chance of beating England, despite the fact that the last time they won at Twickenham was in the reign of George III or whenever.
England looked excellent from the kick-off, and I think I must have felt that they were going to win convincingly even then. I say that because, after about two minutes, one of the Scots did that illegal tackle, so illegally that they were saying he might be red carded rather than merely yellow carded, i.e. sent off for good instead of just for ten minutes. And I caught myself hoping that he wouldn’t be sent off permanently, because that would spoil the game and mean that England’s inevitable win wouldn’t mean anything. Much better for England to win against the full fifteen, was my feeling. Which England duly did.
But those who said England might lose shouldn’t feel bad, because predicting the Six Nations is a mug’s game. (The only certainly right now is that Italy will get beaten by everyone else.) I mean, put it like this. Today England smashed Scotland. In the previous round of games, Scotland hammered Wales, and yesterday evening Wales hammered Ireland. So, England should have no trouble at all hammering Ireland, in the final game of the tournament, right? Not necessarily. The other way of looking at these three games (England/Scotland, Scotland/Wales, Wales/Ireland) is that in each of them, the home team won. And when England play Ireland, the home team will be Ireland. England have now beaten France, Italy and Scotland at home, but they only just beat Wales away, with a last gasp try.
But here’s an interesting fact. Take a look at all the results so far. Remove all the Italy games, all lost by Italy no matter where they played, and you are left with just one away win, in the form of that Wales/England game. All the other games between the Not Italy Nations have been home wins, apart from that one Wales/England game. If England can score another away win next weekend, they’ll be very worthy Six Nations 2017 winners. They already are the winners.
My guess is that next weekend, England will manage the second of their only two (and the only two) Not Italy Nations away wins of the entire tournament, that Scotland (in Scotland) will smash Italy, and that France (in France) will beat Wales.
In a BBC sound clip lasting a little over one minute, ex-Leicester City psychologist Ken Way, talks about Leicester City’s premier league success, and about who created it. Claudio Ranieri, Way says, “inherited” Leicester City happiness, from predecessor Nigel Pearson. Ranieri’s successor, Craig Shakespeare also creates lots of happiness, says Way.
So, was Ranieri making them miserable? Is that why they dumped him?
Maybe that was part of it. But buried in this report, on Leicester’s recent thrashing of Liverpool, is another potential clue. Right underneath the big green graphic, there is this:
In keeping with Craig Shakespeare’s pre-match comments, Leicester returned to the style of last season, 4-4-2 ...
Could that be it? Could it be that simple? Does Leicester reverting to “4-4-2”, whatever exactly that means, explain their sudden return to form? (If that’s what it proves to be?)
Maybe 4-4-2 was enough to make them happy again.
The Welsh rugby team is in a bad way just now, having just been hammered by Scotland, for the first time in ages. The new Wales boss, Howley, is
a very gloomy man, who didn’t even try to be upbeat after this loss. I wonder if his dour demeanour is hurting Wales.
But, what do I know?
I am hopeless at drawing, as you can see.
But having been watching the Six Nations rugby tournament for the last few weeks, and having in particular been listening to the various television commentators, I feel the need to offer you all this attempt at a cartoon.
Anyone who wants to copy this, or indeed copy it and improve the graphics, is most welcome. I am surely not the first to have thought of this particular observation.
(There was a bit of fiddling about with the presentation of this, on account of my software not actually showing me exactly how a posting like this will look. Sorry about that.)
I’ve been meaning to post this image here for some time:
Guess what it is. If in doubt, look at the categories list below. Then go here, to confirm what you must surely have worked out.
Many have described the event at which this happened as historic, but not because of this. But I reckon what you see in the above picture is what historians will end up being most impressed by, about this event, because it was a very public manifestation of a very impressive sort of technology, which is going to have a very big future.
When there are great big thick elaborate sandwiches going for a quid each at the end of the day in Strutton Ground I am sometimes tempted to have one too many, i.e. two. I did that yesterday, and although I love these sandwiches, they hate me, and when there’s two of them, they can act on this hatred. Which meant that my internal organs were in no state to confront the ferocious rugger game between Wales and England this afternoon. England eventually won with a well taken but still somewhat lucky (for England to get the chance I mean) late try. But for most of the game Wales had looked better and England were consequently, for most of the game, behind. (The more usual procedure is for England to look better and for Wales then to win with a late try, Wales having been behind for most of the game.) I’ll take the win, but it would be nice if, one of these weekends, England could simply race away to a nice big win. As it was, when I fret about a game on the telly, I often console myself for probable disaster by deliberately doing something else, to put it in perspective, to distance myself, to consume irrelevant aroused energy, blah blah blah. Today I got several quite significant household tasks done.
The other Six Nations rugger game today had involved Italy. Let’s just say that the Georgian rugby team, if they were watching, must now be feeling even more pissed off. They would surely have done better against Ireland than Italy did.
Tomorrow, I expect France to slaughter Scotland. If they do, England will be top and the only unbeaten team. If Scotland win, well, jolly ho Scotland. Rugby remains a very important game.
Football, on the other hand, is only a game.
LATER: France didn’t slaughter Scotland but they did defeat them, and England are indeed now the only team with two wins from two. France and Scotland both looked good, and England beating France is looking better and better.
My fantastic weekend of sport on the telly is nearing its conclusion, the Super Bowl having just begun.
A rising star of rugby union commentary is David Flatman. He’s the bald one there. Flats. I bet they adore him for rugby club dinner speeches. That came out sarcastic, but I really mean it.
Flatman has a nice double act going with the posher Mark Durden Smith, intro-ing the Premiership highlights. Plus he was commentating for ITV on Italy v Wales today. And then this evening he was fronting the Anglo-Welsh highlights, with Andy Goode, whose surname rhymes with food.
Flatman just seems to set the right tone. He is knowledgeable and takes rugby seriously, but knows that others take it less seriously, and that it’s basically entertainment, and that’s fine. Having been a forward himself he relishes the pugilistic and collectivist nature of the forward game, as well as the open-field individualism of the backs. Above all, he communicates that he loves the game. “Love” being a word he uses quite often.
And, he is funny. Just before the first advert interval a third of the way into this evening’s Anglo-Welsh highlights, he signed off like this:
Don’t go anywhere. You can if you want. But don’t.
I liked that. I didn’t go anywhere. I stayed here and wrote this.
One of the basic ways of getting a laugh is: take a cliché (in this case “Don’t go anywhere"), and then muck around with it. Along with North’s try against Italy, the above mucking about was my equal-best rugby highlight of the day.
Also another word of praise for the team that has been doing the American Football for the BBC, two black guys called Jason Bell and Osi Umenyiora, with Mark Chapman, who usually does proper football. If these guys don’t actually enjoy their sport and each other’s company, they do an excellent job of pretending that they do. However, I see that Mike Carlson, who used to monopolise all the American football commenting is now back for the final, aka the Super Bowl. If he does no irrelevant Trump sneering, it will be because he’s been told not to do that.
LATER: Well, that was worth staying up for. As Flats might have said:
Do go to bed yet. You can if you want. But don’t.
And Carlson was excellent. There were Trump jokes, but they were excellent too.