Tuesday, 24 May 2011

State of Origin Game 1 Preview

Will Lockyer lift the shield in his final year?
After a truly horrible split-round of rugby league, where the only highlights were a Canberra victory and Shaun Fensom captaining my DreamTeam with a whopping 178 points, thankfully State of Origin I is on Wednesday to remind league lovers that not all NRL players have the same sporting skill-sets as our former Prime Minister. With two ferociously competitive former Canberra legends at the helm of each team in front of a full house in Brisbane, it promises to be a cracker.

Having spent last Friday night honouring Frank Sobotka's famous ''shot and a beer, Dolores'' drinks order, Chathu will describe the Blues' chances using an epitaph from one of the greatest drama series of all time, The Wire. And since I was born in Meninga territory and raised by a maroon-blooded father, I will try and provide a few unbiased arguments about how this great QLD team can go 1-0 up.

Chathu's NSW Preview

“If animal trapped, call 410-844-6286”
   - Baltimore, traditional

Much like the way this epitaph symbolises most of the characters on The Wire appearing hopelessly trapped in the political and criminal Baltimore environment, for the last few years the Blues have been taking on a seemingly hopeless task of beating Thurston, Lockyer, Smith and Slater. Crime is still high in Baltimore and the Blues haven’t looked like winning a series for five years, and over most of that time I think I had more confidence in surviving in a Louisiana swamp than in a Blues victory.

So while you may think it is probably best just to watch the 2005 State of Origin DVD that you picked up at a $5 JB Hi-Fi bin instead of watching the actual coverage, I think there are a few reasons for a touch more optimism this year:
  • While this may be the wrong time to continue with an incumbent halfback who seems to get picked a lot more on his defense rather than his relative lack of ball playing skills and 5 straight club losses leading up to Game 1, continuity is something that QLD have thrived on, and there seems to be a bit more of that creeping into the Blues selection policy. 
  • We’ve got the better back row, hard not to as there were multiple combinations the selectors could have gone for and still got it right thanks to the depth at this position. 
  • Willie Tonga has had his troubles in defense for the Cowboys inside a young winger and Dane Nielsen is a rookie, so playmakers like Uate and Gasnier will have something to target as long as the halves can get them the ball at the right time and place.
  • There are about a thousand Dragons in this team. So if it comes down to a game where penalty goals are only allowed NSW will win. But in all seriousness the Dragons are handy so their combinations can’t be a bad thing. 
  • Picking the right props helps. Snowden is a monster and King is a fantastic player and has been for some time. Can’t see why coming off the bench for most of the year makes Trent Merrin a better selection than fantasy monster Aidan Tolman, but hey baby steps right?
However after all this the point is QLD has much more talent at fullback, five-eighth, halfback and hooker.  So while my jersey and heart say Blues, that pesky brain of mine is unfortunately saying QLD.

And remember Blues fans, we only need to win one game to make Coach Stuart happy (I mean c’mon, really Ricky???)

AB's QLD Preview

While Chathu inadvertently chose an epitaph from an episode where a popular recurring character was brutally executed for hanging around the game a little too long, based on the past five years a more appropriate quote from The Wire would be:

"You come at the king, you best not miss"
          - Omar Little

It is fitting that this famous quote from one of the greatest television characters of all time perfectly captures the career of one of rugby league's greats, Darren Lockyer. In the past 20 years there has not been a greater crunch time performer than the retiring skipper, having scored or set-up match-winning tries an absurd amount of times. Whether it be a last minute try against the Poms to clinch game 1 of the absorbing 2003 Test Series, or snatching loose passes from Brett Hodgson and Jarryd Hayne to steal Origin games during this five-peat, there is no more bankable winner winner in rugby league today. For the past 15 years, NSW have been coming at the King 2.0 and have missed more often than Shaq at the free throw line.

On paper it is true that Queensland have the more impressive side, with 10 Australian representatives from this months Test match taking the field on Wednesday. So much has already been said about this current team, so instead I will try and quell some of these myths Chathu has been reporting:

NSW ''Continuity''
While NSW have persisted with 10 players who were trounced by QLD last year, they have failed to include Jarryd Hayne, by far and away their best player in the past two series. While he may be my least favourite sporting athlete of all time (and this is definitely not an understatement), as a QLD fan I would much rather see him drifting around looking disinterested at Parramatta Stadium than Suncorp Stadium.

Mitchell Pearce's form brings me to my second theory following last week's popular Tony Soprano Paradox: The Jeremy Piven Effect. While Entourage is awesome because of the mateship, sledging, celebrity cameos and copious amounts of female nudity, the show is essentially carried by Piven's brilliant performance as neurotic agent Ari Gold, so much so that the other actors look good and are even given the odd Emmy or Golden Globe nomination. However, when you go and see a movie starring only Adrien Grenier or Kevin Connolly (think Harvard Man or Rocky V), you realise ''wow, that guy really sucks''. That is the Jeremy Piven Effect - his great performance made everyone believe the other guys were good. Famous sporting examples of the Jeremy Piven Effect in action:
  • Pearce, who in 2010 was billed as one of the premier halfbacks in the NRL during Todd Carney's stellar Dally M season. However in 2011, with Carney on the sidelines, Pearce led his team to 5 straight losses.
  • Daniel Mortimer, who earned a $350,000+ contract following his breakout year in 2009 alongside the freakish late-season performance of Hayne. Fast forward two years, Hayne is about as consistent as the Kurinji flower blossoms, and Mortimer was dropped after being revealed as one of the most uncreative pivots in the NRL.
  • Ricky Ponting, whose legacy as the most successful captain ever has been tarnished in the dark days since Warne and McGrath retired.
  • Fernando Torres, who left Steven Gerrard at Liverpool for a record £50m fee and couldn't score for Chelsea.
Anyway, back to Origin...

NSW Back Row is "Better"
Here is a fairly interesting stat:
  • Combined Origin series wins for Myles, Harrison & Thaiday = 15
  • Combined Origin series wins for Gallen, Bird & Scott = 0
While I agree NSW have selected a very strong back row, the QLD boys know how to get it done at this level.

QLD Centres
Are people forgetting that Willie Tonga has played 5 of the last 6 Origin games? He is hardly a ''second string'' centre as some members of the press are billing him. He destroyed Matt Cooper last year - the same Matt Cooper the NSW media is begging to return to rep footy.
The Verdict
Despite the above factors, I expect the Blues to be much more competitive than the past few years, particularly given Sticky isn't restricted by club coaching duties. I expect Queensland to win by 1-12 ($3.05), but the match will be close enough that NSW will likely cover the +5.5 start.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Chathu's Classroom - Buffalo Bills and the Dark Arts

Recently I've been watching America's Game, a fantastic series by NFL Films that looks at every Superbowl winning team. If you happen to watch the episodes 1990 through 1993 you'll notice the same team is at the big dance every year, and loses. Every year. This team is the Buffalo Bills.

On each occasion the Bills were stronger than their opponents and got so very close but never far enough.
Of course this article will not qualify as drivel without a trashy pop culture metaphor - so in this case the Bills struggles for world domination echo those of the dark wizard Lord Voldemort.

In Superbowl XXV the all powerful Bills led by Jim Kelly got within 1 point of Bill Parcells' Giants, only for their fate to be put in the hands of kicker Scott Norwood who promptly missed. Voldemort's attempts at leaving his plans in the feeble Professor Quirell's hands were not particularly successful either.

In Superbowl XXVII the Bills couldn't stop turning the ball over to the Cowboys, getting Troy Aikman far too involved and in the end they never stood a chance. And lets be honest, once Fawkes got involved in the Chamber of Secrets, there was no way Tom Riddle was ever knocking off Harry.

Finally in Superbowl XXVIII,  it looked like the Bills agony would end as they led by seven at halftime.
But a crucial Thurman Thomas fumble for a touchdown return turned the game and Dallas went home with the bacon once again. Everyone remembers that moment in the Goblet of Fire; with Cedric dead, Harry mano e mano with the resurrected Voldemort surrounded by Death Eaters, where you thought 'well I won't have to save up for a fifth book'.

You thought after all that effort, Lord V is finally gonna get his man. But a crunching tackle from the twin wand cores caused a Voldemort fumble and a Harry Potter recovery and return to Hogwarts for a TD. From all these comparisons it is fairly certain that The Dark Lord is a season ticket holder at the Rogers centre.

So just a warning for Bills fans out there: You should probably steer clear of the the last Harry Potter movie (regardless of Emma
Watson), because the way it ends for Voldemort doesn't exactly bode well for his favourite NFL team. 


Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Tony Soprano Paradox

Five years after he left our screens, Tony's presence is still being felt in the world of sports.
Forget salary caps, concussion rules, lockouts, PEDs and heavy workloads during rep footy season - the single greatest factor influencing your team's results every weekend is the Tony Soprano Paradox. 
Doesn't it seem astonishing that after countless acts of murder, assault, extortion, torture, illegal gambling, drug trafficking and money laundering, the only thing the feds ever arrested Tony for was giving his ailing mother a stolen airline ticket? For whatever reason, the authorities just couldn't punish him for anything. Well, the same applies to sports; some teams can proverbially 'get away with murder'.

For a team or individual to benefit from the Tony Soprano Paradox, they must exhibit the following characteristics:
  1. They must be unanimously loathed by everyone other than their own fans. Was there a single Sopranos character who at one point during the seven years didn't hate Tony's guts? Even his own mother and uncle conspired to have him clipped!
  2. They must possess a great amount of money and power, obtained through slightly shady means. While sports team officials may not carry money-filled duffel bags and collect payments like this, whether we like it or not the mere thought of a powerful and cashed-up team is intimidating.
  3. They must be inexplicably popular with attractive women. There is no way the balding, 300lb, two-chinned Tony is landing Irina, Gloria, Valentina and Christopher's stunning Vegas mistress without some supernatural forces at play.
With these elements in mind, let's look at a detailed case study of the Tony Soprano Paradox influencing one of the most popular sporting leagues in the world:

Case Study - Chelsea F.C
If we examine Chelsea's last two English Premier League games, it appears Carlo Ancelotti's men have been even luckier than a peyote-fueled Tony at the roulette table. At White Hart Lane three weeks ago, both goals Chelsea "scored" were riddled with controversy; the first is likely to challenge Frank Lampard's disallowed goal against Germany at the 2010 World Cup as Exhibit A in the argument for goal line technology reviews. Forty four minutes later, Salomon Kalou kicked the winner from a position so offside that it could have been flagged by Stevey Wonder. Wearing a blindfold. In a blizzard. At Old Trafford a week later, referee Howard Webb refused to send-off an already warned Branislav Ivanovic after at least two clear-cut professional fouls, and must have been preening in his Escalade with a cuban cigar while Lampard handled Antonio Valencia's cross in the penalty box. Are these examples just innocent evidence of Chelsea experiencing a very, very fortunate run at the roulette table, or is the spirit of Tony Soprano living on in West London? Let's look at the criteria:

Criteria #1: Stamford Bridge is a fortress for away teams thanks to Chelsea's passionate fans, but to others there is arguably no sports team in the world with more philanderers, divers and generally unlikeable characters. Think John Terry, Ashley Cole, Lampard, Didier Drogba, John Obi Mikel, Nicolas Anelka, Fernando Torres and Ivanovic; in other words, Russell Hantz is more popular with a Survivor jury than this lot is with the general public.

(We're one from one, let's move on to Criteria 2)

Criteria #2: Owned by the entertaining Russian oil tycoon Roman Abramovich, who has been allegedly involved in various wrongdoings such as blackmail and loan-fraud.

(I'd rather throw a drink at Ron Artest than get on Abramovich's bad side. Two from two.)

Criteria #3: Some examples of female Chelsea fans include Sienna Miller, Tara Reid, Danni Minogue, Geri Halliwell and, once-upon-a-time the lovely Cheryl Cole.

As long as we're talking Tara Reid circa 1999, thats a perfect three from three! So rest easy, EPL fans - once the Tony Soprano Paradox takes effect, you are essentially like one of the women the big guy sets his eye on... powerless.

Other Examples of the Tony Soprano Paradox
Here are a few more cases of the Tony Soprano Paradox around the world:
  • The 2010-11 Miami Heat: Hated after The Decision (in which Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh may have illegally conspired to play on the same team way back in 2008) and Welcome Party, yet somehow were awarded 38 free throws to Boston's 20 in Game 5. In fact, Wade and Bosh alone shot more free throws than Boston's entire team!
  • The Sydney Roosters: Silver-tails of the NRL, and never get punished for their numerous off-field indiscretions in recent times like other clubs are. Why was Todd Carney de-registered by the NRL when he was playing for Canberra, yet on his fourth 'last warning' at the Roosters, the NRL did nothing?
  • The Indian Cricket Team: Have all the power and influence in world cricket, and as the farcical 2008 tour of Australia showed, rival cricket boards will weaken at the knees like a Rolling Stones groupie to comply with their every demand.
  • The St George Illawarra Dragons: Is there a more powerful figure in rugby league at the moment than Wayne Bennett?
  • FC Barcelona: Jose Mourinho even perfectly described the Tony Soprano Paradox in his now infamous post Champions League press-conference.
So next time you want to bag the referees/umpires over a poor performance against your team, check to see if the opposition display the three characteristics of the Tony Soprano Paradox. Then all you can do is just sit back like Bobby Bacala and think 'Quasimodo predicted all of this'.


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Chathu's Classroom - Darren Sammy Syndrome

Has your team contracted it?
Darren Sammy Syndrome (DSS) is a relatively new condition where an international one day cricket team’s captain is inexplicably a very very average all rounder.

It is associated with teams that are just rubbish at one day cricket. A dysfunctional cricket board can be present but not essential.

The aforementioned captain can do little-to-nothing with the ball other than bowl straight regardless of the fact he is tall. His batting consists of a quickfire 20 or 30 odd every 20 games. Tactically he is as unimaginative as his bowling.

Treatment is simple surgical removal of the offending player. Prognosis is good if treatment is early. Failure to identify the disease early may lead deterioration of the team’s results and, in the worst case scenario, consistently being beaten by Pakistan.

On the 5th of May 2011, the English one day cricket team was diagnosed with Darren Sammy Syndrome. 


Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Top 10 Most Frustrating Facebook Friends

Facebook is like professional wrestling - everyone seems to construct an overly dramatized and theatrical persona to try and make things more entertaining, impress the opposite sex and create a spectacle. My sister, for example, will very rarely utter swear words in everyday life, but get her in the Facebook ring and she becomes a brash, trash-talking John Cena type. While some Facebook characters are awesome like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, most of them are like this new breed of douchey white guys, who offer little entertainment and instead just infuriate every member of the audience.

With that in mind, here's one man's list of the "Most Frustrating Facebook Friends":

10. The person who feels it necessary to ‘like’ every new page created
While some mildly entertaining pages are created during a significant world event (Exhibit A: the Royal Wedding), few things are more annoying than finding out that John Smith likes “that one person that you can talk to for hours without getting bored”. I am not making this stuff up.

9. The customized check-in
Being a proud 6610i user, I don’t really understand the concept of ‘checking in’, but I’m guessing it is used to:
a) Make people jealous that you are at an awesome location (e.g. Overseas, Casino, Sports, Concerts etc)
b) Notify stalkers and axe murders of your exact position
c) Annoy everyone by clogging their news feed with garbage like “M2 traffic jam”,
“most boring lecture ever” or “Johns living room”

8. The person who provides constant word count updates on the essay they are working on
Do they want help? Encouragement? A warm beverage? I’ll never know…

7. The girls who post photos of themselves in front of the mirror with the camera visible
You know the photos; two or three girls often in a hotel or nightclub bathroom somewhere, performing a series of pouts, Blue Steels, tongue-pokes and borderline lesbian activities – all somehow choreographed while holding the camera. This despite the fact you can see that the camera is technologically advanced enough to have a self-timer.

(Note: Absolutely inexcusable for a guy to do this – but we will get to that)

6. The seedy guy who tries to flirt by commenting on girls’ photos
Often the creepy admirer of #7, this guy has the remarkable ability to make everyone else feel like they have just got off a Gravitron after three Pluto Pups and six flat beers fresh in their guts. Generally looks like a cross between Michael Cera and The Situation, this guy’s modus operandi involves initiating some excruciating dialogue with some smooth compliments like ‘stunning photo babe’ or ‘dammn girl!’.

5. The person who, after casual conversation at a bar or club will ask for your full name so they can add you as a friend immediately on their iPhone
More popular with females, but bonus points here if a guy commits this felony (it is actually one of Karl’s signature moves – a little like Benji’s goose step or Edge’s spear).
There is a tinge of jealousy about this selection for a couple of reasons:
  • I am neither handsome nor charismatic enough to have women begging for my surname on a regular basis, and
  • My Nokia 6610i can’t pick up Internet, let alone perform complex social networking functions.

4. The guy who delivers the same birthday message to everyone
“Happy Birthday! Have a good one!”

If anyone tries to tell me they have never received these sincere, heartfelt wishes I will personally enforce the Dolores Umbridge ‘I must not tell lies’ detention treatment. Getting this birthday message is like getting a compliment from a stripper – you feel special for a very brief instant then realize she says the same thing to every other bloke in the club, and instead you just feel a deep sense of shame.

3. The well-built guy who posts a series of shirtless photos of himself flexing
OK, so the guy has worked hard to develop his 24 inch pythons, but there is no need to turn everybody’s newsfeed into an online Tower 200 advertisement – it makes most guys uncomfortable, and it’s very unlikely that girls are throwing their cyber panties at him.

If there is anyone worse than the Shirtless Flexing Guy, it’s his complimentary buddy who posts comments like "looking huge bro" or any overused Anchorman reference to "the gun show".

2. The Humblebragger
Harris Wittels describes a Humblebrag as "a specific type of bragging which masks the brag in a faux-humble guise. The false humility allows the offender to boast their 'achievements' without any sense of shame or guilt." Here are some common examples:
  • "Well, looks as though my body can't handle yesterday's 120kg bench press sesh #sniff #sosore"
  • "Some guy just asked for my number and I was like 'dude, I haven't even got makeup on today'. Awkward."
  • "It just doesn't seem fair to run up a $4000 bar tab at Ivy when there are so many starving and dehydrated people in the world."   

1. The guy who uses Facebook as an outlet to update the world on every single aspect and nuance in his life
Usually a very close relative of the Check-In Guy and the Essay Update Guy, Mark Zuckerberg should just use his slick programming skills to publicly humiliate these guys like he did to Rooney Mara at the start of The Social Network. Popular posts include:
  • Letting others know his whereabouts, e.g. “is back in Sydney! WOOO!”
  • Keeping people posted on his stage of intoxication, e.g. “6 jager bombs down and its not 10pm yet!!”
  • Informing everyone about his dietary/sleep habits, e.g. “late night snack with coffee…YUM” and “argh can’t sleep”
  • Fishing for concerned comments after posting deep, emotional feelings, such as “wish for once I could find the right girl…sigh”
  • Performing the local weatherman duties, e.g. “so cold outside!”
  • Updating everyone with their state of health, e.g. “just had an epic gym sesh…so tired!”
I could go on and on, but I worry I might turn into this guy soon, so I think it’s time to call it a day.


Monday, 2 May 2011

Chathu's Classroom - The Gold Coast Suns

Chathu has been manning the phones all week trying to get some expert opinion on the Gold Coast Suns, and his hours of hard-nosed investigative journalism has yielded:

The Gold Coast Suns Aren’t Very Good

In an exclusive interview with former Green Machine supremo (and one of the only blokes who can light a cigarette in the rain without an umbrella) Laurie Daley, SneakySportsDrivel can reveal that Daley believes the newest addition to the AFL - the Gold Coast Suns - are not very good. 

Known for his insightful commentary and rare ability to never saying anything bleedingly obvious, Daley was quoted as saying “Look, they may only 2 points behind 8th placed Melbourne, but the truth is their results probably indicate they aren’t a great team”.

Ranjit Fernando, famous Sri Lankan cricket commentator also well known for his capacity to provide insightful statements agrees: “While the Gold Coast may have won had they kicked more goals than Essendon, their ability to score less points than their opposition is costing them games and I think this is why they aren't considered good”. 

And when your first quarter score looks more like the state-of-play at lunch on Day 1 at the SCG, you’d probably have to agree they're just not very good.