Oct 03

Steve is OTM about player’s ignorance of the laws of the game;

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Steve is OTM about player’s ignorance of the laws of the game; Lou Macari was interviewed outside Old Trafford last night in connection with Rio Ferdinand being charged and said that some blame must be attached to the FA’s drug testers for not making sure he stayed around for the test. He appears to have no understanding of the rules governing the FAs testing regime. And why should he? Unlike any other punter who spouted total ill-informed garbage, he will sadly be asked back, because as far as sports coverage is concerned, the aim is have controversialists and / or well known figures. The veracity of their statements and their understanding of what they speak about is an irrelevance. This means we vary between the Macari still rubbish, or the bland cliche ridden banalities of ex-players, who subscribe to the omerta which pervades the game.

This basically operates along the lines of – you’re no longer on active service within football, but you still earn you living by way of it and earn a corn occassionally from commenting. The rules of both silence about what went on in your day, about what you know about what’s going on today and the rule that says that you must at all costs steer well clear of topics that might open up debates that challenge the fundamental orthodoxies of the game.

You see it still with commentators saying that someone shouldn’t have been booked / penalised as there was no intent in the tackle; it just went wrong, as opposed to being a cynical attempt to bring down a player. Never mind that intent was removed from the laws of the game in 1993 eh?

PS – Here’s a list of revisions to the laws of the game which includes the one about penalties right near the bottom.

Oct 03

Vainly searching for some coverage of the FA Cup replays last night

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Vainly searching for some coverage of the FA Cup replays last night I stumbled onto Sky Sports News who were mainly covering the Carling Cup. Down at Highbury it was all getting a bit tense, after what was effectively Arsenal’s youth team had let Rotherham score a 90th minute equaliser. As extra time drew to a close, the cameras showed the scenes of the two gaffers picking those who were to take the penalties. However it all became a little farcical as the cameras then had to cut back to the studio as soon as the penalties began, leaving us watching Viv Anderson, Tony Cottee (I think), Alan Macnally (sp?) and another random ex-pro as they watched the pens. Now, I understand why they do this on a Saturday afternoon, but this seemed a little churlish. However the following ten minutes of telly were entirely gripping, and descended into the sort of thing you’d get if you were sat in your lounge with your mates round, with them all shouting over each other, Viv, in particular, getting carried away after he predicted the first half dozen hits and misses correctly. The icing on the cake was when they got to the 11th penalty, Rotherham had had a man sent off so the 11th pen was taken by the same player as their first (he missed). Then Sylvan Wiltord stepped up to take Arsenal’s 11th and win the match. Uproar in the studio, “but he took their first one”, “who’s not taken one?” “this is disgraceful”. Despite the fact that these men were professional footballers and are now professional pundits they didn’t know about a change in the rules which means once a shoot-out starts the teams are reduced to the same number of players to make it fairer (otherwise the team with 11 players will be using their goalie to take the penalty against the other team’s best player). I wish I could find a link to prove that this is a well known fact but this isn’t a lot of help…

Oct 03

In case you aren’t watching the Rugby World Cup

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In case you aren’t watching the Rugby World Cup (and fair enough) I thought you would nonetheless like to know that Ireland’s bald and not-cute hooker (equivalent for US readers: there isn’t one) Keith Wood glories in the nickname The Raging Potato. I don’t think I could defend this statement, but I think it’s appropriate. (I’ve also heard ‘The Flying Potato’ which isn’t as good, I think.)

Even if you’re a sports fan you may never have heard of Mildred Didrikson-Zaharias

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Even if you’re a sports fan you may never have heard of Mildred Didrikson-Zaharias. Here is why she was the greatest athlete of all time.

She was born in Texas in 1914. At 16 she led her basketball team to three national titles. In the 1932 national athletics team championships the second place team gained 22 points with its 22 athletes. In first place by a full 8 points, and setting three new world records in less than three hours, winning six events, was the team comprising Mildred alone.

She was only allowed to enter three events in the Olympics that year, so she went for one each of the three main athletic types, to show her range. Javelin: world record, gold medal; 80m hurdles: world record, gold medal; high jump: world record and first, but she was denied the gold medal for using the Western Roll technique (the Olympic authorities changed their mind later and awarded her a gold here too).

After an interval playing pro baseball and basketball (and skipping over her reported excellence at tennis, diving, swimming, bowling, lacrosse, skating and billiards) she took up golf. She became the best in the world, naturally, at one point winning 17 tournaments in a row. When she turned pro, she lost only once in seven years.

How many of you had even heard of this woman? Don’t be embarrassed if you haven’t, because Chamber’s Biographical Dictionary doesn’t rate her among the 20,000 people worth covering, and my two sets of encyclopaedias don’t mention her. Her autobiography is no longer in print, even in America. I’m inclined to think that if a man (especially a white American, as she was) had a list of achievements anything like that he’d be as famous as Muhammed Ali, say, and would have been the subject of countless biopics (there was one in 1975, starring Susan Clark and Alex Karras, which is hardly the big time).

Oct 03

“The scarf awarded for playing is known as a pussy.”

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“The scarf awarded for playing is known as a pussy.”: I did not play rugby at school. I played this. (NB I cannot remember 60% of these rules – at some later date I will write up my memories of what it was actually like.)


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Whoosh! Erase The World lays into The Rugger with a righteous ire. It’s hard to disagree. (Link via the tremendous It’s All In Your Mind). I saw a bunch of the highlights last night and they seem to consist primarily of a prurient “Ooh! He shouldn’t have tried to bite that man’s nose clean off… let’s just have another look…”

Oct 03

Before I get down to the rez…

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Before I get down to the rez, Let me just second Mark’s post below. Spy Ring looked brilliant, played like Ludo on Tamazepan. It is quite possible that I had a later version of the game which used the almost impenetrable code of reading mirror writing as the key to its secrets. Don’t even start me on Swindle, the game of antique auctions. (Waddingtons – so much to answer for.)

Anyway, last night I spent a jolly evening in the pub, celebrating yet another of my friends 30th birthdays. With us was an Arsenal fan. Being an Arsenal fan is a interesting mixture of fan types. Going great guns in the league, they are absolutely abysmal in Europe. As such you get to suffer at least a touch of the ying and yang of supporterdom (without the kaflooey of your club going bankrupt which keeps much of the rest of professional football going). Anyway, last night in the Champions League Arsenal played Dynamo Kiev, and said fan was scurrying home to catch the highlights.

Without going all “Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads” on you, I made a brief comment to try to keep him in the pub. The game was over, what would another half hour be. To whit I used my oft noticed skill at lying and told him the score. A fictitious made-up score. His face fell (mainly because I told him Arsenal had lost). Then repenting I told him it was a lie. He was not sure if he believed me, but unpicking my timeline for the evening showed there was no way, short of listening to a portable radio in the toilets, that I could know. So he skipped off happy.

Imagine my horror this morning waking up and discovering the actual score of the game was 2-1 – to Kiev. The self same score I had guessed at the night before. Maybe I should be playing this predict-o-score game of ILX…

Oct 03

For older readers, BREAK THE SAFE

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For older readers, BREAK THE SAFE factors in one further strength, which is that it seems to be a descendent of Waddington’s long-vanished SPY RING: inherited elements include safecracking, “secrets” as tablets you have to seek out and turn over, and the threat of being spotted down a corridor (actually a tree-lined avenue in the ancestor game, which was set in a city-quarter of embassies). SPY RING had a tremendously enticing cover and a handful of good ideas: each piece was shoulders-and-head of a squat and hunched little spy in a trilby; when your spy was using his radio, you placed a length of copper wire in the top of his hat, plus since the cypher-key was “FISH” you learnt what fish is in a variety of languages. Unfortunately it was very extremely boring to play: BREAK THE SAFE’s pieces are duller design-wise, but it’s genuinely fun to play, or even watch.

My Life Of Crime (Pretend)

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My Life Of Crime (Pretend): part of my stag weekend involved a board game called BREAK THE SAFE! Initially sceptical, I ended up having a grand time playing it. My doubts arose from the fact that it is a co-operative boardgame, not a competitive one. I have nothing against co-operative games as a concept – I spent a lot of my teens playing RPGs and some day I will lose all our readers by writing about them – but had yet to see how the turn-based boardgame dynamic could work in an all-for-one situation.

Anyone who does have a distaste for the hippyish ideal of co-operation in gaming should be mollified by the premise of BTS – you are a bunch of crims who have to crack into a safe. Magnus claimed there was some blather in the rules about it being a safe owned by an evil corporation, probably holding vital evidence or a cure for orphans or something, but this can easily be ignored. I have to admit though that these safe-breaking crooks are a non-violent bunch, since they invariably raise their hands in a ‘fair cop’ fashion at the mere tread of a guard or sniff of a dog.

Guard and Dog are your enemies, of course – so too is the clock: one of the best things about BTS is how quick it is – a half hour for a four-player game, 15 minutes for two players. The gameplay involves hunting through a building for four keys to the titular safe – co-operation takes the form of passing helpful gadgets to one another via robot, and letting each other free from the building’s cell.

At first the safe-cracking mission tends to feel quite easy, with one or two keys usually located swiftly – but almost invariably you then find your job complicated, and get pinned down desperately trying to get past the dog’s lair to an almost inaccessible room in which you know the final key lies. The tension rises rapidly as the clock counts down – waking the dog is mortifying, though not as bad as wasting final seconds by dropping a dice on the floor. The only feature lacking in the game is an ability to treat the players as individuals – a crystal-maze style mechanism where players who’ve not found keys could be surrendered to the eager guards for precious extra seconds would add a bit of bite. Generally, though, Break The Safe! is a terrific little game and if you get the chance you should play it.

Some of my best friends are Scottish

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Some of my best friends are Scottish, and the recent round of internationals pointed up an interesting dilemma for the English football fan who likes laughing at Scottish football. Do I:

(a) patronisingly support the plucky Scots in their fight against all the odds to qualify for a tournament, (and end up actually cheering when they score etc), or
(b) hope they get the thrashing they so richly deserve for their bitterness (i.e. give them more respect than is probably due)?

It’s a tricky one.