Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas

Month: April 2005

The one Ronnie

As I mentioned before, most people think snooker is dull. Well, they wouldn’t if they saw last night’s Peter Ebdon / Ronnie O’Sullivan match. <br />
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Ronnie led 8-2 and 10-6 during the match in a first-to-13. Ebdon had earlier claimed that it was a priviledge to be on the same table as a genuis like Ronnie, but showed little deference in slowing down the game, and grinding his way back in. Ebdon won 13-11, but came in for heavy criticism among tv pundits for taking 5 minutes to make a break of 12. The BBC revelled in showing pictures of Ronnie clearly getting frustrated, asking the crowd what the time was, and giving Peter the stare.<br />
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But after the match, both men refused to criticise the other, not playing to the set-up. Cue classic TV moment. Peter Ebdon: “I would never do that to Ronnie, I respect him too much. He is a supreme athlete.” Switch to press conference with Ronnie: “Right now, I don’t know if I’ll be back next year, I need to chill out.” Inhales deeply on cigarette. “You gotta do what you gotta do.”

Mrs Wenger

I have no idea if Arsene Wenger is married or not, but he does seem obsessed with the idea of the wife as a metaphor.<br />
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Recall, if you will, his comment after Arsenal won without losing a game last season. Alex Ferguson had the nerve to suggest ManU had played the better football. Patently untrue, but never mind. Wenger saw him off with the wonderful quote that “everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home.” <br />
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Clearly flushed with success at besting Fergie with that one, he is at it again. This week, asked about the allegations that Chelsea ‘tapped up’ Ashley Cole, he commented “If people come to your window and talk to your wife every night, you can’t accept it without asking what is happening”. Well, no, I suppose you can’t. But this one doesn’t quite have the same ring as the prettiest wife jibe. <br />
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Perhaps he should have gone with “If someone at a party keeps groping your wife’s bottom, you are eventually going to have to have a word.”

My secret snooker passion

I admit it. I like snooker. I know, how sad. There is a proviso. I only get interested during the World Championships. Which is also terribly tragic. I hate it when people are only interested in tennis during Wimbledon, but there we go.<br />
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But yes, suddenly during the 2 weeks of non-stop coverage from the Crucible, Sheffield (does it host any other events?) I get transfixed. Will Ronnie self-destruct? Will Jimmy White ever win? (answer: no). Will any of them ever have normal complexions? (answer: no. I think they all suffer from vitamin D deficiency.).<br />
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And I suddenly remember why I like snooker. One reason is that once, when I was young, I was ill and off school for two weeks. And all that was on was snooker, the world championships. I had no option but to get into it. <br />
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The other (real) reason is my late grandpa. He was a big, BIG snooker fan. He also loved rugby, but I could hardly take him out into the garden and practice tackling, could I? Even into his 80s he could kill me on the green felt of the snooker table. He taught me all the intricate shots, the nuances of the game (not that I can play very well). And he wasn’t pale and spotty like snooker players today – he was charming, caring, and tanned very easily. His favourite player was John Parrott, who was probably a good player to be a fan of. Better than that boring Stephen Hendry.<br />
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My grandmother, who was probably not a snooker fan but indulged his passion for the game, also had opinions on it. She thought Jimmy White had “a cheap face”. She was right. Her comments on a couple of other players (Joe Johnson in particular) bordered on the unrepeatable. What she would have made of some of the players today I dread to think.<br />
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So for 50 weeks of the year, I forget about snooker. And then it’s on tv all the time, and I have a secret, hidden passion for it. I admire the skill, the tactics, the fact that to win the tournament you have to concentrate like almost no other sport. It looks so easy on the telly, but it’s bloody difficult to play. And I think of my grandpa, who would have been watching, quietly appreciating it, looking forward to discussing the matches with me. Playing snooker was our bond, our way of sneaking off and being boys away from the women. They were special moments. And I love the game – there, I said it.

Call of nature

Poor old Paula. I’m not sure which she will find harder to live down – her Olympic drop-outs, or having to “relieve” herself in front of thousands of people on the street and a worldwide audience of millions. There has been more coverage of her needing to go than her race time – which is the second or third fastest time ever or something, depending if you count pacemakers / mixed mens-womens fields etc. <br />
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So. What should we do about it? Force her to wear a nappy? Given her figure, we might notice. It should be pointed out this has <a href=”http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/athletics/2324737.stm”>nearly happened to Paula before</a>, in Chicago, at the 22 mile mark as well. But she is not alone. Several other leading runners have been known to “shit all over the place” during marathons as my dad put it so delicately yesterday.<br />
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In fact, running such long distances is a classic recipe for a complete lack of bowel control. We either need to recognise this and get over it, or turn this into a more interesting aspect of the race. Perhaps runners could be given two medals – one for finishing, one for a dirty protest. Or bookies could take bets on which mile the “unscheduled toilet stop” might take place. We could even get clock timers on the screen like they do for pitstops in Formula 1.<br />
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And commentators could be a little less delicate. “Yes, that’s it, textbook stuff. She just shat in a drain. And she’s off again. Brendan, a relatively quick poo?” That kind of thing.

Italian fans – the new thugs of Europe?

For – chucking flares, rioting fans – this is not just one club. Both Juve and Inter should have made UEFA think about banning Italian clubs from europe for a year or two. That might make them get their houses in order.<br />
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Against – no-one died.

Woodward’s choice

The <a href=”http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/international/4425357.stm#squad”>Lions squad was announced today</a>, something I have been looking forward to for months. And good old Sir Clive has dug out a few old favourites, dusting down for one last spin. There is a realistic possibility of Back, Hill and Dalaglio lining up for the tests, which might raise a few eyebrows.<br />
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In fact, the country representations make you wonder if the 6 Nations counts for anything at all. The breakdown: <br />
England (4th in 6N) – 20 players<br />
Ireland (3rd in 6N) – 11<br />
Wales (GRANDSLAM winners) – 10<br />
Scotland (5th) – 3<br />
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Now, what does this tell us? Either – a) Sir Clive is massively <a href=”http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/international/4433147.stm”>biased towards England</a>, or b) England really do have better players, but as a team they are not gelling, or c) The numbers are skewed because of England injuries and comebacks. Or all of the above.<br />
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And so far, no Jonny. Apparently if he proves fitness, he could still go, which would be good to see, although I still think Stephen Jones will be #10.

Learning nothing

Football players and fans really seem unable to learn anything. First there’s that lovely fellow, Lee Bowyer. Footage of his bust-up with Keiron Dyer is well documented. And you can see it <a href=”http://hem.bredband.net/jenslindmark/bowyer_vs_dyer.mpg”>here</a><br />
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Here are a few gems from the Bowyer fact file:<br />
– He once spent an entire match calling Nolberto Solano a “Paki” (Solano is from Peru, so we can assume Bowyer’s CV doesn’t include geography GCSE) <br />
– His part in the alleged assault on Sarfraz Najeib led to a suspension from England selection and a fine from his club. Charges were droppped against Bowyer, but his unrepentant stance on the incident lost him many friends.<br />
– He deliberately stamped on a player’s head with his boot in a UEFA Cup match, <a href=”http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/uefa_cup/2638707.stm”>prompting another ban</a><br />
– He was fined by magistrates after admitting to throwing chairs across a McDonald’s restaurant after drinking with friends<br />
– He was banned by Charlton for eight weeks and dropped from the England Under-18 squad after testing positive for marijuana<br />
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What bothers me is not that Bowyer is rich or a wasted talent or a thug – there are loads of people around like that. It is that despite everything, he just doesn’t seem to learn. By now you would have thought he might have considered why he gets all these bans and criticism, but no – off he goes again. <br />
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Talking of not learning, it was deeply unpleasant to see Juve fans giving the finger and booing the tribute to the Heysel victims at Anfield on Tuesday. What have they learnt after 20 years? Fuck all.

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