Category Archives: Cricket

Cultural Differences

No Leaks

It’s been a weird week in Australian sport, what with the big press conference saying ‘This is The Blackest Day in Australian Sport’.

AUSTRALIA’S top sporting codes have been rocked by revelations that organised crime is behind the increasing use of banned performance-enhancing drugs by ”multiple athletes” across sporting codes and possible attempts to fix matches and manipulate betting markets.

The heads of all the main professional and participation sports expressed shock after being briefed on a 12-month investigation by the Australian Crime Commission that found professional sport in Australia was ”highly vulnerable to organised crime infiltration”

The article goes on to say that all of our codes of sport probably have had doping going on. Lance Armstrong’s name came up and some anonymous football player in some code even piped up during the week with an article saying what an edge it was to have the injection.
The declaration sent all these bodies scurrying for cover (how else do you explain the rush to declare “We’re clear!“); and swimmers saying they refused injection in fear it was contaminated with banned substances.

It’s interesting how the sport bodies have responded. the NRL has put together an ‘Integrity Commission‘, which suggests, they’re up to their eyeballs in the doping problem. The Minister for Sport says it’s ‘game over‘ for the cheats, but again you’d expect her to say it without any follow through – what else would we expect a Minister for Sport to say? “We give up?”

The strangest call of them all may be the call to name names mentioned in this one:

The Australian Crime Commission’s chief executive John Lawler hit back on Saturday at critics to clear up ”confusion” as to why he did not name names, given the explosive nature of the allegations.

Mr Lawler said classified strategic assessments had been sent to all police agencies around the country and Commonwealth agencies, which were now responsible for pursuing action.

”Very detailed information, the names of the clubs, the names of all the persons, the details of how, when and why and where, based on the intelligence, the persons suspected, has been provided to the anti-doping agency ASADA and to the police. Particularly the NSW and Victorian police,” he told Fairfax Media.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare echoed Mr Lawler’s comments as a number of sporting identities and commentators questioned the investigation and motives behind the report’s release along with its veracity.

Given the nature of the witch hunt that is about to ensue it seems entirely understandable that some people want the messenger shot. But really, with Australia’s insane libel laws, it would a brave ACC CEO who would start naming names. The way this normally goes is through leaks, starting at the biggest names in the various sports.

If this were America, somebody somewhere in the chain of information would leak to the press. After all, tat is how we found out about Barry Bonds and the clear and the cream; Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte using HGH; A-Rod being on some PEDs in his peak years in Texas; and ultimately Lance Armstrong as well. The cross-hairs a re firmly on performance-enhanced athletes now and the witch hunt is in full swing over there.

That such leaks have not happened seems to indicate that the ACC investigation was pretty subtle and went very deep. There also seems to be a cultural difference here as opposed America that the press are not willing to tarnish the names of the stars just yet. It maybe the case that the culture is about to change and professional sport will never again have the cozy relationship with the media as it does now.

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The Bitter End

Ponting Retires From Captaincy

I feel like I’ve been watching Ricky Ponting for a long time. If there’s one sporting figure that makes me feel old, it’s actually Ricky Ponting. Not Derek Jeter or Roger Federer or even Tiger Woods. But then he’s always made me feel that way since he broke into the test side as a 19 year old prodigy. It’s very strange to see him at this point in his career being pushed out of his position which looked like a birthright on the way up. The vitriol poured on the man is even more remarkable given his accomplishments as a player. Everybody carries on about Don Bradman, but by all accounts he was equally obnoxious in person if not more so than Ricky Ponting. I get it that there’s some part of a professional athlete’s job description to be likeable, but I’ve always felt people are asking way too much of this guy.

Maybe I’m a bit weird that way. I can handle Barry Bonds being Bary Bonds, Canseco being Canseco, Clemens being Clemens; steroids and lies and bad attitudes and rudeness and all. I don’t expect them to be role models. I liked John McEnroe at his rudest. I liked Michael Jordan at his most disdainful, Charles Barkley at his most pugnacious and Shane Heal for standing toe to toe with Sir Charles at the Atlanta Olympics, screaming back at his face. Ricky sledges? “Why not?” I thought. Sledge away, son. He wins ugly? Sure beats losing beautifully.

Anyway, he quit the captaincy today and the obits on his captaincy are in.

The difference was as simple as Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, who played all the Waugh years, and all the Mark Taylor years before him, but only half of Ponting’s. Indubitably, a cricket captain is only as good as his team. Ponting’s was much turned over, became brittle and unstable, yet somehow was allowed to grow old and stagnant, too. It was also distracted by the Indian Premier League revolution.

It was said of Sir Donald Bradman that his unique advantage as captain was himself as batsman. It could be said of captain Ponting that he had only himself upon who to rely. Ponting batted at No. 3 throughout his tenure, indeed has batted in that keystone position exclusively for the past 10 years. It is a singular feat of shouldered responsibility; Sachin Tendulkar, for instance, has never played a Test innings at No. 3.

In his insistence to bat so high, Ponting was in the end too stubborn. The strain showed in other aspects of his captaincy, and grew. But Ponting’s fault was to care too much rather than too little. Besides, no likely usurper emerged, either as captain or No. 3, a detail that tells of Australia’s cricketing decline.

Well I’ve been saying for about 6years that we don’t have as bright a future beyond Ponting as we once thought. So it surprises me a little bit that people are so keen to consign him to the dustbin.

Can he bat any better? Very doubtful. He might strike the occasional vein of form but they will be fewer and last less time with every passing season.

And, with every match he plays on, the reinvigoration of the Australian cricket team is further delayed. How many ageing batsmen can the team carry? Already there are Simon Katich and Mike Hussey, both almost 36. Age marks the prospects of both, yet Katich and Hussey have far more to prove and therefore more reason to play on than Ponting who, despite his record as a thrice-losing Ashes captain, has achieved everything in the game that he could have ever dreamed of.

Each night Julia Gillard must stick pins in her Kevin07 doll; Tony Abbott can doubtless see the face of Malcolm Turnbull every time he pounds the heavy bag. Don’t make Michael Clarke carry the baggage of an old leader into a new future.

I don’t know about all that. Seems to me they should just let him bat and see what’s left in the tank before kicking him to the curb. It’s not as if there are better batsmen a-plenty. In its longest run, it’s only going to be another couple of summers and then he will well and truly be gone. But you might wait another lifetime to see a batsman as amazing as Ricky Ponting play for Australia. I just don’t get the vitriol. You’d think he slept with everybody’s spouse – thrice.

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Death Of The Australian Dynasty

The End Of An Era Is Now Official

The Australian side has been sliding for a while but now it is official, the glory years are over. They’re not even an average side. It’s been a 20 year ride of at least serving it to the Poms. If we thought we were going to keep doing that forever eternal, we sure as hell were going to be wrong on that one. There were some mitigating factors for the long run of dominance, and that was the seeming gush of talent that graced the Australian side during that time.I won’t bother listing them, but there was a cluster of historically great players in there.

So, did England get good or did our boys get bad? England was probably overdue for a good side to play well together. The other notable thing is that it’s actually a team full of guys at their peak years with only Strauss and Collingwood in their mid 30s. It’s a team that’s peaking at the right time in stark contrast to Australia who are fielding a group of players whose ages range from 21 to 36 with quite a few in their 30s. I wouldn’t back this side against the dynastic year Aussies but this is not longer the dynastic year Aussies.

A quick back of the envelope calculation will probably show that the current Australian team are probably short of about 150 runs per inning from the dynastic years. They’d be lucky to crack 300 runs in an inning against a decent side, and it would have to be a flat track. The other thing that is a bit troublesome is just how brittle some of the younger guys have been. Phil Hughes is still a work in progress, Steve Smith is 21, so nobody knows what they’re going to get from him on any given day.

There are some guys who should be at peak, but are uncomfortably erratic. Shane Watson and Brad Haddin look scary to me. Plus Michael Clarke’s managed to find moments of true awfulness when you least want it during his career. Michael Hussey is past his prime as are names on the periphery such as Katich and Lee and Bracken.

So this is it. Australia won’t reclaim the Ashes here and they will stagger into Sydney with not much momentum. People are calling for Ponting’s head but it’s hard to see where the plan goes from here. The last time Australian cricket was in such disarray was back in 1986. If Ponting stays, he’s going to have to pull a page out of Allan Border’s book and preside over a complete reconstruction for 2 years. If he doesn’t then the ugly part of reconstruction is going to fall to Michael Clarke. The scary part of that notion is that if there’s one cricketer Clarke reminds me of, it’s Kim Hughes – they have the same flakiness under pressure. Something tells me that a Michael Clarke captaincy will suck.

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Sport Nut Weekend

Get Some Perspective On The World Cup

The big news this morning is how dismally Australia lost to Germany in its first match in the World Cup. 4-0 sure is a whuppin’, and nobody has anything nice to say about Australia’s sons of the moment, the Socceroos.

Australia for all its posturing this time is mostly an older team of the same old guys from 2006. They couldn’t have expected to do better than last time.

That delusion lasted as long as it took for decoy forward Richard Garcia to snatch a shot on the turn, only to have it blocked. The rest of the match was benign tyranny, football royalty lording it over commoners. Or, eschewing empirical metaphors, the Germans’ movements were intricate, precise and oily, like a German- engineered car. Australia bumped along in a paddock basher.

The goals hurt; of course, they did. But they were only to be expected, and deceptive in their simplicity; it was the simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity. The multitude of bookings hurt, because they had implications not only on the night, but for whatever Australia can hope to salvage from this tournament now. They also implied that Australia was a team of second resort.

But the red card for the talismanic Tim Cahill hurt most, because it was the massacre of hope.

Beneath the croaking of the vuvuzelas, there was now a hush. Even the German fans appeared shocked. The sentiment trapped inside the stadium now was more like a fart. Coach Pim Verbeek did not bother with Harry Kewell, or Josh Kennedy or Marco Bresciano; it would have been a waste of their time. A crowd of more than 60,000 thinned by half. Miserably, many of the Australians were going home to tents.

Australia thought it was better than this. Australia WAS better than this, four years ago. Hell, Australia was better than this in the 1974 World Cup when a team of amateurs played a stronger West German team than this German team, and lost by merely 3-0. It took more than 30 years to return to the World Cup as peers. This setback will have repercussions for a long time, on the field and off.

Which is a bit mean. I just want to write this post because I want us to get some perspective on what it is that the Socceroos were up against.

Firstly, without a shred of a doubt this tournament means more to Germans than any Australian. Germany is a three time winner of the World Cup and it’s almost the only World Cup they contest. They don’t contest the Cricket, Rugby World Cups, and they sure as hell don’t send squads to the World Baseball Classic. I can’t quite recall if they’ve ever threatened to win Olympic Gold in Ice Hockey. I don’t think they even field a credible Basketball team, while Australia does. I don’t even know if they have ever sent a team to the Netball World Cup. Soccer/Football is the it sport in Germany.

Australia on the other hand contest just about all of these World Comps except maybe Ice Hockey, but I’m sure there will eventually be a marsupially named squad in the future trying to get there. The point is, it’s a bit rich for Australia to come at Football with the hopes of rolling with the top-5 nation of the sport. Or even Top-8. And if they don’t, it’s no slur on Australia’s sporting prowess for not being within shouting distance of drawing with Germany. Being there, competing on the World Cup Stage is already an immense, towering accomplishment for the sport in Australia.

Some people are saying it’s an embarrassing loss. I just can’t go with that, even though a) I hate soccer and b) am no fan of soccer fandom, I have an appreciation of how deep the world’s love for that sport is and where that depth is spread. There are nations out there that have no shot of being there, but it’s still their no.1 sport. Think about that for a moment. It’s like the no.5-6 sport in Australia in terms of exposure and we’ve got a team competing against the best of the best.

Talking about this match without that perspective is really disrespectful for an opponent that’s steeped in the sport. It is inherently insane for Australia to think that it can equally be competitive at the ultimate level at Football. So much would have to change for Australia to be that good.

A World Cup Of What? – Part 1

This all got me to thinking about this notion of World Cups. Cricket’s World Cup and the Baseball World Baseball Classic field 16 teams in the group stage. In either competition, the tail end of the 16 look a little ragged. It’s really the top-8 in each competition that has a shot at the last 4 with few surprises. The gap between the top 8 and next 8 nations is in fact huge.

The same applies to the Rugby World Cup. Japan has been turning up to the Rugby World Cup each time but it’s never gotten out of the group stage. Japan has the distinction of copping the worst hiding in Test matches, but it has also handed out the next worst hiding to minnows Taiwan. Should they be there or not? If they weren’t there, would it still be a ‘World Cup’? You could argue Rugby isn’t too deep, but then there are such results as the horrible thrashing Australia handed out to Canada in cricket at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.

In each case, there’s the Top 8 and the rest.

While it is true that the World Cup of Football fields 32 teams in the group stage from 200 odd nations, it is arguable that it is only the top-8 that have a serious shot at the finals. Yes, Football is deep and wide across the planet, but at its core it’s still only about 8 nations. The rest of them are like window dressing to make the word ‘World’ stand up. We should revel in the fact that we make such good window-dressing.

A World Cup of What? – Part 2

Here are some rhetorical questions to go with the above:

Is it any surprise that Australia has won 2 Rugby World Cups?

Is it any surprise that Australia has won 4 Cricket World Cups?

Is it any surprise that Japan is a 2-time champion at the World Baseball Classic?

Is it any surprise that Brazil has won the FIFA World Cup 5 times?

Is it any surprise that Germany hasn’t won a World Cup in Cricket or Rugby, or that it hasn’t even fielded a team in the WBC?

Dare we even mention the Rugby League World Cup?

Is it reasonable/rational to expect Australia to get out of the Group Stage at the FIFA World Cup?

The Wrong Code

Australia will never relinquish League and AFL and Rugby in order to concentrate on one code of football. Therefore should we even hope to win the FIFA World Cup one day? We’re the equivalent of the Kenyans at the Cricket World Cup.

In other news, the Yankees are on top of the AL East having swept the Astros. I’m pleased with that.

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Cricket Stuff – 10/01/10

C’arn Mr Roebuck!

I was at a barbecue gathering last night with some folks at Puncher And Wattman and the subject inevitably turned to cricket. It prompted a quick discussion on what people thought of this column by Peter Roebuck.

On the form shown at the SCG against Pakistan, Ricky Ponting and his team will be hard-pressed to recapture the Ashes. At present, they ought to be cast as outsiders. England have a long batting list and are managing to retain a narrow lead over a reviving South African outfit.

Admittedly, the Poms have frailties of their own: they lack a fast bowler, and need Kevin Pietersen to recapture his former powers, but they will not wilt in the heat or be cowed by Australia’s victories this season.

On paper, it looks good: four wins in five attempts and every reason to expect a clean sweep against shattered opponents in Hobart. But the tally is misleading. Australia ought not to read too much into their dramatic triumph at the SCG.

For most of the contest, Ricky Ponting and company were outplayed by the world’s sixth-ranked side. Certainly it was an extraordinary victory, but sober reflection removes it from the list of great wins likely to remain in the memory. Australia’s performance was too flawed to carry the weight assigned to it.

We just couldn’t agree with Mr. Roebuck’s position on the lesson to be drawn form the test. The way I saw it was that the pitch was diabolical, but Australia can still bat down to the tail. The Pakistanis were tentative and inexperienced and susceptible to the inevitable pressure. Ricky Ponting himself assessed that given how difficult the pitch was, he thought what the Australians were likely to do on the first day with the bat was going to be better than what the Pakistanis were likely to do on the last day.  As events panned out, Ricky Ponting was right.

You’d be hard pushed to argue the toss with a result that worked out just as planned, even if the process looked ugly. Given that part of the thinking was that the process would be ugly, it’s a bit much to argue that the ugliness of the process proves the side is deeply flawed.

But then Mr. Roebuck goes on to argue this point:

Certainly, Australia recovered from a much weaker position but even that tells a tale. Historically, turnarounds on that scale can only be achieved by incredible partnerships (Dravid and Laxman in Kolkata, Steyn and Duminy at the MCG) or momentous innings (Lara in the West Indies, Botham at Leeds) or stunning interventions with the ball. No such inspiring efforts were produced at the SCG.

None of the bowlers surpassed themselves, and Peter Siddle was downright ordinary. Nathan Hauritz invited batsmen to plunge into folly, and they obliged. The pitch did not break up, Pakistan did. Australia did take two commendable catches. Had Kamran Akmal had even a moderate match, though, the hosts would have been crushed. It was that close to calamity. Pakistan were the better side but did not believe it.

We just couldn’t come at how this was even a point. The way I see it, it’s a very well balanced side that can churn out runs with an even spread. They don’t come along very often. Ditto with the bowling. At most, it says the Australian team is not built on the ‘Stars & Scrubs’ model.

I remember those sides in the mid to late 1980s, back when the batting was Allan Border, David Boon and waiting on the potential of the Waugh twins to blossom, plus some serious scrubs. Even with Border mounting many a rescue, those sides lost a lot until the side got more balanced with the addition of the likes of Healy and Tubby Taylor, and then the Waugh twins finally did blossom.

Conversely, I wouldn’t want to count on single big partnerships and momentous innings all the time for a come back. If anything, the way the Australians did it shows the side is quite good and without an obvious weak link. But Mr. Roebuck argues this:

Nathan Hauritz’s contribution was almost as hard to pin down as Hussey’s. Clearly he has improved but he’s not suddenly Jim Laker reincarnate. Rather he is a fine cricketer and a game bowler. But batsmen won’t keep slogging catches to deep fieldsmen. All told, Pakistan lost eight wickets to skied hits.

Suddenly, Hauritz has taken five wickets in consecutive Test matches, results indicating the welcome and unexpected restoration of finger spin and flight. Yet he is no demon. He was never as bad as he seemed, and is not now as good as recent returns indicate.

The same applies to Australia. Alongside the misfiring Marcus North, the top performers seen at the SCG had been regarded as the team’s weakest links. Apart from Brad Haddin’s catch, the highlight of the match was Ponting’s decision to persist with Hauritz after lunch despite his previous over costing 12 runs. Otherwise it was a mixed bag. Did everything change? Or nothing?

Wouldn’t this suggest that the degrees to which the weakest links are considered weak, are a little over-stated? That, maybe the people they’ve selected are good at some aspects of the game enough to warrant their selection? The joke this summer has been that Hauritz has been the replacement level player, and anybody can get a 5 wicket haul once in a while, but the guy’s done it several times in quick succession lately, I think it’s possible he’s getting the hang of playing at the Test level.

Anyway, we all agreed the column was a real headscratcher from a writer we all respected, and wondered if he’s welcome in the Aussie clubhouse at all.

And One More Thing

Here’s another Roebuck column where he suggests Ponting is in decline. Judging from his age, it’s not surprising if he was, but then Allan Border and Steve Waugh played well, well into their late 30s, so I wouldn’t dismiss Ponting just yet.

Anyway, the thing I’ve noticed is the media vitriol against Ponting has been more snarky than when Kim Hughes was Captain and his side kept losing. A lot of it is criticism about his personal style, which I can live with because I don’t care if he’s a bit dismissive to journalists as long as he can play. But this business has been going on some time now and the guys at Puncher And Wattman thought it was because Ponting lost the Ashes in England twice.

It’s kind of weird to be singling out the winningest Test Captain on record and slamming him for the loss ledger. It’s like the practice of American sports journalists where they single out the best player of a team and blame them for a losing season, as if to say they should have been a super-duper star to bail out a bad team from itself all the time – which is the similar kind of analysis to Mr. Roebuck’s above. It’s just absurd.

The proper understanding should be that the Australian side is in a rebuild and it’s going to take some time to shake out the guys who are going to be there for the long haul. The task is harder all the more because Hayden, Langer and Martyn over-stayed their welcome and McGrath and Warne departing in quick succession has meant the side is starting from scratch. The Australian side hasn’t been this young since the Kim Hughes days or the 1980s Border sides before the ’89 Ashes tour. And you have to admit, Ponting has won a bit more than those guys in that era.


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News That’s Fit To Punt – 28/11/09

Turmoil In The Liberal Party

The week saw a full tilt in-fighting imbroglio on the Liberal Party over the Emissions Trading Scheme legislation. It’s providing a lot of fun for those of us who totally loathed John Howard and his patrician, (b)latently racist, fascist-class-warrior legacy. Not enough bad things can happen to the Liberal Party of Australia.

The really strange thing is that the Party of illiberality has been trying to come to terms with the Emissions Trading Scheme even against it’s worst instincts, if you will. Yes, why make deals when not all of you don’t wholly believe in the rationale of the scheme?

The people doing the revolting are those of the “Climate Change isn’t true” persuasion. The leader of the opposition Malcolm Turnbull, used to be the minister for the Environment and so has sought to bring some kind of ETS legislation into place when the Liberals were in power. The Labor Party appear to have incorporated almost all of the Liberal Party’s amendments, so the rebellious  Libs are of the climate change denier variety – like Nick Minchin.

On some level, that portion of the Liberal Party has allowed itself to become the party of anti-scientific opinion. Doubtless those ranks include believers of ‘Intelligent Design’ and ‘Flat Earth’ and anti-abortion legislation and other medieval outlooks like that. Let’s not beat about the bush, it’s the motley crew of un-enlightenment and irresponsible irrationalists – religious nutjobs included.

So now it appears Malcolm Turnbull’s goose is nearly cooked thanks to his agreeing to pass the ETS legislation and working out a deal. He’s got to be wondering just how deep the medieval-stupid runs in his party room. If/when he gets dumped by his own party, he might even consider swapping sides of politics like Winston Churchill.

Malcolm Turnbull As Bad Guy

This is where it’s at as of this writing.

Mr Turnbull said he has the support of Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey to remain as opposition leader.

“He and I have been at one on this,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“I believe we should honour our agreement with the government, the emissions trading scheme should be passed with the amendments we secured.

“Having got that issue behind us, we should focus on unity and working together and holding the Labor Government to account.”

Mr Turnbull is refusing to stand down from the Liberal leadership despite a growing belief his position is untenable following a mass revolt over emissions trading.

The issue is likely to come to a head at a party room meeting on Tuesday morning, where Tony Abbott or – potentially – Mr Hockey could stand for the leadership.

Mr Turnbull said he had a message to all Australians and the Liberal Party: “We have a duty to our country, to our planet, to our children to take effective action on climate change.”

“I respect the views of those who believe we don’t need to … but it is not responsible to proceed on the basis that there is nothing to be concerned about.”

Mr Turnbull said he understood the government’s frustration given an agreement had been reached on the ETS and negotiations conducted in good faith.

“What does it say about the character of the Liberal Party if, having entered into an agreement, we were to simply say we have changed our mind, we are going to renege on that deal. How could you trust us?”

The criticism of Malcolm Turnbull by those on his side of politics, if leaks are to believed is that He’s arrogant, he’s autocratic, and he just won’t listen. One would have thought that this is entirely the sort of leader one would get and deserve to get given the patriarchal instincts of the Liberal Party. In some ways, one wonders, aren’t they complaining about getting exactly the sort of guy they want? – just that he believes something a little bit different from the rest of the bogans and Vogon-poets of the Right? That maybe he actually *is* as brilliant as the self-appointed elite needs must be?

There have been some interesting moments in Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, including the rather tawdry ‘Utegate’ fake e-mail fiasco. The current repercussions seem to be a delayed response to the manner in which he took that non-lead and drove the party’s fortunes into a ditch of polling. The ETS deal-making is another case where it seems some kind of deep pragmatist seems to be operating against a very stark ideologue’s war in the ranks.

I know some people who swear black and blue that Malcolm Turnbull is a crook, and the day he becomes PM of Australia is the end. But then I kind of feel the same way about most of the Conservative side of politics so maybe  it doesn’t mean a whole lot. Who’s to say Australia isn’t already in the pits?

But that aside, Malcolm Turnbull as leader of opposition sure has been an interesting spectacle to date. When it’s all said and done and he bows out of politics, we might find that his views on the environment get vindicated by history – and that would be ironic for all.

Who’s Next? Joe The Gen-X Fratboy?

One of the leading candidates to replace Turnbull is Joe Hockey. I’ll be honest – I have a soft spot for Joe in spite of the vast, vast, vast gulf that lies between my world view and his political credo, so there’ a side of me that wouldn’t mind seeing Joe rise to the Leader of Opposition. He’s actually likable when you meet him.

Here’s the thing though. Joe was born in 1965 which makes him Gen-X. Not even Kevin 24/7 is a Gen-Xer. The last Federal leader to be vaguely closer to Gen-X was Mark Latham. Of course Barack Obama is half a year younger than Mark Latham and got elected in America 4 years on from the 2004 Australian Federal election, but the point is demographically speaking Joe is going to appeal to a whole lot fewer people than Malcolm or more importantly Kevin Rudd.

It’s one of those funny things in demographics that Baby Boomers just didn’t want to vote for a guy born in the 1960s in 2004, and were willing to switch in 2007 because let’s face it, the Silver-haired Rudd was born in 1957 and therefore a Baby Boomer. Talk about vanity, but the Baby Boomers can be counted on to be persuaded through flattery – and they are a powerful voting block.

It’s hard to say if this factor will come into play again. On the one hand, Joe is going to have to front for those backward-looking forces of un-reason, and un-enlightenment as the political leader of the intellectually medievalist Party. Then, he’s going to have to drag the party to the middle and convince the swinging voters that such baggage is the way forward into the future.

On the other hand, they’re meant to be dying off ever so gradually, so maybe the younger constituency of the Liberal Party may not be so hostile to having some kind of policy to control emissions. It’s a juggling act. But if Malcolm Turnbull’s current strife as well as Brendan Nelson’s abject failure showed anything, sometimes it’s not just a political problem. It’s about the physical reality in which we live.

Why The Old Fogeys Deny Climate Change

This is a cool article. It gets really good around the middle:

In 1973 the cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker proposed that the fear of death drives us to protect ourselves with ”vital lies” or ”the armour of character”. We defend ourselves from the ultimate terror by engaging in immortality projects, which boost our self-esteem and grant us meaning that extends beyond death.

More than 300 studies conducted in 15 countries appear to confirm Becker’s thesis. When people are confronted with images or words or questions that remind them of death they respond by shoring up their world view, rejecting people and ideas that threaten it, and increasing their striving for self-esteem.

One of the most arresting findings is that immortality projects can bring death closer. In seeking to defend the symbolic, heroic self that we create to suppress thoughts of death, we might expose the physical self to greater danger. For example, researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel found that people who reported that driving boosted their self-esteem drove faster and took greater risks after they had been exposed to reminders of death.

A recent paper by the biologist Janis L. Dickinson, published in the journal Ecology and Society, proposes that constant news and discussion about global warming makes it difficult to repress thoughts of death, and that people might respond to the terrifying prospect of climate breakdown in ways that strengthen their character armour but diminish our chances of survival.

There is already experimental evidence that some people respond to reminders of death by increasing consumption. Dickinson proposes that growing evidence of climate change might boost this tendency, as well as raising antagonism towards scientists and environmentalists. Our message, after all, presents a lethal threat to the central immortality project of Western society: perpetual economic growth, supported by an ideology of entitlement and exceptionalism.

If Dickinson is correct, is it fanciful to suppose that those who are closer to the end of their lives might react more strongly against reminders of death? I haven’t been able to find any experiments testing this proposition, but it is surely worth investigating. And could it be that the rapid growth of climate change denial over the past two years is actually a response to the hardening of scientific evidence? If so, how the hell do we confront it?

This exactly echoes my contention why Joe Hockey won’t be the best choice.

Windies Really Suck

Australia aren’t this good.

Still hurting over their Ashes defeat, Australia vented their frustration by beating up the hapless West Indies in the first Test in Brisbane within three days.

The wilting Windies lost 15 wickets in all today to lose by an innings and 65 runs, as Australia rumbled to their sixth straight win at the Gabba dating back to 2004.

It extended their 21-year unbeaten run at the ground in Tests.

But it also added another sorry chapter in the tourists’ recent history – the once mighty Windies have now suffered nine straight Test losses in Australia.

At least first-timer Adrian Barath, 19, could hold his head high after becoming the youngest West Indian to score a Test century on debut.

But when he fell for a magnificent 104 – including 20 boundaries – in the final session, the end was nigh for the tourists.

Man-of-the-match Ben Hilfenhaus (3-20), spinner Nathan Hauritz (2-40) and Shane Watson (2-44) helped bowl out the Windies for 187 in their second dig after Ricky Ponting enforced a surprise follow-on earlier today.

As he did in the first innings when he took 2-50, Hilfenhaus tore the heart out of the top order in the second dig.

He claimed the prize scalps of Chris Gayle (one) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (two), as well as first-innings anchorman Travis Dowlin (four).

It endorsed Ponting’s decision to make the Windies bat again.

The only real stand of note in the Windies’ second dig came from Barath and Dwayne Bravo (23) who compiled 66 for the fourth wicket before the latter was inexplicably caught hooking minutes before tea to leave the tourists reeling at 4-106 at the break.

Perhaps the biggest surprise though was specialist batsman Mike Hussey claiming Bravo’s wicket.

Golly. It’s enough to make you think Australia are at the top of the tree again, but I seriously doubt it. The logical corollary is that the Windies really suck these days. It’s tragic.

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Enhancing A-Rod

The Olympic Ideal of Performance

I was walking on a flat paved road a couple of days ago, pondering how a flat track pavement would have been a bit of a marvel to a caveman. Maybe it was a marvel even to a human being in the ancient world. You see, I walk across an uneven lawn park to get to the stretch of pavement that leads me to the place where I get lunch. So the difference is noticeable when it goes from the uneven grass in the park to the pavement.

I thought to myself that one could imagine that the ancient olympics might have started this way; that some guys boasting about how fast they ran or how far they could throw stuff, so they decided to create a neutral ground to eliminate the discrepancies of uneven grounds and came up with a flat track. And on this extremely artificial phenomenon of a flat track, they would standardise the conditions for the contestants and let them run.

Nobody really knows how the Ancient Olympics started in the ancient world, but you’d have to figure it had to be about settling who gets the bragging rights as fastest man over 100 cubits or whatever. The point is that the notion of fairness goes hand in hand with the notion of standardised conditions.

All the same, we compare records across time. When somebody breaks a record, it is often in slightly different conditions to when the previous record was set. For instance, in the modern Olympics have been getting tracks that are ‘faster’ then the older tracks. Swimming pools have bee built so as to remove adverse waves, which in turn produce faster results. Modern shoes have been engineered to better specifications than say those of Emil Zatopek. Do we dare even go into the engineering and technologies that go into regattas and bicycle riding?

In all of these cases, what nobody is saying out loud is that technology is helping the athlete more than for which the media or punters give credit. Nobody really questions the records that get broken by historically newer athletes, with better equipment, even though it seems mightily unfair to compare these numbers. After all, we’ll never know what Dawn Fraser would have been able to do in the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre’s pool at her peak. Clearly technology is playing a part in all these accomplishments.

Which of course then brings us to PEDs, notably those used by the East Germans in the 1970s. Some of the records set then have taken a long time to break precisely because it has taken that long for the other technologies to compensate for the absence of the biochemical technology used by the East Germans way back when. Yes, it was grossly unfair that the East Germans were using them and the other athletes were not. Yet it seems to me today that the basis for this ‘fairness’ which creates the moral outrage is actually not quite as cut and dry as WADA and the IOC and the other anti-doping agencies make out.

For instance, Shane Warne underwent a year of being banned from the Cricket because he took a banned diuretic (to look better). It was doubtful he took it to enhance his performance, but he was banned on principle. We won’t go into the fact that this is in stark contrast to Murali who regularly gets pinged for his dodgy action, or the unlikelihood of the diuretic assisting Warnie in getting wickets. The logical corollary of banning Shane Warne is that anybody who is a leggie bowling for the weekend club is going to have their performance enhanced. Not many people buy this corollary to be likely.

The point is that the benefit of the biochemical technology may not be as significant as people give it credit, while other technologies in sport are influencing the outcome to a degree that it might not just be the flat-track that people still believe it to be. As far as I know, nobody has been able to quantify just how much drugs are in sport, and yet any time a name gets linked to it, we turn it into a witch hunt, demonising the person.

Let’s face it, games like cricket and baseball have actually been less influenced by technological agencies as say, even tennis or squash with their new-fangled racquets, or for that matter swimming.  I mean, yes, PEDs in swimming might be a bigger problem than in cricket, but nobody talks about those pools and the borderline-buoyant swimming costumes.

Which brings me I guess to A-Rod. When I look at A-Rod’s accomplishments, I can’t imagine I could do what he has done even with PEDs. It’s not just guess work, it’s probably a statistical likelihood that had I taken gobs of PEDs since my teenage years, I still wouldn’t have ended up playing baseball professionally, let alone reached the pinnacle of performance as he has. Seriously folks, I wanted to be the slugging 3B for the Yankees and be their franchise player but it sure wasn’t to be! 🙂

That would be because I have insufficient talent, as in I suck; And I didn’t try at all once I realised I sucked. Steroids and their ilk alone would not have carried me there.

Given that it does takes more than just getting injections of weird steroidal chemicals to get to where he has got, I think it’s time to actually give some credit back to the effects of true talent and hard work. Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens and Mark Magwire  are/were all amazingly talented dudes who made sacrifices to do what they did. We’re over-rating the effects of Performance Enhancing Drugs every time we subscribe to the witch hunt.

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