Category Archives: Guest Post

Guest Post: Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

After a week in which a massive earthquake slammed the Canterbury region, causing massive damage to Christchurch’s brick and stone buildings (including the home of All Blacks’ assistant coach Steve Hansen), and aftershocks continued to jangle the nerves, nobody will be thanking the AB’s for leaving their winning run quite so late, even if the victory itself will be some sort of salve.

With Daniel Carter undergoing surgery on his troublesome right ankle (which may, in part, explain his poor 2010 goalkicking form), coach Graham Henry took the chance to blood Carter’s understudy, 21 year old Aaron Cruden at five-eighth, together with run on starts for blindside Victor Vito and wing/ fullback (they’re all doing it these days) Israel Dagg. They encountered a Wallabies outfit returning from the Republic who could have reasonably been expected to be weary, but still fired up from their win in Bloemfontein, their first on the high veldt in 46 years. Despite the fact that the match was a dead rubber where the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe were concerned, this was still a game that both teams very much wanted to win – the Wallabies to carry on from last week’s victory, and to gain some momentum leading into next year’s World Cup, the All Blacks seeking to hammer home their dominance over the Wallabies (ten in a row), and to continue a fifteen test match winning streak. Continue reading

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Guest Post: Previously on the NFL

Thank Christ himself: the NFL is back. No more feigning interest in Super-whatever-it-is-these-days, knockout-bound (however valiant) national teams, and local teams that continually break my heart: the real egos of the sporting world are back in town. It’s time for some emotionally investment-free big-budget television, folks.

So what’s changed? Well, a few things – but first, let the tired saying be rung true: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Which is, of course, to begin by saying that grizzled future Hall-of-Famer Quarterback Brent Favre is back from his third “um-and-ahh” faux retirement in as many years for his 19th season.

My gut says that Favre – who turns 41 next month and is fresh off an ankle surgery to boot – will be resuming the position on Thursday night (Friday daytime for us) and will probably be killed at some point this season by an overzealous blitz package. It’s worth noting that the old gunslinger did have his best statistical season under centre last year for the Minnesota Vikings (no mean feat, given his storied career) – but! He’s a year older, a year-and-gummy-ankle slower, and will be sorely missing his two top receivers for the first half of the 2010 season. The Vikings square off in the season opener for a rematch of the 2009 NFC title championship game against the incumbent NFL champions, the New Orleans Saints. This game will certainly not be short on beef after the beating the New Orleans D-line delivered to the old man last time, and is a definite must watch as the Vikings have sworn to “return the favor” this time around. Expect some spectacular hits on both sides of the football. Continue reading

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Tri Nations Guest Post: I Don't Want to Spoil The Party…

Poor old John Smit. After 77 minutes of brutal, bludgeoning Tri-Nations rugby, in his hundredth test match, his under-the-cosh side were sitting five points clear of their 2010 tormentors, the All Blacks, with the score at 22-17. Finally something was going to go right for him; his loose forwards had performed like recently-deployed exocet missiles, Morne Steyn was a dead-eye Dick with his goalkicking, and new halfback Francois Hougaard had kicked intelligently and made lots of darting runs up round the fringes, a la Fourie du Preez. They had driven the AB’s back in the tackle more often than not, their scrum and line-out had stood up, and it looked for all the world like he was going to receive the ultimate party gift in front of a massive Soweto crowd of 90-odd thousand. His 2010 hoodoo was about to be broken.

And then, after 81 minutes, he was kneeling, his face in his hands, with his team on the wrong side of a 29-22 scoreline. He had the same hollow, dead eyed look that Dan Carter and Anton Oliver sported from the stands in ‘that’ 2007 RWC quarter-final. Good God fearing man that he is, he really must have wondered what the hell happened. Continue reading

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Guest Post: Chasing Contador Through the Alps

My uncle is currently living what could be either a dream or a nightmare depending on your perspective. He’s riding the Tour de France – not as a combatant, obviously, but riding many of the stages a day ahead of the Tour itself. Last year I had my own up-close-and-personal encounter with the Maillot Jaune, and can testify to thrill of following these guys around the high mountains (though the idea of riding up them makes me feel faintly nauseous). Howard will correspond from France when he’s not too exhausted to type (IE this has a very good chance of being all we hear from him).

Had one of those days yesterday. Everything just got better. After having the 10k Col du Telegraphie for starters we main coursed on the brutal Col du Galibier 17km’s at an average of 7.5%. The brutality made as much by the short distance between them. 5 kms from summit of one to the climb of the next. In essence you are are never out of climbing mode.

We finished by riding to Saint Jean-de-Maurienne to watch the finish of the Tour de France stage. It was said that this stage was going to be important and so it proved. On the Col du Madelienne Cadel Evans was to get smashed by Schleck and Contador. He eventually finished 8 minutes down and handed the yellow jersey to Andy Schleck. The battle between Schleck and Contador was amazing. Completely inseparable, they finished together. At the time however I didn’t know this. Wondering around the finishing shute I saw an interesting roundabout that lead the riders around and down to their team buses.

It was surrounded by police and officials but I could see that from a certain point none of them could see me if I jumped the barriers and got onto the grassy centre piece. So I did. I just lay down and tried to look like an official photographer with my point-and-shoot camera. After half an hour the activity around me starting getting serious and the close overhead helicopters signalled the climax of the stage. [Photos are after the jump] Continue reading

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Invictus: Hollywood Movie or Sinister Revisionist Propaganda?

A reader recently wrote to DeadBall’s more-or-less unused email address deadballnz@gmail.com demanding answers.  And as we appear to have ground to a halt, and as we have never, to my knowledge, received inquiries from any other readers, I thought it pertinent to respond to these questions. I should also state from the outset that responding to the questions didn’t involve actually watching the film in question, which looked extremely worthy and tedious, even by sport movie standards.

Anyway, here’s the email, with our responses interspersed in italics:

Hey guys,

any chance you could do a piece on Invictus? I saw it for the first time recently, and am pretty curious / troubled by it.

Yes, there is a chance that we could do a piece on Invictus. This is it.

How true is the story actually? Did Nelson Mandela really get that involved in the rugby? Does this mean he arranged the poisoning of the All Blacks 48 hours before the final? What are the chances of Nelson Mandela pulling similar sh*t during the soccer world cup?

This is the portion of the response which is hardest to get into without having seen the film (readers who have indeed seen it should feel free to chip in with comments). As I understand it, the story is about as true as, say The Hurricane, which is to say largely true, but when the truth was inconvenient it was abandoned. I think Nelson was pretty into the rugby, seeing in it a chance to unify a riven nation, and not as a sport representing the kind of joyous funtime activity the whitefolk who imprisoned him for all those years used to wind down when they weren’t oppressing him and all other black people in South Africa. Most people would have banned rugby upon seizing power, just to spite the former oppressor, which would have been good for New Zealand rugby, in that we’d have won at least one more World Cup (possibly). But I suppose that’s why he’s Nelson Mandela and we’re just oiks on the internet.

Which I suppose suggests he didn’t arrange the All Blacks’ poisoning, being a legendarily nice man. I think the poisoning has always seemed like some kind of Boer plot, hatched by Pieter Van Zyl types. And in terms of the football World Cup, two things suggest the poisoning is unlikely to be repeated: firstly, South Africa are already watching from the sidelines/shanty towns so there’s little to be gained from going a-poisonin’; and secondly FIFA seem to control all controversial incidents very tightly, and would furious if any other organisation attempted to ambush the tight scripting of their event by getting amongst the conspiracy founding business. Continue reading

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Guest Post: Worth a Crack, Nigel

Springbok Champions

Worth a crack, Nigel…

For a town as infamously dull as Hamiltron, this was a thrilling game of football.

Needing to win and prevent the Boks from scoring a bonus point to keep the Tri Nations alive, and preferably gain a four try bonus point, the All Blacks threw everything at this one in the last 15 minutes and came up just a flattering three points short of stopping the Boks gaining a clean sweep over the AB’s to claim the title in 2009.

The line out was, once again, atrocious. After 30 minutes we had lost five of our own throws, with Victor Matfield using his glowering presence and masterful reading of play to turn Andrew Hore and his jumpers into gibbering wrecks. There was a distinct lack of urgency in this phase of the All Black game – we still take far too long to get into position and get the ball back into play, giving Big Vic ample opportunity to exert his influence. As the missus’ ‘colourful’ Uncle Pete summed it up – “I’d rather chew dogshit than watch this…”.

Breakdown penalties conceded in the first half were punished three times in a row from within the Boks own half by the monster boot of Francois Steyn, again confirming that possession is not necessarily of paramount importance in the game’s current incarnation. The Boks much touted scrum weakness was not in evidence, with under-fire skipper and makeshift tighthead prop John Smit more than holding his own against a decidedly weary looking Tony Woodcock.

Brad Thorn, too, looked a shadow of his former swashbuckling self, having shouldered a huge workload this year, and must now be deemed unlikely to still be around in 2011, at the ripe old age of 36. Fortunately, the investment made in youngsters like the impressive Isaac Ross, and the returning-from-injury Anthony Boric should reap rewards come World Cup year. Ditto young front rower Owen Franks, who still has a way to go, but should provide solid cover for Carl Hayman upon his (much needed) return from the UK.

The fact that Stephen Donald was yanked around the 50 minute mark suggested that the double pivot experiment had not been a success (with Henry admitting as much at the aftermatch press conference), Carter looking much more assured running the show on his own, with the more conventional line up of Nonu and Isaia Toeava outside him. And while the erratic Toeava was electric after coming on, making the decisive line break that set up Sitiveni’s try, Nonu had a terrible case of the dropsies – ball retention in contact is still a significant problem in his game (Uncle Pete: “He must have a photo of Henry f***ing a pig to still be in this side”). Carter’s restart kicking was perhaps a little patchy, but his tactical and defensive kicks were top notch, as was his goalkicking – in fact, none of the goalkickers (Carter, and those pesky Steyns) missed a shot all night.

A soft intercept try to Jean De Villiers (Carter, alas) gave the Boks a comfortable lead, before a baffling All Black decision not to take a gift three points when the Boks infringed in front of their posts; then an equally baffling one to goal the next penalty from a similar position – had the hope for that magical bonus point try win (presumably why they took the scrum on the first) evaporated in a couple of minutes?

Adam Thomson and Cory Jane’s (not before time) arrival off the bench seemed to really pick up the tempo against a Bok side visibly wilting in their third game in as many weeks, and when Carter picked out Richie McCaw with a pinpoint crossfield kick, there was a faint glimmer of hope that the AB’s might be able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat – suddenly they looked more alive, electric and dangerous than they have all season. Carter nailed the conversion in seconds flat, and the All Blacks regathered from the kickoff and continued the assault on the Springbok line, and with time up on the clock Carter attempted another audacious cross field kick to the left hand flank – this time nudging it too far and sending the ball into touch, probably a fitting and symbolic end to a frustrating season.

All is not lost, however (although it sort of will be if we can’t beat the Wallabies in Wellington next week, and end up finishing last…) As we surmised at the start of the Tri-Nations, this was always going to be the Boks year, and man for man they are currently, on the whole, stronger than the AB’s. It’s not even entirely fair to claim our tactics have been inept – mostly it has been a case of poor execution of often basic skills (catch, kick, pass, tackle) that have let us down, and while these things may be easy to do on the training field, they are a damn sight more difficult with (Justice For) Bakkies and the boys bearing down on you.

You could argue that flawed selections have played their role in the ’09 AB’s demise, and certainly the retention of the woefully out of form Joe Rokocoko is frankly baffling. But then the same could be said for so many of our players that if you were to start culling, you could end up with me and Uncle Pete on the field. The lineout is still an A-grade cock up, and forwards coach Steve Hansen must shoulder much of the blame here, given that Mike Cron takes care of the scrum – fortunately, the return of Ali Williams should shore this up. Fading old warriors who have served us well cannot be retained simply out of loyalty, although neither should their experience be cut adrift too hastily. Kieran Read has come on in leaps and bounds, but retaining Rodney So’oialo on the bench is like having some insurance, and also gives Rodders the chance to press his claims for a return to the starting line up.

Luke McAlister’s much touted return to the international arena has been disastrously managed – there are perfectly valid reasons why players have previously been required to play in either the Super 14 or Air New Zealand Cup to gain selection, and McAlister (clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer) has looked woefully out of his depth in a selection that reeked of desperation, and a desire to recoup on what has obviously been a costly investment.

Unfortunately, we have to concede a horrible, horrible thing – that the Springboks of 2009 are a better side than this year’s All Blacks line up, and that three defeats this year at their hands and two consecutive home losses present a pretty compelling argument for their credentials. Congratulations to the Springboks – worthy champions indeed.

– Jeremy Taylor

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The Skinny Post – Fat Tits & Fatsis: Hey, the NFL is back!

lucy-pinder-white-bikini-wet-in-pool

The low sun in the sky had turned the surface of the pool a gorgeous orange colour that matched my skin. I’d been in there just long enough for my extremities to wrinkle nicely. Nadia, back from a shoot for yet another global underwear brand handed me a watermelon margarita, her dramatic frame bronzed and pert. Sipping the cool drink while floating out to the middle of the pool I made my toes splash in the water, the droplets backlit by the sun. In the distance a faint buzzing of commentary could just be heard over the low narcotic thump of the mixtape DJ AM had dropped off a few days before his demise.

“What’s that?” I asked Nadia as she slid naked into the pool. “That buzzing sound?”

“I don’t know,” she said, her hands drifting over my now submerged lower half. “Perhaps it is, you know, the footsball. The kind they make with my friend Giselle’s husband.”

“Ah, Tom,” I said distractedly. “Good old Tom.” Her hands were definitely having an effect now, and I turned towards her in the water and….

“HOLY SHIT!!”

I’m standing dripping wet, wrapped in a Ralph Lauren beach towel staring at my 100″ LCD. I look down at the $50,000 Omega Seamaster I won in a ‘who’s got the better abs’ bet with Daniel Craig: holy crap it really is September. There is football on. Tom Brady is already hurt. Can this be happening?

“Don’t worry,” says Nadia, unwrapping the towel as she sinks slowly onto her knees on the Indonesian hardwood floors “it is only what you call the preseason…”

Whew. That was close. What a nightmare. I almost missed it. The start of the freaking NFL season. How did this happen?

I blame an exiting offseason. From Living Coaching God Mike Shanahan out in Denver (more on this later), QBs Cutler and Orton trading condos and O Lines like two kids switching bikes,  Favre finally coming back (after retiring in tears TWICE in 4 months) to join a team his old fans regard as their arch enemy, Vick strolling back into the game with the Eagles, Terrell Owens choosing to drive to work through 10 feet of snow, Plaxico out for a LONG time thanks to not having a holster in his Hanes, Helmet Catch hero David Tyree released by the Giants (’yeah, you won us a Super Bowl, but what have you done for us lately?’) Tom Brady’s knee/shoulder/wife and a laundry list of shootings/assaults/wife beatings/dope arrests that could keep all the Law & Orders in business for four full seasons… who needs the actual games for entertainment?

C’mon: Three days before the season one of the game’s stars is arrested for choking his drunk girlfriend who is mostly famous for her flagrant bisexuality.

Ms Tila Tequila alone
Ms Tila Tequila alone
...and with friend.
…and with friend.

This isn’t a sport. This is a big budget VH1 show.

But play the games they must. Back in the real world Pittsburgh & Tennessee have just played 3 hours of some of the most average football I’ve seen in a long time (about 6 months actually) and GIDDY UP, the ‘09 NFL season has begun. If the on-field play is half as shocking/surprising/bizarre as the last 6 months of non-stop action, its going to be a doozy of a season.

This week’s key games:

ON SKY 2 (Delayed) 4.30pm Monday

Philadelphia Eagles v Carolina Panthers

Whoever writes the capsules for SKY thinks this will be a high-scoring game. Um, no it won’t. We are still 3 weeks away from the Dog Killer taking the field, Jake Delhomme is now very rich but still flat out ordinary, so its run run run all the way. Philly takes it, but not by much.

Miami Dolphins v Atlanta Falcons

THIS will be a high scoring game and a huge indicator for both teams. They are both ready to break out and be this year’s Arizona Cardinals and go the distance. I love both teams, but I’ll give it to Atlanta by a nose. We’ll see a lot more of these two squads later in the year.

Detroit Lions v New Orleans Saints

Listened to a long, well thought out argument on 710 ESPN the other day suggesting that it was possible for the Lions to repeat as a winless team. I couldn’t fault the reasoning, but there’s no way. Detroit WILL win at least 3-4 games this year. This will not be one of them. New Orleans will beat their brains in. If I were a Sportcenter anchor I’d already be starting on my Lions beat down insults. It pays to prepare.

Buffalo Bills v  Tom Brady’s shoulder

Still coming to grips with the Terrell Owens move to upstate NY. Makes no sense whatsoever, as it has almost no immediate impact on what is a running, short throwing team. It’s like getting Usain Bolt as your tennis doubles partner. Nice, but perhaps not the best fit for him. The Patriots meanwhile continue to be the Yankees of the NFL. If they don’t win a Super Bowl its a down year. Patriots run riot here.

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers

The Packer bandwagon is loaded already, and you couldn’t get a bigger ‘fuck you’ to the Favre, so that’s a terrific reason to support them winning the Super Bowl. However, Chicago now has complete dickhead Jay Cutler at QB, which instantly transformed them into a less likeable but much more dangerous team. This will be a great game to watch as both offenses are exceptional, and their defenses aren’t bad either. Pushed to choose I’m going with the Pack but I think it’ll be closer than most think it will be. Them Bears will score.

And now for a short book report:

030209

Stefan Fatsis is a Wall St Journal reporter who managed to convince the Denver Broncos to let him join the squad for training camp and pre-season as a kicker. He was 43 at the time, an age some of us have come to love. Because we have no choice. Anyway, its a great Plimpton-esque look into the business and complexity of the NFL written by a Scrabble playing nerd.

There are a few too many huntin’ shootin’ born-again Christians going on in that locker room for my taste, but Fatsis absolutely nails details like the level of intellect it takes to play the offensive line, the emotionally rough life of NFL journeymen bouncing from team to team, and the level of micro-management the coaches and trainers put the players through. He even makes then Coach For Life Mike Shanahan seem human, which is no small trick. And its a good read even if you know very little about the NFL, just for its exploration of the last gasp of an athletic dream before the lights finally go out. It’s not laugh out loud funny, and it won’t make you cry. But if you want to understand the game of the NFL and the game in the NFL its a terrific read.

– Mark Tierney

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