Fringe dwellers: Sport’s greatest Superbowls

Are you wildly inspired by the seizure-inducing sparkle and fizz of the Superbowl?

Do you spend the lead-in week throwing flags at those who infringe on society with foul BO? Or perhaps call an audible in the bedroom when getting funky with your spouse? Maybe you remind everyone that your newly renovated patio has been built ‘left side, strong side’?

If you indulge in any of these activities in the build-up to the match then you would be considered perfectly normal and completely sane, as just like the majority of the human race, you’re simply caught up in the fanfare of Uncle Sam’s annual big one.

It’s the combination of five-beer halftime breaks, unplanned nipple-slips and national anthem renditions with violent scale-wavering that is enough to get even the most dour postage stamp enthusiast talking sacks and advertising spot prices at this time of year.

Here in Australia, for the majority of us with just a passing interest in America’s game of padding, it’s mostly seen as the driving force behind that one dodgy Monday sickie early in the year as well as an explanation for the radical spike in hits to the Ben Graham page on Wikipedia.

However, this year, the upcoming 8-hour traffic-halter between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers has motivated yours truly down a path of reflection different than the usual.

As I relaxed with my dog Plaxico whilst my 7th batch of franks gently boiled, I began to think: what does the word ‘Superbowl’ mean to sports for the other 51 weekends of the calendar year?

The answer, of course, is the athlete adorned with the combed forward hair-do in a globe motif.

The flat Pigeon.

The flat Pigeon.

So to celebrate the big game, here’s some of the greatest gun-barrel straight Superbowl cuts from yore. I’m sure you will agree, these are some shapely scrimmage line fringes with a totally safety-first approach!

The 1990s Glenn McGrath

Many cricket fans associated impeccable line and length with Pigeon’s disciplined bowling, but the same could also be related to his rigid approach to a no-frills thatch early on in his career. You wouldn’t be surprised if groundsmen utilised the perfect dimensions of this masterpiece for marking the crease lines each morning before play.

Peter Beardsley

This whippet striker from the north of England spent 20 years knocking in spectacular goals for a number of clubs all over the joint, resulting in him retiring as one of the Old Dart’s most loved products. In saying this, I reckon anyone would be impressed if they saw the fifth Beatle in ‘pre-Sargent Peppers acid days’ fashion carving up on a football pitch.

The Beardsley Lego style.

The Beardsley Lego style.

 

Stricter than the KGB.

Stricter than the KGB.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov

The Russian right-hander not only kept it strictly business-like on the court but also in the barber’s chair. This blue ribbon version of some Grand Slammin’ bangs were obviously done with the cold ruthlessness of a Moscow winter by a hair stylist with Hawkeye-like precision.

John Stockton

Contrary to popular opinion, white men actually can jump and thrive under the bonnet of one of basketball history’s most vanilla hairstyles. Throughout his career, this legendary Utah Jazz point guard was a beacon of prudence in the engulfing sea that is big-ticket basketball exhibitionism thanks to his never-evolving coiffure that was the Michael Jordan of Spock sports cuts.

Pumped for the monk style.

Pumped for the monk style.

The 1980s Boris Becker

Higher powers smiled on bowl aficionados in the 80s when they were bestowed the ultimate follicle amalgamation: the bouncing Becker sphere of flames. This wonderfully smooth fringe teamed with the colour of luminous red was a trademark of the young German genius, however sadly as the

Yah! Das ist circular!

Yah! Das ist circular!

trophies stacked up, so did the locks on the salon floor, meaning a slow evolution from ginger Lloyd Christmas to eventual lady-killing Euro-flick with foils.

Andrew Bynum

The Philadelphia 76er’s centre blazed a trail with a hard-fought forward press of curls that had to be seen to be believed. Combining a bee farm’s application of wax and some serious beavering on the comb stroke, he was able to produce a symmetrically perfect orb of hair that had the people at Spalding considering a hefty financial offer for their logo to be emblazoned on the surface area.

Bynum bounce and volume.

Bynum bounce and volume.

 

Lighten up, Australia. 74 all out has many silver linings.

Australia was collectively losing their shizzle yesterday as Michael Clarke’s alleged ‘A-Team’ limply flopped to be all out for a roundly dunghouse 74.

The Gabba faithful’s heaving chunks of disgust were a constant throughout the match and they ultimately peaked in the broad daylight at the completion of Sri Lanka’s crazy shtick chase, whereas those in the fan-forced oven states chose to stay indoors and give it to the team with both barrels on social media.

One look at your handheld and you could see the savage repulsion from all.

Sorry Clarkey, you're going to have to talk to Mark Nicholas.

Sorry Clarkey, you’re still going to have to talk to Mark Nicholas.

Rage was voiced in visual form with pictures of blazing George Bailey effigies in an arty sepia tone (shouldering arms, of course) wedged in between snaps of chicken parmigianas on Instagram, while afflicted Tweeters spoke of their national nausea by jamming as many enraged obscenities inside 140 characters as possible.

In my eyes, picking on a weak performance like Australia’s from yesterday is similar to giving a forceful nudge to a swaying one-legged octogenarian. Something that usually brings me much pleasure.

However, it’s the weekend, and we’re all a little heat-tapped under this cruel weather pattern, so let’s look at the positives of the Brisbane breakdown.

Take a closer look, Australia, and you’ll realise it’s time to chillax, because Michael Clarke and his men have got this.

Rotation/Experimentation

Like a bunch of curious college students, Mickey Arthur and the selectors seem to be always trying new things, and the rotation of personnel is one perennial exploration in the name of finding the right mix. After such abject failure, we are now left in no doubt that the particular combination of cattle used yesterday at the Gabba is to never see the light of day again. Ever.

That’s a positive step towards finding our prime line-up.

The lower, lower order

Australia once again proved yesterday that they are the market leaders in penny dropping at the fall of the 9th wicket. Mitchell Starc and Xavier Doherty dug in to sprinkle some undeserved seasoning to a distasteful total yesterday, and in doing so invoked those golden Cape Town memories of the gritty 10th wicket rearguard from Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle in the 47 all-out against South Africa in 2011.

There’s a tick for the tail. When it comes to a forlorn salvage mission, nobody beats our bunnies.

Doping

Who would’ve thought at the start of yesterday that a force other than Lance Armstrong would leave the planet utterly disgusted? That’s right, our boys took the cake with a ragged display that had WADA cancelling all tests scheduled for the batsman at the end of play due to no signs of any enhanced performance.

That shows that Australian cricket tests positive when it comes to being clean as a whistle.

Mike Hussey

Paid professionals leaving the gate open, snicking behind, spooning dollies and foregoing the use of the timber simply adds momentum to the campaign for the reinstatement of beloved titanium to the biodegradable Australian middle order.

Mike Hussey should still be there, and yesterday brings further attention to the tragedy of his cruel axing.

Environmental awareness

With Michael Clarke’s entire team back in the hutch before dinner and the contest completed well before sundown, it meant the services of the power-sucking lamps at the Gabba were not required. Chalk up one massive carbon footprint avoided for Australia that skyrocketed their stocks as universal green warriors.

The fact that our boys realise some things are bigger than the game is PR platinum. Plus we just had an influx of left-wing greenies to the Australian cricketing family.

 

Decoding the fringe selection policy: how the hell do you stay in this ODI team?

It’s a great time to be sucking oxygen if you harbour the ambition of pulling on the national pyjamas and playing a game of cricket for Australia.

We currently exist in heady times where caps with coats of arms are closer to the common man than ever, and I’m not talking about slotting in at seven for Australia on the Wii or calling the shots in an online fantasy competition.

The recent scattergun approach to the ODI team selection dartboard suggests that a player sweepstakes program is in full cry and the net for talent is being thrown as wide as it’s ever been.

Who could blame even the most hopeless dreamer for emailing their CV to the Cricket Australia inbox or making their presence viral in and around the front office?

We’ve watched a bunch of unlikely Johnnies on the spot experience a dose of the authentic reality of being inside the sacred inner sanctum of Australia’s top line limited overs team, where they’ve had their name on the back of the strip, rubbed shoulders with the top brass and been convinced by Mickey Arthur that they are tired.

The only problem with this generous policy lies in the fine print. For those outside of the team nucleus, it seems these vouchers for international honours are only valid for two matches at best.

This weekend, the latest to benefit from the scheme of all-acceptance is NSW all-rounder Moises Henriques, who was called in to the squad to add to his two game international ODI resume on the back of recent performances that would hardly warrant a letter home to Mum.

Many who have witnessed the churn of personnel would follow their warm congratulations to Henriques with the friendly advice to keep the contents of his suitcase packed, as once this current leg of the series is over and the lottery kicks in again, he will probably be usurped by another newbie and back in the domestic grind before he knows it.

Moises snagged in the selection net.

Moises snagged in the selection net.

Those with fresh hats in the bin like Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja and Ben Cutting would be happy to attest.

So that begs the question, are these aspiring fringies called in with an ironclad plan to be jettisoned regardless, or is there a possibility in this crazy world that they could actually buck fate by being retained due to a gold-plated performance?

The game’s basic values have always directed those making the calls to pick the eleven on form, and you would hope CA’s recent proclivity for weird science hasn’t totally cancelled out this approach.

Using Henriques as an example, and assuming he is passed fit to play after injuring his hand in the nets, what would be a pass mark for a relatively new guy like himself to force the selector’s hand to keep him in the team?

Remember we are talking about a guy who is somewhat maligned around the state scene thanks to a performance/potential imbalance, with solid but unspectacular numbers in state limited overs cricket this season (averaging 33.75 with the bat and 35.5 with the ball) and who was not able to grasp his first two opportunities at international level.

Plus there is external pressure on his spot coming from an ambitious pair of all-rounders in Dan Christian and James Faulkner, with both on the selector’s speed dial and ready to backfill at the first sight of any minor hiccup.

What is the spectacular game-changing performance in this pint-sized audition that would give the Portuguese-born Blue immunity from the axe?

The obvious answer for the tonic would be a big century, but what if he were only called upon to bat in the dying embers of an innings? Is it an influential quick fire 40 that would be enough?

Would the old fiver do the trick with ball in hand? Or would a few crucial top-order poles to go with a solid return on economy be sufficient if he bowls in an innings where Sri Lanka builds a massive total on a batsman’s paradise?

Is there consideration given to the state of the game, and whether or not he is allowed enough time to shine?

Some would say it’s an unquantifiable science with a bottomless well of variables and the goal posts always seemingly shifting as different players arrive and depart.

Let’s have a red hot crack at decoding the selection formula anyway.

If at least not for our own sanity, let’s do it for Henriques and the hopeless dreamers!

 

 

 

Flashers, tuggers and fried chicken: The 2012/13 Big Bash First Eleven

How will you remember the second instalment of the fluoro-franchised Big Bash League?

More importantly, will you remember it at all?

Play the BBL02 word association game with the diehard devotees and I reckon the majority would respond with any of the following as their first choice for most memorable lingering image.

Shane Warne’s shirt tug and meltdown combo, Chris Gayle’s grossly imbalanced dollar per run charge, saturation KFC brainwashing, Simon Katich’s bizarrely generous captaincy gesture, the anti-Marlon Samuels movement, Mardi Gra bails, or just a general disruption to the national team’s best interests.

The competition took a few sharp blows to the nether regions this year, with dwindling crowds early in the piece, some questionable standards of play and the ongoing battle for relevance sure to have kept the bosses at Cricket Australia sweating through Chrissy.

On a personal level, I wasn’t too bothered by it all as long as I got my Two Piece Feed.

Nonetheless, a number of guiding lights were squeezed in between all of the flying bats and Madden brother appearances that occurred throughout the preliminary stages, and here is the crème de la crème that make up the BBL02 First XI of 2012/13.

Human cube Finch.

Human cube Finch.

Aaron Finch.

The walking Victorian bar fridge is a cinch for selection after kick-starting the competition with an explosive 111* that included some brutish Warne-clubbing. He maintained the rage throughout the campaign and finished with an astronomical average of 77.25 at a bushy-tailed strike rate of 128.21.

Luke Pomersbach.

This former off-field wild cannon went quietly about his business sprouting brisk starts for the Heat in the early stages until his name was coated in highlighter following a match-winning 82 from 42 balls against the Hurricanes, a timely knock which single-handedly propelled his side into the post-season.

Shaun Marsh.

Once again, ‘SOS’ reminded Australia of the bucket loads of talent he possesses with a number of digs for the Scorchers that were dripping in class. He finished as tournament top-scorer with 328 runs at an average of 65.60.

Brad Hodge.

The only thing that changes throughout Aussie domestic summers for the compact Vic is the spread of salt over pepper in the hair-do. He’s still flogging the young bucks with style, and this season was no different as he amassed 272 runs.

Evergreen Hodge.

Evergreen Hodge.

Ben Rohrer.

What was produced by the Blues veteran could only be described as a breakout campaign, although many would argue that this fashion of domination from the man has been threatening for years. A campaign of intelligence and muscle combined for an average of 50.60 and a S/R of 147.09.

Ricky Ponting.

The old boy wound back the clock with some carefree knocks that oozed with the freedom of a man whom now carries minimal concerns. An absolute luxury in the dream team coming in at six with a tournament total of 236 runs.

Tim Paine.

There were signs throughout the competition that the stylish Hurricane may be about to embark on the sustained run to higher honours we’ve been awaiting, with polished glovework and his trademark crease street smarts on display throughout. Finished with 260 runs at 37.14.

Alfonso Thomas.

This master from South Africa bowls blockhole balls whilst snoozing, and it was no different in season 2012/13 as the ace in the pack for the Scorchers at the death. The wiry quick finished with 12 wickets at an average of 10.00 and conceding a paper-thin 5.53 runs per over.

Yorking broomstick Thomas.

Yorking broomstick Thomas.

Ben Laughlin.

Another master of the closing stages of an innings with his deep trick bag of change-ups. Don’t forget that this unfashionable seamer has played for Australia in the past, and a recall could be on the horizon after finishing as highest wicket-taker in the Big Bash with 14 scalps.

Lasith Malinga.

The distinctive round-armer was a lock-in for a guernsey after his magical spell of 6/7 against the Scorchers. He showed this was no flash in the pan for the Stars by finishing the campaign with 13 wickets and a thrifty RPO of 4.96.

Muttiah Muralitharan.

The Sri Lankan wizard showed that he can still turn the rock on a sheet of oily lino, and proved that even after being out of the international game for some time, his presence still demands respect among the modern players. Took 10 wickets at 15.60 and conceded a tidy 5.57 RPO.

 

Forcing me to watch Oprah? Lance better come clean

So Lance Armstrong has finally had a gutful of being a clam.

Hoo-bloody-ray.

The world’s most despised bloke on wheels has agreed to have his shell of silence prised open on international television by the confessional butter knife that is Oprah Winfrey, and the stinky decay that lies within promises to be eye-watering.

Or at least it should be.

Is there any way we can get a guarantee that this WILL be a confession? Any Dickie Wilkins-style entertainment gurus out there with a spoiler alert telling us Armstrong is actually going to fall on the needle and blurt the ugly truth? Can John Michael Howson’s flamboyant LA sleuthing for red carpet clangers extend to locating whether this brazen story of lies and Lycra ultimately ends in admittance?

Liestrong.

Liestrong.

It’s the least that the duped and disenchanted human race deserves after buying into all of these years of artificial glory and heroism.

I know for one, before I spend the coming days camped out next to my remote to ensure dibs on the plasma, that I’ll be seeking assurance that this nugget of highly anticipated television isn’t an hour of Armstrong regurgitating his delicately worded statements while Winfrey beats him with a feather duster.

Really, who wants to waste the coveted nighttime window of idiot box platinum watching rehearsed fraudulent pap? Who wants to subject themselves to another rendition of Armstrong’s recycled defence in the face of an Everest of evidence? Who really wants to have to watch the Oprah Winfrey Show?

I’m sure you see my point.

Seriously though, if he is fair dinkum about putting an end to looking like one of history’s greatest douchebags, does he really have any other option but to slump on that famous celebrity arse-grooved couch, reveal all to Oprah like she’s a sister from another mister and then sweetly cop the well-deserved double-barrelled backlash?

Armstrong has done plenty of shortsighted and spiteful things up to now, but even he can surely see that the writing on the wall now says it’s time to cut his losses with the plan to devote long-term to his porkies.

The fibs are so backed-up that they have formed an orderly queue. If his BS pedalling was a bike, the rubber would’ve disintegrated down to the rims by now and there would be sparks flying everywhere.

Shouldn’t he just take out the puncture repair kit and get to patching-up whatever remains of the tyres of life?

If he doesn’t want to glue the dark holes of deceit for the good of himself, or in an attempt to prevent further bicycle analogies that are painful in length, then at least do it for the long-suffering public. What we’ve had to endure thus far has required the stamina levels of a blood-replaced hill-climber.

Persisting through the superfluous usage of the words ‘alleged’ and ‘accused’. Being force-fed statements with finely omitted truths. Pyrenees-sized mountains of confessions from steroid-topped bikers. Comprehension of the fact that saints with charities aren’t immune from being rottenly evil dudes. And now possibly being made to watch a television programme that should only be viewed by the unemployed or those chucking sickies.

It has gone on too long, and now is the prime chance for Armstrong to make it stop by taking his medicine. Metaphorically though, Lance. Not through the thigh.

The winds of gossip are whispering that he is looking to have his image cleansed by owning up to the doping so he can eventually save face by partaking in triathlon once this all blows over. It’s a bizarre and downright self-centred motivation to finally surface from an underground shelter of atrocious jive talking, but at least the public will get some closure.

The days of cryptic dinner speeches and Tweets has come and gone long ago. It’s time for Armstrong to stop thinking of himself and spare a thought for those swimming in his bulldust.

Oprah awaits.

I wonder if she will remember to check what ‘gifts’ Armstrong leaves under the seats for the studio audience?

By George, Ross has hand

As the Kiwi batting order rapidly decomposed in the first innings against South Africa at Cape Town on Wednesday, I began to think of Ross Taylor and pictured him in the form of a short, stocky, bald New Yorker.

If the current relationship between the former captain and New Zealand Cricket were an episode of Seinfeld, Taylor would now definitely be the holder of ‘hand’ in the same style of George Costanza’s famous showing of one upmanship from the glorious 1990s.

Taylor protecting the coveted gift of hand.

Taylor protecting the coveted gift of hand.

Remember the juicy fruits of power that were bestowed upon Jerry Seinfeld’s BFF when he snivelled his way to the upper ‘hand’ in his relationship, allowing him to call the shots and bargain with the squeeze in his favour?

Without any snivelling whatsoever, Ross Taylor now officially finds himself in that position.

The main difference between the two situations is that Taylor sits high thanks to the classy manner in which he handled his mistreatment as well as the now-desperate requirement for his abilities, whereas neurotic short-fry Costanza was elevated thanks to devious psychological subterfuge.

Plus Taylor has hair and is likeable, whereas Costanza is a scheming pest and a fictional character.

Now with the Black Caps batting showing the resistance of a dandelion against a snarling Proteas attack, the NZC administration undoubtedly desperate for immediate pain relief, and with one world class batsman back at home sunning himself on the beach in full health, it’s not hard to join the dots.

Another NZ castle tumbles in South Africa.

Another NZ castle tumbles in South Africa.

That’s right. It’s now officially Advantage Taylor, which means those on the opposite side of the ledger with a distinct lack of ‘hand’ should commence their grovelling, caboose kissing, or even better, resigning and restructuring very soon.

Let’s be honest. Do they really have any other option?

Taylor certainly isn’t the overnight grout that is going to patch the many holes in the Black Caps top order, but it’s a start at least. One can only hope that the NZC board has enough problem-solving grey matter to realise that the only thing they could do to top the short-sighted stupidity of driving the 43 Test veteran out of the team would be to stand by and watch it embarrassingly perish while his capabilities gather dust in a tropical location.

Assuming they aren’t total pillocks and the reconciling petunias are sent, it would mean the classy right-hander would just have to resist the temptation of doing the devious Costanza proud by milking the pandering for all it’s worth.

Costanza: bastard.

Costanza: bastard.

Letting phone calls from the NZC offices ring out a few times, conveniently forgetting to reply to the text messages of pleading and apologies, and maybe even blocking coach Mike Hesson on Twitter and de-friending CEO David White on Facebook, just to make them sweat for a few days, would be an esteem-boosting privilege few would begrudge Taylor.

However, you sense that playing rock-solid hardball by acting completely aloof and disinterested to these offers as his team mates suffer, saying he may not be able to make the trip because he’s learning French/watching a series of Downton Abbey/building a castle out of paddle pop sticks, is not in the make-up of the man.

Which means that Hesson, White and the other ‘visionaries’ of New Zealand cricket should stop sitting on their (lack of) hands and start the peace process pronto, or risk more catastrophic Test match caving and teeth-gnashing amongst the Black Cap faithful.

You don’t want to see Martin Crowe set any more apparel ablaze now, do you?

How high will the glasses be raised in the eventual toasting of Michael Clarke?

Hidden amongst a handful of broken Sri Lankan fingers and the Mitchell Johnson show at the MCG Boxing Day Test was yet another significant score from a supposedly-hamstrung Michael Clarke.

It seems his reliability has become so passé now that it is considered a given that he will freely score with style whenever he is at the crease. Ticking over the counter for sessions and keeping Mark Nicholas buried in a thesaurus for unused superlatives is just what the Big Dog does for his crust nowadays.

Clarke doing his best Uncle Sam.

Clarke doing his best Uncle Sam.

So considering that Clarke’s incessant run-scoring has become nigh-on boring, his captaincy is positively progressive and thus far rather successful, and that he hasn’t been sighted in a pair of Bonds on a billboard for donkey’s, is it fair to say we are seeing something special forming before our eyes?

Is this the gestational period for status as an all-time worshipped immortal of Australian Test cricket?

You know the type I am talking about. Unconditionally loved and revered, where all of your books are so popular that major forests are wiped out by publishers, where your old signed bats still go for a motzah at auction even though they’ve taken on the form of a rotten banana, and where a spot on the Nine commentary team is created for you, no matter how packed it is behind those funny little microphones they use.

Think of your Waughs, Taylors, Borders, Chappells and Bradmans. The Qantas lounge of captaincy. The palatial palace of performance and perfection. Air-conditioning adverts where you can wear comfy collared shirts, KB-laden legends games in postcard locations and of course, a job at the Academy of Excellence whenever you damn want it.

Is it fair to say that Clarke will end up in this rare club of treasured champs?

When it comes to the currency of scoring, he seems to be running pretty close to schedule. At age 31 and with 6910 Test runs under his belt, he could finish around the magical 10k mark with another 3 or so years on the circuit, which would place him right amongst the stick-wielding greats.

As we all know however, the sweet language of runs is only one KPI for access to the post-career riches saved for Australia’s former golden cricket commanders. Stealing loads of big shiny trophies from other ambitious nations is also paramount to getting your name on the door, and this is where Clarke has a golden opportunity to springboard upwards.

The skipper will be taking his young and developing unit on upcoming tours to the unforgiving surrounds of India, followed by a double-shot of Ashes contests. Culture shocks and oafish galleries of torment can be promised for his hot-and-cold charges, and don’t forget the capabilities of the quality opposition on the park too.

Can he deliver a burst of good times with a somewhat embryonic squad against blue ribbon opposition?

One thinks that if he can return with two series wins out of these three, he’ll be extremely close to 24 carat golden boy calibre. An Ashes series win in England where he trumps Alastair Cook in the runs column and we may strike a copper bust of him and encourage him to run for Senate.

Lesson learned.

Lesson learned.

Finally, there’s the Clarke kryptonite, that being the intangible factor of public acceptance. It’s no secret that he was simply not a warmed-to figure for many years, but judging by the raucous standing-o he received on day one at the MCG, it appears the pure weight of runs on the big stage is fast eroding much of that contempt.

He may need to laser his tatts one day to receive the streams of uncapped adulation that your Tuggers and Tubbies are bestowed, but at least the public don’t want to unreasonably egg him anymore. He’s making rapid progress.

So with Clarke’s batting game in fine nick and the possibility of marquee series wins for a thirsty cricketing nation on the horizon, should we book him a seat in the pantheon of greats, or is there plenty more work for him to do?

 

 

Warming the Pine

Sport for those with comfortable couches.