Serena’s legacy in question

I am so angry with Serena. This is the second time she has, in my opinion, intentionally taken the limelight away from her opponent in a losing US Open Final. The three calls by the umpire were 100% correct, that is a fact. The issue is that they don’t always get called. But that is a minor issue, in the end if you get called on a rule you accept it. Calling the umpire a thief is the same as calling them a cheat.

Being a male, I am not the best person to comment on this, but I would imagine that women in general would be upset that Serena made this about women’s rights. It has zero to do with women’s rights, and everything to do with the rules of tennis.

While I agree that tennis players get away with a lot of descent towards umpires, one thing is always clear: Call them a cheat, and its a violation. Cheat is worse than any combination of swear words you can think of – and if you want to hear some combinations, go watch Serena’s final against Sam Stosur and you’ll hear plenty.

I am angry with Serena because only 2 days ago I showed my kids a Nike ad she features in about believing in your dreams, no matter how crazy, and my kids loved it. Now my daughter is asking me why the ‘World’s best athlete’ is smashing her racquet, disrespecting officials, and reducing her compatriot to tears.

She has earned the right to be a legend of all sports, she has earned the ‘World’s greatest Athlete’ tag, but unfortunately we all know too well that she is only one lost set away from “I’ll shove this ball down your throat”. Which means she has also earned the tag of a Fiery, whinging, self obsessed sore loser and bad sport. Nothing she can do will remove those labels.

I also was disgusted by her telling people not to boo Naomi Osaka. Of course she didn’t deserve it, but that was all on Serena, so don’t pretend to be the hero when you are the instigator.

Rant over.

Dear NRL,

Dear NRL,

‘Grow the game’ is a term that you will hear more often than ‘Stop the boats’ during an election campaign. I wonder where those three words rate on the presentation offered to you by broadcasters?

Just yesterday, I watched a really good State of Origin clash, which reignited an entire state, and introduced Kalyn Ponga to the largest audience possible. Well, maybe.

On a Sunday night, at 8:14pm, the whistle blew to start Origin II. My 8 year old boy was allowed to stay up til half time, which was 30 minutes past his bed time (8:30pm).

He didn’t make it, falling asleep on the couch before NSW scored, or Kalyn Ponga took to the field. You could imagine his surprise and disappointment (he is a QLDer) when he heard the result the next morning.

Don’t mistake this for lack of passion. This same 8 year old boy will happily travel 130kms each way every week to play for 40 minutes in under 10’s. In fact, it was on Sunday morning that he last did that. He got up, as did I, my 9 year old daughter and my 4 year old son, and we drove to Mt Isa, as we do every week, so he could take the field at 10:30am. In that game, he got his hands on the ball only once, made about 10 metres and got tackled. He made a couple of tackles, then game over, into the car, and 130kms home.

I marvel at that fact that he still wants to do this. He trains twice a week, spends 3 hours on a Sunday in a car, all for 1 run and a couple of tackles? Surely that won’t last.

I tell you what would help, being able to sit down at a reasonable hour to watch a great game, where a young player debuts and gives hope to all the young players out there. – Makes them dream of playing on the big stage.

Unfortunately, like the majority of his team mates and anyone under 12 most likely, it all happened while he was fast asleep.

I love sport. I have spent my life following all kinds of sports from all over the world. I have been a die hard Rugby League fan since I was born. But when I was his age, my only option was League. I could watch a game on Saturday and Sunday through the day. I could watch the mid week comp at 7pm on a Wednesday, and sometimes was lucky enough to watch a Friday night game, starting at 7:30pm, if mum and dad let me.

Now, on any given week, two games start after 8pm. One of these is on a School night. A third game starts after 7:30pm. Every Origin starts well after 8pm, on a Wednesday or Sunday, both School nights. All but 3 finals games start after 7:30pm.

Do you even know what your competition is these days? If you think it is AFL, you are completely wrong.

Do you know who my son’s favourite player is? Mookie Betts. Mookie who, you ask?

Mookie Betts is a Left Fielder for the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox play 162 games a season, not including finals. More than half of those games are on between 9am and 1pm Australian time. It is extremely rare that they don’t play on a Friday and Saturday night, which broadcasts live here on a Saturday and Sunday morning.

His second favourite player is Ben Simmons. What a story! A young Australian player playing beyond his years in a league full of superstars. Sounds a lot like Ponga.

But my son can’t see Ponga play every week. In fact he can’t see any player every week, as 4 teams are out of the question – those that play on a Thursday or Friday. Plus the late game on a Saturday is a bit of a push.

He can see Ben Simmons though. 82 games a season (not including finals) in the NBA means that he can guarantee at least one game a week where he gets to watch him play.

I’m not arguing for the NRL to increase games. I am arguing that in order to ‘grow the game’, you need to SHOW THE GAME to the youth. You need to understand that sports-mad kids these days aren’t able to watch their favourite NRL team every week.

I live in North West QLD. Nearly everyone out here is a Cowboys fan. Nearly every Cowboys game starts after 7:30pm on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night. The kids that would normally plaster themselves in Cowboys gear are now starting to wear Cav’s singlets, Yankees caps and Oakland Raiders jackets.

What is your solution, NRL?

How can you compete with the fact that every Australian youth can watch any american sport easier than they can watch the NRL?

How can you compete with the fact that every child can pick up a copy of NBA 2K, FIFA, Madden or MLB the Show on their Playstation and get a really polished game, yet every League game ever is about as polished as a 1979 Mazda 323?

Know your competition. Actually, forget your competition. Don’t make every decision about this game on how you can beat another sport. Make this game that I love your focal point. Trust your product, and let it be seen by as many people as possible, especially those who might end up playing it if they do.

Finally, think of the School Teachers today. It is possible that a few of their students stayed up til 10pm last night, and those teachers would have had to deal with a class full of tired and cranky kids on a Monday morning. Pretty sure you wouldn’t want that, and i am certain they didn’t.

Oh but Channel Nine are happy. Guess that’s all that matters.

 

The Madness that was UFC 223

The past week has been full on for the UFC, unfortunately for all of the wrong reasons. Some of the incidents that took place made it onto the mainstream news in Australia. It’s always a surreal feeling watching the sport of MMA be covered on Sunrise. However, there is much more to the story then what was being covered (which was primarily the bus attack). So strap in to relive the madness that was UFC 223.

Continue reading “The Madness that was UFC 223”

Man I hate the Yankees

As the Major League Baseball season approaches, one thing is abundantly clear: The Yankees want it bad this year.

Last year they had a Rookie have one of the best Rookie seasons in years. Aaron Judge could potentially give the Home Runs per season record a shake in his second year in the majors. Then they had Gary Sanchez, who is almost as impressive as Judge. Jacoby Ellsbury is as solid as anyone getting on base, and is a handy stealer. Brett Gardner can hit them out of the park, and Didi Gregorious at short. It was an impressive lineup.

Their pitchers were very strong, too. Tanaka, Chapman, Sabathia, Betances, Gray, to name a few.

So what do they go and do? Go and buy Giancarlo Stanton. He hit 59 homers last year.

As a Red Sox fan, the only saving grace is that we have a great team this year, and the Yankees would be considered a failure if they don’t win 100+ games as well as making it to late October.

But in reality, I foresee the Red Sox having to get to the playoffs via the Wild Card.

 

The second growth period for Basketball in Australia

As an 8 year old, I started following this guy called ‘Magic’ Johnson. It was 1990, and I had just moved to a small country town in NSW. It was a town that had produced a few professional Rugby League players, but it’s fair to say Basketball wan’t really ‘on the radar’ at the time.

This was a time before the internet and pay TV. All the news I got about Magic and the NBA was found in the Courier Mails’ sports section – Not the articles, but the results pages, if I was lucky. It was right next to some division 6 Brisbane junior soccer league, and the local croquet results.

My parents ran a Bakery, which had a Newsagents a couple of doors down. The owner of the Newsagents started to stock a publication called “Pro Basketball Today”. It was a newspaper with NBA and NBL news only, and came out weekly.

After a while, my parents started buying it for me. I wasn’t too sure why, but I later found out it was because the Newsagent came and told them that I can’t sit in their store, reading PBT every day, while never buying it.

I finally had a weekly resource to follow Basketball! But then, a few other things started to happen…

I had friends who liked Basketball too. Our town built a brand new Indoor Sports Stadium, that was predominantly a Basketball court. Channel 10 (NRTV) started televising the NBL, and had three Basketball magazine shows, one with Steve Carfino and Bill Woods, the others American shows – NBA Inside Stuff, hosted by Ahmad Rashad, followed by NBA Action, hosted by Jim Fagan. It came with the coveted ‘top 10 plays of the week’.

In 1991 my family moved to a property just out of town. That year I got my first Basketball hoop at home, and I consequently spent the best part of every afternoon out there, shooting hoops, commentating the whole time, pretending I was the Lakers, beating the Bulls.

The Bulls. While basketball was steadily building in popularity, the Chicago Bulls of the late 80’s, early 90’s era were the reason for the first real boom in popularity for Basketball in Australia. Suddenly, no kids sleepover was the same without hiring a copy of ‘Michael Jordan’s Playground’ from the local video shop. This ‘movie’ instilled that belief in all aspiring kids that they could do anything if they believed in their dreams and worked hard.

Also in 1991, Magic Johnson told everyone he had HIV, and suddenly the landscape changed. again. I copped it from all the footy boys for liking  ‘a fag’, because back then, Aids or HIV meant you were gay according to the masses. And being gay was not at all cool back then.

However, outside of the School yard, what Magic did was another catalyst for growth of the sport in Australia. Suddenly there was an NBA story on the news every night. Aslo, because it was 1991, most houses only had 1 TV, which means everyone saw those stories. Any publicity is good publicity, right?

The game grew so much more. We had one of the worlds most recognisable figures on TV because he had HIV, we had the worlds best ever Basketball player in his prime, we had Australian stars in Shane Heal and Andrew Gaze and, hang on, is that an Aussie in the NBA? That’s right, Luc Longley joins the Minnesota Timberwolves.

From that moment, Basketball was enjoying its first golden era in Australia. Never before or since has the NBL been as popular as it was, and we had representation in the NBA. A couple of years on, and Luc Longley becomes Michael Jordans teammate, and consequently the first Australian to win an NBA Championship ring.

Shaquille O’Neal single handedly makes the Orlando Magic a relevant team all over the world, and suddenly your level of ‘coolness’ is solely dependant on whether your shoes were Jordans, Shaqs, or Penny’s. But the reality is, you’re likely to be in the cheap rip-off Lynx’s from the local shoe store.

One of the most memorable moments in Olympic history happened in 1996, when Shane Heal took it to the USA Dream Team, and stood up to Charles Barkley. While Australia lost the game, no one remembers the score, but everyone remembers Shane Heal. Consequently, Heal, Gaze, Bradtke and McKinnon all end up in the NBA.

Also in 1996, I was lucky enough to go to my first ever NBA game. LA Lakers v Portland at the Great Western Forum. It was the first year that Shaquille O’Neal was a Laker, and it was also Kobe Bryant’s rookie season. After watching Shaq block Kenny Anderson in double overtime to win the game, I was a basketball fan for life.

I can’t quite understand why, but all over Australia, Basketball slowly became less relevant. Over the next 15 years, it would struggle. In that time, the NBL folded, came back. The national comp had no team in Sydney or Brisbane for a period as well.

We had more NBA representation, with Andrew Bogut securing the number 1 draft pick in 2005, and others coming through, but still, basketball remained fairly flat in Australia.

Suddenly, with super fast internet, pay TV almost everywhere, and Aussies in the NBA, no one really cared.

In my opinion, what changed the landscape in Australia was the 2014-15 NBA Finals Series. You had this new superstar, Steph Curry, doing things that no other player has ever done before. Shooting 3’s from literally anywhere on the court, and nailing them, time after time. He, and his mate Klay, who was also a lights out shooter, were partnered by Andrew Bogut, our Aussie draft pick come good, playing against the current ‘worlds best’ baller in LeBron James, and another aussie, Matthew Dellavedova. As luck would have it, Cleveland would have some injury concerns, so Dellavedova plays a much larger role in the finals than even he could have expected, marking the MVP, Steph Curry.

Australia just simply couldn’t ignore this. While the Warriors would go on to win in 6, and Bogut (while playing limited minutes) won his first championship, much like Heal all those years before, what people remember is Matthew Dellavedova shutting down Steph Curry, time and time again. He worked so hard he ended up in hospital after one game. It is very rare that your teams best player (Curry) doesn’t win the finals MVP when your team wins the Championship, but because of Dellavedova, Curry had to watch his teammate, Andre Iguodala lift that trophy.

The following year, Delly wins against the Warriors with Cleveland, coming back from 3-1 down.

Considering we had Baynes and Mills in San Antonio’s 2013-14 championship teams, we now had 3 years in a row where aussies had won Championships in the NBA.

I am confident that basketball will continue to grow in Australia, and why shouldn’t it? We have more Aussies in the NBA than ever before, we have the best rookie in the league, who is being touted for greatness, we have a team that could push Team USA in 2 years at the Olympics, and the NBL is strong again – in fact, live NBL is a lot of fun if you haven’t been.

With 20 years in between golden era’s, is that because all those who were into Basketball 20 years ago now have kids? Is it because of the popularity of Hip Hop? Is it because of the quality of the games in both the NBA and NBL?

Whatever the reason for it’s return to popularity, I just love that the game I love is popular enough to allow me to play in a local comp in my small country town again.

Re-Drafting the 2017 NBA Draft

With the NBA regular season into its last quarter, I thought I would do something completely original and re-draft the class of 2017. Enjoy.

Pick #1 – Philadelphia 76ers

Jayson Tatum. Original pick – #3. Yes, after the Philly traded up to get the number #1 pick, to me, the pick they would go for now, went at #3 – The pick they traded for #1. Granted, we haven’t seen what Markelle Fultz can do yet, due to injury, and Philly have an uncanny knack of unearthing gold after long standing injury. However, given how well Ben Simmons is playing at Guard, the lure of a solid Small Forward in Tatum would be hard to refuse. Imagine a line with Simmons, Tatum and Embiid… wow. Tatum’s biggest rep has to be that since day one he does not look like a rookie. He fits into Boston’s system like a veteran.

Pick #2 – Los Angeles Lakers

Lonzo Ball. Original pick – #2. Here comes the hate mail. Three months ago I had Ball out of my top 10. I was dubious on Ball early on, but as time progresses, I am more and more excited by Him, and he is starting to show everyone how he can be a leader in LA for a long time. Different to Tatum, as he definitely looked like a rookie, but also different because there appears to be much more potential in Ball than Tatum. Tatum comes across like he will be as good as he is now for a long time, and that is a seriously good player, but Ball could be anything. Like comparing Tim Duncan to Allen Iverson. I can’t think of anyone in this draft class that is more suited to historical Lakers Basketball, and with Magic Johnson at the helm, it’s no surprise he went for a sharp passer.

Pick #3 – Boston Celtics

Donovan Mitchell. Original pick – #13. Jumping 10 spots from his draft position, Donovan Mitchell is the first surprise packet of the NBA Draft. And if the Celtics knew that Hayward was going to go down, Donovan Mitchell would have complemented Kyrie Irving amazingly. Mitchell is leading the way for the Jazz, who are one of the hottest teams at the moment. If you consider that Boston wouldn’t get Tatum (as he went #1 in the redraft), you would have a back court of Irving, Mitchell, Brown. When Hayward comes back, you have a real challenge for positions.

Pick #4 – Phoenix Suns

Lauri Markkanen. Original pick – #7. The first good big guy of the draft. He can shoot from the perimeter, and has a lot of height. He is making an otherwise hapless Chicago team competitive. Put him in Phoenix and they would be an otherwise hapless team that would be competitive. Plus, Markkanen and Booker would work well together. They would stretch defenses with their shooting ability, which could free Dragan Bender up for some easy paint points.

Pick #5 – Sacramento Kings

Kyle Kuzma. Original pick – #27. Kuuuuz! The biggest surprise of the draft. Kyle Kuzma has proven to be a prolific scorer in the NBA. The only reason he isn’t higher in the re-draft is that he hasn’t proven himself as a certain starter or as a big-minute player. Put him in Sacramento, though, and he likely becomes their main scorer, and probably just their main man.

Pick #6 – Orlando Magic

Markelle Fultz. Original pick – #1. It is hard to push Fultz down the order, but because of his injury, it is hard to measure his potential up against what these other rookies are actually doing. I have no doubt he will be an integral part of the 76ers when he is healthy, but I don’t know that yet. The top 5 pick are already proven. I think the Magic still take him though, as they haven’t got much else going for them at the moment, and Jonathon Isaac, while being solid, has not lived up to a #6 pick. Plus, with Fultz out injured, they would still get a good draft pick next year, and suddenly you have a fresh guard and another quality rookie from the 2018 class for your club to build around.

Pick #7 – Minnesota Timberwolves traded to Chicago Bulls

Dennis Smith Jr. Original pick – #9. Bear in mind this pick would be going to Chicago regardless, as the Bulls dealt Jimmy Butler before the pick was made. So Dennis Smith would still go to Chicago. Smith has been really solid for a very underwhelming Dallas team. They will be building around him for the next few years, and are hoping for a Doncic or Ayton to join him next year. As Chicago are also rebuilding, they would equally benefit from a player of Smith’s calibre.

Pick #8 – New York Knicks

De’Aaron Fox. Original pick – #5. Fox being pushed from #5 to #8 is not because of anything he has done, it is because of the strength of Mitchell, Kuzma and Smith forcing their way above him. in Fox’s current role, he again is at a club (the Kings) that are rebuilding, and have plans to build around him. The Knicks took Frank Ntilikina, who has not lived up to the expectations people had on him. He has been good, without standing out. Put Fox in the Knicks, with Porzingis and the Knicks immediately look stronger. When you consider the Knicks were above .500 for a long time this season, he could have been the difference between them finally breaking their playoff drought, and them waiting on the draft lottery – again.

Pick #9 – Dallas Mavericks

Josh Jackson. Original pick – #4. This could be a matter of atmosphere, as Dennis Smith has thrived in Dallas because they don’t have much quality around him (besides Nowitzski), and Jackson has played second or third fiddle to Booker and Bender in Phoenix. This has pushed Jackson’s stocks down, but if he went to Dallas, it could have been a different story. Similar to Smith, Jackson would be a great building block for Dallas leading into another draft.

Pick #10 – Sacramento Kings traded to Portland Trail Blazers

Josh Hart. Original pick – #30. Another sleeper in this draft class, Josh Hart has proven himself more than capable of being a solid starting guard, or a more than solid rotation player. He was keeping Isaiah Thomas on the bench before he got injured, and that is no easy feat. How would he fit in Portland? Probably not as well, as he would be behind Lillard and McCollum, but at the very least he would be healthy trade bait. He would be their stand out #3 guard if he stuck around.

Some things to consider about this draft class:

Is it just me, or is it the strongest in a while? Obviously last year had Simmons, but in terms of depth, it has been a while since we have had a draft class this strong.

How well did the Lakers do! They got Ball, Kuzma and Hart. Good times ahead for the Lake Show if they can hold onto those three.

The three top 10 draftees that missed my list were:

  • Jonathon Isaac #6
  • Frank Ntilikina #8
  • Zach Collins #10

So that’s the way I see the 2017 draft class. I am sure there is a lot of disagreement out there, and feel free to share! I love the banter.