The Snow In The Summer or So-So


Thu 20 Jul 2006

It's a good Tour this year

For the first time in forever, we've had an entertaining Tour de France this year. Lance Armstrong's domination of the tour was total and utterly tedious - we were watching in the vain hope that someone would come along and overtake the Texasite. Even when he steered into a spectator in 2003, Mr Armstrong went on to win by a mile.

So this year, where the winner wasn't obvious from before the starting pistol, has been fascinating. Coming out of the Pyrenees section, Floyd Landis was in the leader's yellow jersey, and looking good to remain in the lead for the remaining week or so. Then, on Saturday's flat stage, his team allowed a group containing Oscar Pereiro to escape up the road and win the stage by something over half-an-hour. Sr Pereiro was gifted the lead, and retained it on Sunday's flat race.

After a rest-day, the tour continued on Tuesday, with a climb up Alpe d'Huez. This is the tour's iconic location, with a significance far beyond the mere fact that it's a huge-ass mountain. Comparisons with Beacher's Brook or the Indianapolis Speedway would be appropriate. Mr Landis regained the lead, taking a minute and a half out of Sr Peirero. His advantage was just ten seconds, and Mr Landis completely cracked on Wednesday's climbs, losing eight minutes to many of the leaders. Sr Pieiro finished third on the day's stage, and regained yellow. Six riders were within four minutes of the lead, making this a much more interesting spectacle than anything we've seen in donkey's years.

And then... this happened.

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posted 20 Jul 2006, 19.08 +0100

Sat 29 Jul 2006

Breaking: Cricket record

The greatest cricket partnership in history. No, not Strauss and Pietersen, but Sri Lanka's Sangakarra and Jayawardene, who put on 624 (SIX HUNDRED AND TWENTY FOUR) for the fourth wicket against South Africa. Brian Lara's all-time test best score of 401* is also under threat; just after tea, Jayawardene is 359 not out. Live coverage continues at cricinfo; close of play is scheduled for 1pm UK time.

Update, 11.53: Jayawardene was bowled for 374, the fourth-greatest run feat of all time.

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posted 29 Jul 2006, 11.17 +0100

Sun 06 Aug 2006

Sports desk

Floyd Landis's B-sample has proven positive, and he'll almost certainly be stripped of his Tour de France title. If there's one silver lining to this dark cloud, it's that cycling is being honest, and not brushing its problems under the carpet.

With temperatures in the nineties, the new football season began. Accrington Stanley lost, which is a shame, and Rangers were held by Dundee Utd. Gretna warmed up for their UEFA Cup debut with a 6(SIX):0 trouncing of Hamilton Academicals Nil.

In the cricket, England are on the verge of drawing a test they should win - after making 515 in the first innings, and reducing Pakistan to 78/2, the follow-on should be a formality. But no, the over-night total was 202/2.

Better news in the tennis, where Andy Murray is in the final of the tournament in the Chesapeke Drainage Basin after beating Dmitri Toursanov in straight sets.

The European Athletics Championships begin in Gothenborg to-morrow, and continues until next Sunday. Coverage on Eurosport, Radio 5, and BBC-tv

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posted 06 Aug 2006, 11.42 +0100

Mon 07 Aug 2006

Flying the flag

A day of mixed fortunes for British competitors in sports. Andy Murray lost his tennis final, clearly wilting in the extreme heat of the Chesapeake Drainage Basin. Some of you may not find 32°C extreme, but you've not tried to play top-notch tennis for two hours straight.

England's cricketers managed to turn a promising situation into a first-innings parity - a stand of 363 for the third wicket gave Pakistan a 23-run lead after first innings, which the England side extended to something over 300. With a day to play, the match is probably heading for a draw.

In games we don't much care about, Jenson Button drove a car faster than any other driver who bothered to finish their race. And in the judged pastime of swimming, the British women's relay are the fastest in Europe.

Scottish football, and after Hearts beat Celtic, the top of the table has an unfamiliar ring:

1 St Mirren 6
2 Hearts    6
3 Falkirk   6
4 Rangers   4
5 Celtic    3

Hmm. Rangers for the Intertoto has a certain ring about it, non?

And finally, the BBC really needs a better commentator. "Have you ever seen three British athletes competing for Britain?"

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posted 07 Aug 2006, 18.52 +0100

Sun 20 Aug 2006

Balls stop play

On Wednesday, Andy Murray beat Roger Federer in a tennis match. It's the first time that world leader Mr Federer has lost to anyone other than Rafael Nadal this year. The win helped Mr Murray rise into the world's top 20 players.

Wayne Rooney throws a strop. The potato-faced youngster, who is only able to kick a football if it's pointing the right way, has threatened to withdraw from commercial promotional activities for the FA. His reason - or, to be exact, his agent's stated reason - is not a yearning desire to roll back the creeping commercialism that's overtaken the game over the past couple of decades. No, it's, er, because he thinks he's got a divine right to play, no matter how much of a violent little thug he is. Mr Rooney is already suspended for the England side's next two competitive fixtures - against Andorra and Macedonia - after being sent off for being a violent little thug.

At Theoval, it's been another exciting day's cricket. After conceding a huge first innings deficit, England recovered to be 33 behind with four second-innings wickets down. Pietersen was out for 96, and England needed to bat well into the fifth day to-morrow to secure the draw. Bit like last year, then. Unlike last year, the ball was changed just before the tea interval, because the umpires believed that Pakistan had deliberately interfered with the ball. Pakistan took their time emerging from the changing rooms after tea, and the umpires appear to have deemed the match a forefit. The Pakistan players popped back out about ten minutes later, and were met with a chorus of booing. Some Pakistan fans are already criticising umpire Darryl Hair (Australia), who they believe to have a vendetta against them. Radio 5's Pat Murphy says this is a battle for the soul of cricket; more reasoned voices (Aggers on TMS) says it's all a bit of a mystery.

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posted 20 Aug 2006, 19.04 +0100

Mon 21 Aug 2006

It's not cricket

The fourth test has ended in a nominal win for England, because Pakistan's refusal to take the field after the ball was changed is deemed a forefeit. It's a shame - the match was bubbling up to an interesting finish, with England effectively on (-33)/4, needing to bat for the best part of another day to force the draw - though bad weather would mean that they needed to survive barely half this time. An England win was most unlikely, a Pakistan win the single most likely result but by no means a nailed-on cert.

The utterly bizarre fact is that Pakistan played on for 16 overs - more than an hour - after the ball was changed, without protest. Only after the tea interval was there an attempt to force the issue.

Ball-tampering came to the fore during Pakistan's tour of England in 1992, when the English press made out that the visiting side had been altering the condition of the ball. This was never proven, and further analysis showed the effects were produced by the greater skill of the Pakistan team.

Underlying the controversy, though, is the presence of Darrell Hair; rightly or wrongly, he has acquired a reputation as an umpire who distrusts cricketers from South Asia. It is unfortunate to appoint an umpire who is distrusted by one of the sides, and we suspect he may not umpire at this level again.

The International Cricket Council - the world game's new ruling body - could have set up an Inquiry into the whole brew-ha-ha, with the implicit instruction that the inquirers could take as long as they wanted, the longer the better, and allow tempers to cool. Instead of this eminently sensible step, steeped in the tradition of the House of Lords, the ICC has poured fuel on the flames and charged the Pakistan captain with bringing the game into disrepute. We knew it was a bad idea to decamp to the hot climes of Dubai, for cricket is not best played in desert conditions.

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posted 21 Aug 2006, 19.59 +0100

Tue 29 Aug 2006

"I want to find out not who I am, but who I can be."

A distinct sigh of relief and major hurrah!s for Friend of the Great Northern Line, Desmond's Kitty, who has signed Juan Veesa to her fantasy football team. Nifty little midfielder, very much the definition of a utility player. Nice one, Cyril.

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posted 29 Aug 2006, 18.46 +0100

Sat 23 Sep 2006

Not Alan Partridge

Sports news, and on the first day of the Ryder Cup (it's a bit like Antan Dec's All-Star Cup, only professional) went to Europe, 5:3. Though the Yankees won the opening match by one hole, Europe took two of the other morning fourballs, and halved the last match. It was slightly closer in the afternoon foursomes, Europe winning one match and three being halved - one thanks to a marvellous Montgomerie putt on the last green.

Tennis, and the UK should make it through the relegation play-off against Ukraine. One of the opposition squad members is Sergei Bubka, whose father is better known as a champion pole-vaulter.

The BBC broadcast a programme this week in which it claimed that Sam Alladyce, the Bolton Wanderererererers manager, was prepared to accept a bung in a transfer deal. The side from north Manchester refused to allow the Beeb's local radio station to cover its press conference earlier this week, and looked set to refuse to talk to the corporation for its Mismatch Of The Day programme. The Football Association has decreed that all clubs should give interviews to Auntie's rep, though it hasn't said that they should give a substantive interview. Or that he can't use language that might be described as rudey.

, , , , , , ,

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posted 23 Sep 2006, 12.09 +0100

Sun 10 Dec 2006

Sports Poisonality of the Year

Exceedingly sour grapes from the Sunset Times about the BBC's Sports Review of the Year broadcast to-night. According to the World's Biggest Tabloid, people are alleging that the BBC has somehow rigged the selection process to ensure that it's not won by an unfunny comedian who swam the Channel in the name of charity.

The shortlist of ten individuals was compiled by votes from journalists, experts, online, and postal voting. Thirty-seven sets of votes were contributed; twenty national newspapers (nothing from the FT, or from the Racing Post), twelve regional papers (a heavy bias towards the West Midlands, and against the M62 corridor), and two comics joined the two public and one staff vote. M'learned friend Mr. Pokery reviews the complete set of nominations, and profiles all those who received at least two nods.

The Sunset Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and hence will never pass up an opportunity to bash the BBC. Even when its attacks have no base in reality, the organ will still bash the broadcaster. In that light, it's interesting to review the ten names it sent to the nomination process:

Joe Calzaghe (boxer, 31 noms)
Dee Caffari (sailor, only nom)
Nicole Cooke (cyclist, 20)
Matt Hampson (rugby, 1)
Monty Panesar (cricketer, 33)
Zara Phillips (eventer, 27)
Graham Poll (comedian, 2)
Hope Powell (footballer, 1)
Beth Tweddle (gymnast, 25)
Ian Woosnam (golf captain, 10)

Two points; Woosnam was one of four people with ten nominations chasing three places on the ballot, and was the one left out of the final ten. Hampson was left paralysed by a training accident in March 2005, and has not played since.

If the Sunset Times wanted David Walliams to win the title, surely the organ would have nominated him? The two nods came from the Daily Tabloid (another Murdoch organ) and the Evening Substandard (certainly not a Murdoch publication.) He didn't appear in the top ten of either public vote, which shows the depth of the well of support from which he's supping. The Sunset Times drones on:

When the shortlist was announced last week Walliams’s name was missing. Instead Phil "the Power" Taylor, the darts player, was said to have received more nominations.

There's no said to about it. He did receive more nominations. Eight more, in fact. And, even though Taylor wins the "world" championship shown to almost two people by Murdoch's local station Staines-Kingston-Yeading Television, his nominations include the BBC Experts Panel. The Sunset Times continues,

Viewers have claimed that if it had been left to the public vote Walliams was a certainty to be on the shortlist.

Er, no. Here's the Online Vote:

Joe Calzaghe
Darren Clarke (golfer, 32)
Nicole Cooke
Peter Crouch (footballer, 4)
Mick Gault (shooter, 1)
Monty Panesar
Steve Peat (downhill cyclist, 1)
Zara Phillips
Phil Taylor (dartist, 10)
Beth Tweddle

And here's the Postal Vote:

Jenson Button (car driver, 10)
Joe Calzaghe
Darren Clarke
Nicole Cooke
Darren Kenny (cyclist, paralympics, 1)
Monty Panesar
Zara Phillips
Shelley Rudman (skeleton bob, 7)
Phil Taylor
Beth Tweddle

The public did not vote for Walliams, it's that plain, it's that simple.

Ultimately, the Sunset Times is annoyed that the BBC can actually get the public to interact with its programmes. Channels like SKY, which subsist on a diet of parks football and watching grass grow, can only dream of audiences in single figures, never mind the millions who will tune in to the BBC presentation to-night.

Further reading: the top threes for 1954-2002.

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posted 10 Dec 2006, 12.06 +0000

Mon 11 Dec 2006

Sports Review of the Year

Results from the B.B.C. Sports Review of the Year were as follows:

Bung something to a B.B.C. celebrity - David Walliams, for his cross-channel swim.

Unsung hero - Val Hanover. By definition, this will be someone we've never heard about.

Young personality - Theo Walcott. An absolute shoo-in.

Lifetime achievement - Bjorn Borg, the tennis player. A curious choice, particularly as he retired some time before the end of his career.

Helen Rollason Memorial Award - Paul Hunter, the late snooker player.

Coach of the Year - Daniel Anderson, St Helens rugby.

Overseas personality - Roger Federer, tennis player. Winner of just about everything in sight, including three of the four grands slam. Beat out Tiger Woods, which is surprising, given his pisspoor performance at the Ryder Cup. No mention of the all-conquering Bjørndalen, whose next challenge is to top the biathlon and cross-country skiing worlds at the same time.

Team - St Helens rugby league. Won the domestic grand slam (cup, league, league play-offs). It's a shame that the vote is for a calendar year, as it would be best to measure this team against the Aussie champions before determining its greatness. The runners-up included the European Ryder Cup team - they would have done better had the event been covered on television, instead of just being a radio game, or if the opposition had been able to hit a ball at all. Sussex cricket club finished third, two places lower than their domestic double of league and cup.

Most popular person amongst the television audience - Zara Phillips, beating Darren Clarke and Beth Tweddle. It's hard to see this as anything other than a vote amongst the Sports Review of the Year audience.

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posted 11 Dec 2006, 19.13 +0000

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