Category Archives: Reminiscing

DeadCast: NZNTM Finale Review

Duncan from DeadBall and Aaron Hawkins from Dunedin’s Radio 1 take to the airwaves to discuss the triumph of Danielle Hayes in the second cycle of New Zealand’s Next Top Model. Think of this as a prelude to the final NZNTM recap coming in the next couple of days.

http://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F6586063&secret_url=falseDeadCast: NZNTM Finale Review by Deadball

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DeadCast: BALLS! 029 feat The Warriors, The Tri-Nations & NZ Sportsmen in Advertising

Duncan and Aaron discuss the inglorious end to the Warriors season (detouring through the way Mt Smart’s running track deflates the home side), the ABs new personality and an extended discussion about New Zealand sportsmen’s acting abilities – with particular reference to the on-screen career of Stephen Fleming.

http://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F5364489%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-3XlG8&secret_url=false DeadCast: BALLS! 029 feat The Warriors, The Tri-Nations & NZ Sportsmen in Advertising by Deadball

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Filed under DeadCast, NRL, Reminiscing, Rugby, Rugby league, Tri-Nations

Shut Up And Jam!

Heading into last weekend, it seemed the NBA Playoff Marathon was lurching toward the tedium of two chest-thumping juggernauts slugging it out for more prized jewellery; the competitions most decorated club pitted against their most decorated coach. Paul Pierce didn’t even other watching the end of Game Three against Orlando. The lopsided run of the Conference Semi-Finals had proven contagious. Then, A’mare Stoudemire (42 Pts / 11 Rbds) and his be-mulleted Canadian companion – with 17 points and 15 assists – may have gone and made it interesting again. Stoudemire & Nash make a great pair. Mild-mannered, understandably politicised, community minded, fine ball players, and at their best they come close to that other reliable old no-frills pairing of Stockton & Malone (athletically and aesthetically). But as much as my heart is in Phoenix right now, and as much as I love watching Stoudemire stomping on the Lakers, the irresistable lure of nostalgia makes me pine for Arizona’s finest ever power forward personality The Round Mound Of Rebound.

Barkley Shut Up & Jam is often overlooked in the pantheon of great basketball video games. Perhaps rightly so. But what cannot go unnoticed is that, legitimacy aside, it has spawned easily the finest sports game sequel ever produced. Towering over its progenitor, it is the exception that proves the rule. Ladies and gentlemen, familiarise yourself with Tales of Games Presents Barkley Shut Up & Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Barkley Hoopz Saga. Check out the majesty of the trailor here.

In short: Sir Charles brings the apocalypse in the form of a Chaos Dunk. Carnage reigns, and basketball is outlawed in the Great Basketball Purge of 2041 – or B-Ballnacht. Flash forward to 2053, another Chaos Dunk goes down, and Barkley – as the obvious culprit – is on the run. Larry Bird is a priest. Vince Carter is a cyborg. Given the ratio of the avatars involved, Mugsy Bogues is conspicuous by his absence. And Air Jordan is the establishment’s enforcer.

As the storm clouds gather around the country, there is narry an excuse to be found for not living out your Neo New York fantasies right now. For more reverent Barkley revelry, check out the review by my good friend Mr David Large, as part of the ongoing 20 Cent Old School Game Review series, originally broadcast on Radio One 91FM in Dunedin, and this one in particular stored half way down this post on Professional Aesthete.

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Whatever Happened to Our All-Star Game?

The past month has seen one frankly incredible All-Star game (The NBA’s, of which more shortly) and one which, again frankly, I didn’t actually see (the NRL’s). Apparently, according to my source, the Indigenous All Stars vs The NRL All Stars was a thing of true beauty, and as a way to kick off the season it seems like a fine idea. Maybe the promotion was a bit lacking, but baby steps, right? At least it got off the ground.

The NBA’s All-Star game is an established institution, over a half-century old, and appearances in it go a long way toward gauging the relative worth of talents from era to era. The game we saw last weekend was jaw-dropping, groin-tingling sports, with talents allowed to roam free and points piled on from all angles. They played defence and made it a game in the final quarter, so it worked as game too. It was a festival, a celebration of the sport at its most liberated. Then everyone gets back down to business and starts to run at the playoffs (even the Wizards! Three out of four since they gutted their team!).

Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking about our own venerable answer to the All-Star game, the North vs South match. Continue reading

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The DeadBall Interview: John Dower, director of Thrilla in Manila

thrillermanila1

Thrilla in Manila is a new documentary covering the legendary 1975 bout between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. John Dower has directed documentaries on everything from Britpop and Kurt Cobain to NYC soccer team the Cosmos, who signed Pelé late in his career. He explored the fight, cited as one of the greatest and most brutal of the 20th century, from Frazier’s perspective, and thus breathed new life into a subject which can feel a little shopworn due to the pervasiveness of the Ali myth.

The talking heads are of an exceptional standard: Imelda Marcos, Ali’s doctor Ferdie Pacheco, and Joe Frazier, who looms as noble and tragic figure throughout. Dower was a fine, eloquent speaker, and is clearly exactly the kind of man you want helming a documentary of this nature. He does a great job of placing the fight in its historical context, at the centre of a battle for the soul of black America, and the political and social ferment which fed into it. All this made the Thrilla seem like so much more than just a boxing match.

D: I wanted to start by asking you what compelled you to become a documentary maker?
J: I guess I kind of like real stories. It’s as simple as that. I think documentaries, factual stories can give you an element of story telling and drama that you don’t really find in actual movies these days. It’s just largely special effects driven and contrived… not all of them but I think when a documentary clicks, you can’t beat real life.
D: The film I’m wanting to talk about is Thrilla in Manila. What attracted you to that as a subject?
J: I was quite fortunate with that film. I had made some other feature documentaries, I’d made another sports feature documentary about a football team in America in the ’70s called The New York Cosmos and normally what happens is when you have ideas, you kind of tout them around the British broadcasters and drop down on your knees and beg to be let into the channel and if you’re let into the channel, you might get a hearing on your idea, but with this film, I was actually approached by a Commissioning Editor at a British channel, who I’d made some other films for, who had always wanted to make this film, and he knew that I was a big sports nut and fortunately he asked me to make it. So it was a bit of a rarity, it kind of dropped on my lap, which doesn’t happen often.
D: As an aside, if you’re a sports nut, there have been some fantastic sports documentaries over the years. What are some of your favorites?

J: I still think the best sports documentary is When We Were Kings, ironically. The film about Muhammad Ali. There aren’t that many of them to be honest because sports documentaries I think are very difficult to make because firstly, you can’t beat the drama of the actual sporting event and also sportsmen are quite dull, really. They’re trained not to have another life, especially these days, they’re marketed certainly not to have an interesting life. So it’s unusual to come across very good sports characters but When We Were Kings and Hoop Dreams, I guess. There aren’t many. It’s difficult to pull off.
D: One thing I really admired about Thrilla was the ability of it to give a dissenting voice to the whole Ali mythos, to present him and Frazier as equals rather than Frazier as almost a bit player in the whole Ali drama. Was that something you intended to do from the start or was it something which welled up in the story?

J: No, it was always deliberate from the beginning. We deliberately said it unashamedly. There’s this idea that documentary makers are somehow purveyors of objective truth, which in my mind is absolute bullshit. Every filmmaker has a point of view and an agenda in some way. It’s unavoidable as soon as you put the camera on someone, something changes, so let’s not pretend that you’re capturing their life exactly as it happens. We set out to make a film from Joe’s point of view unashamedly. We didn’t set out to trash Muhammad Ali. As I’ve said to you, one of my favourite ever films was When We Were Kings, but there was a side to Ali I think that didn’t quite fit the myth that’s in that film and gets kind of brushed under the carpet and we were very keen to re-address that.
D: Did you read Norman Mailer’s The Fight in your prep to the film?
J: Well I’d read it years ago. We had this dilemma about whether to have Mailer in the film or not. We approached him, he agreed to an interview. We were always slightly concerned about the associations it would have with When We Were Kings, which features him prominently. At the same time, he was an extraordinary character and I wanted to know what his take on the Manila fight was. But sadly, our schedule moved, mainly because of Imelda Marcos actually, who pushed us by a couple of months. By the time I came back to do Norman Mailer, he was very, very ill and shortly afterwards died. That decision was made for us.
D: It must have been incredible to film Imelda Marcos, she’s got to be right up there as a ‘get’?
J: She’s pretty out there, I have to say. She’s as mad as a bag of frogs. There’s no two ways about that. She’s one of those rough old characters, but it was good to get her. Again, that’s part of the thrill for me for making docs, trying to find everyone, to track down all the characters that were there. It’s the thrill of the chase.
D: When you’re trying to get someone like Imelda Marcos, how do you even go about making an approach? There would be so many layers to peel away that it would be very difficult to get there.
J: I think I was quite lucky in that respect. I knew somebody that had made a film in the Philippines and had a fixer that I think had known Marcos and it just kind of works like that, you just keep going until you get the definitive no and then you really get a kind of ‘Fuck off’ no or you get them. Imelda was relatively easy to get.
D: One thing which I found completely shocking was to see where Frazier lived. Such an iconic sporting figure to live, not in squalor, but it’s very modest circumstances.
J: Yep, well it may surprise you, but there are some rather unscrupulous people involved in boxing and I think they sadly took advantage of Joe. It happens in boxing. It’s the cliché that’s in Million Dollar Baby, the guy living out in the back room. It was the case with Joe and, having said that, Joe is very happy where he is. I can’t help thinking that even if he had all the money in  the world, he might still live in that room.
D: Well you do get that impression. He’s not a guy who wants for much, he just wants to be around fighters. So what is that area of Philly like? Obviously there are some scenes there but you don’t really get a sense of an area without actually being there. Is it as run down and dangerous as it looks?
J: I have to say I was shocked. I’ve done a lot of filming in America, but to go to an area like that, it’s like ‘Fuck me, this is America?’. I guess it was sort of unfettered capitalism in all it’s glory. That’s what happens with the bottom. It’s just a destroyed place. It was not a good place.
D: You said you’re a big admirer of When We Were Kings. The other big Muhammad Ali movie of the last little while was obviously Michael Mann’s Ali. What were your impressions of that?
J: They’re very difficult to pull off, those biographies, I think. I actually think Will Smith did a great job of playing Ali, I thought he was the best thing in it. Like any other Michael Mann movie, it was beautifully and stylishly made. The problem was, and I think this was it’s mistake, was it tried to cover everything and as a result it kind of didn’t say much. It was quite boring, which is always the worst crime of a film, and rather tellingly, like all the other Ali films, it ended at the Rumble in the Jungle. It didn’t go near the Thrilla in Manila. I think they are difficult to pull off, those real life biographies. I think the Johnny Cash film did it well, but then they didn’t try and include absolutely everything in the story, which I always think is a mistake. Just to throw in the kitchen sink.
D: I read that it was quite hard for you to get Joe Frazier to watch footage of the fight. Was that the case?
J: Yeah, it took me months. To watch the Thrilla, it took me absolutely months to get him to see it. I don’t know why. Apparently Ali’s never watched that fight again and a writer once tried to get him to watch it and he said ‘Why would I want to look at hell again?’. I also think Joe’s an incredibly proud guy and he’s certainly watched the first fight a few times.
D: In the process of making the film, you said it was unashamedly a partisan effort in some respect. Did it change the way that you felt about Muhammad Ali?
J: Not really, no. I still think he is and always will be the greatest sportsman ever. We do suggest in the film that his reasons for going to Vietnam were not quite as straightforward as they’re always portrayed, but yet he still didn’t go and it was an immense, terrible sacrifice. You can’t imagine someone like David Beckham saying ‘I’m going to forego three years of my salary because I don’t agree with the war in Iraq’. But I always felt, coming into this film, that Muhammad Ali had been turned into a kind of woolly saint and all the interesting, dark edges had been taken off him. So we’re kind of doing him a service in some way to restore that more complicated picture.
D: You say that David Beckham wouldn’t trade three years of his salary, and I totally agree, but why is it that sportsmen nowadays, with a few obvious exceptions, lack for the passions and the character that you seemed to get in sportsmen of years gone by?
J: I think it comes down to money and marketing. I just think you can’t say anything controversial because you’re so heavily managed, which is what’s interesting about Joe because Joe genuinely doesn’t care. I can’t imagine anyone being able to control him, if Nike or Adidas were in charge of him. Can you imagine the marketing team that would descend on him after he made that comment about pushing Ali in the Olympic flame? They’d be like ‘You can’t say this kind of stuff!’ But I think Joe’s a real human being in that respect, he’s still upset by it. In some respects, why shouldn’t he be?
D: What was it about the fight which aroused such monumental passions you see played out in the film and you see still echoing now, over 30 years after the fact?
J: I just think sporting contests of that magnitude are rare. It takes a lot of factors. Like the Ashes in 2005, it was a combination of two quite closely matched teams, some great bowling, which was lacking in the most recent Ashes, and they just clicked at the right time and it produced the most extraordinary cricket series, for instance. I think it was the same with Ali and Frazier. They were two very different boxers of two very different styles and they brought out the best in each other. I think, as I say in the film, Frazier was the one fighter that Ali truly feared, especially as he was the first fighter to ever beat him and knock him down. I think that’s why those fights had so much riding on them and it was all to play for in the final one.
D: Just on that subject, the 2005 Ashes kind of cries out to be documented. Is that a project which might interest you?
J: No, really, because I just don’t think there’s enough to hang on it. I do believe that any good film, whether it’s a sports film or not, without sounding like too much of a wanker, needs to be layered. It needs to have these other elements that make it more intriguing. With this, you had the backdrop of ’70s racial politics. You had a blood feud between two characters. You could forget the boxing and say this is a story about betrayal. It has those other elements, and while the Ashes was an incredible sporting event, there’s not really much else there for a film. I’d quite happily watch the box set of the actual matches again, but there’s not enough, I think, around it to make it a bigger film. I don’t think there’s much more than the actual action.
D: Returning to Thrilla in Manila. You got a really good array of people who were close to it, from a small level, up to Marcos and Frazier. Was it tough to track them down and were any reticent about participating?
J: This is one of those great films in which people were very forthcoming. Once you found them, for instance, the corner man, who’s the last surviving corner man in Joe’s corner, everyone said ‘Don’t bother with him. He’s shot, his mind’s gone’. Which only made me even keener to find him, and we found him and he was a bit confused and he was mixing up fights and jumbling them up, and we thought we’d give it a go and we went along and I took my computer and I had a copy of the fight on it and started showing it to him and the light bulb went off in his head and it was like he was transported back there, which was, again it’s what makes doing these films so great.
D: Was there a moment when you were filming it when you realised this was all going to work out pretty well for you?
J: Yeah… It’s unusual to have, there were a lot of interviews, Joe took a lot of time to warm up in some respects. He was very wary of us. There were a few interviews in the beginning that didn’t really yield very much. But I think it’s the test of a good documentary maker or a good film is just the patience. If you think the story’s there, you wait on it. I always thought Joe was a great character and I thought it was a great story.
D: Ali’s doctor  Ferdie Pacheco, to me, comes off as the least sympathetic guy in the film. There’s almost a cruelty about him towards Frazier, which is kind of distasteful at this distance.
J: Yeah, but he’s a great character, you kind of need those people to make these films. We’d have one person in the film that would take Ali’s view and he was a great one because he was not beholden to Muhammad Ali anymore and yet he’s just a great character. When you walk into a room and you’re going to do a series of interviews with someone like him, you rub your hands with glee.
D: Boxing in general seems to be the sport which has translated best to filming and has an inordinate amount of celluloid devoted to it. Why do you think that is?
J: It goes beyond sport. It’s like the purest contest of will. It’s man against man and nothing else and we’re intrigued by what it requires to do that. It’s got this kind of violence to it and films like violence. But there’s also this strange beauty to it and you’ve also got to be some kind of character to do that, which lends itself to good fictional characters.
D: Before you go, I was just wondering what projects you’re working on now?
J: I’ve literally just finished a drama documentary about two politicians in our country, so a very, very different film. It’s more comedy than anything else.
D: Which politicians?
J: David Cameron and Boris Johnson.
D: Boris Johnson’s a hell of a character.
J: Yes, he certainly is

Here’s the trailer. Thrilla in Manila is available now on DVD through Shock. I highly recommend it.


– Duncan

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Filed under Boxing, Reminiscing

Giving Doug Golightly the Red Card

Doug Golightly

Doug Golightly, long the best excuse for sleeping til the afternoon on a Saturday morning, has now extended his monumental dull-wittedness into some new media, being appointed editor of Sky Sport: The Magazine. Full disclosure: Until very recently I was a contributor to the publication, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. And just so people know it’s not sour grapes, I’ve had no communication with the new team, I just wouldn’t want my name anywhere near Golightly’s.

Sky Sport: The Magazine was created by Eric Young in 2007, it functioned as something like an Antipodean Sports Illustrated, running pieces at far greater length and depth than you’d see anywhere else in New Zealand sports journalism, and generally providng a counterpoint to the cloying, inarticulate blokeishness which permeates almost all coverage of sports in this country.

Features ran at anywhere up to 5,000 words or 14 pages, unheard of in New Zealand sports journalism, which tends to view any attempt to decode the romance or futility of sports as somehow antithetical. Young published Gary Smith’s incredible SI piece on Andre Agassi, following his retirement, which was written entirely in the second person. Writers like noted NZ playwright Greg McGee found a home in its pages, and Young was unafraid to seek out the best available voice on a topic – my first contributor credit came between following the name Steffi Graf.

There was amoment when I realised this magazine would be different. I remember asking Young after receiving my first assignment whether he wanted me to look for a sidebar, a piece of the story which could be broken off into a more easily digestible form. He dismissed the idea out of hand, even made me fel a little ridiculous for asking. At journalism school I was taught two things regarding sidebars. Firstly that they were a cheap, lazy way of hooking readers into a story when the writing didn’t measure up, and secondly that every editor I encountered would demand them. Not this one.

The strange thing was that this austere, old-fashioned approach bore spectacular fruit. Young recieved every award he was up for at Terry Maclean Sports Journalism awards, including Sports Journalist of the Year. The magazine was an instant, raging success. The most recently published Nielsen survey gave it 243,000 readers (to give you an idea of how large that figure is, it’s five times that of Real Groove, the publication I edit, double what celeb gossip mag NW and Auckland icon Metro can claim, and only 40,000 behind the grand old lady of New Zealand publishing, The Listener), and it was experiencing strong growth even as Young was being forced out of the publication which was his brainchild.

In his place comes Golightly, and on his first cover? Who else, but the injured, non-playing All Black captain Richie McCaw. The headline? Into Battle! Where exactly he’ll be battling isn’t specified. Just put the most famous guy on the cover, who cares whether he’s going to be involved in any sport this month. I wouldn’t mind betting that the days of seeing cyclists, triathletes, netballers and surfers on the cover are over.

Judging by the first issue, the magazine has already become indistinguishable from all the other areas Golightly holds sway. Prosaic, processional examinations of the game as it transpired, nothing more. His Radio Sport show is characterised by interminable interviews, with him stumbling around, barely asking a question, with all the charisma and intellect of that half-cut guy down the pub whose gaze you try and avoid.

Periodically he’ll bring up one of his tired old stand-bys, the ‘red card’, or ridicule anyone who opposes his perspective as a ‘lesbian tree-hugger’. He’s already set about politicising his sports magazine with an interview with John Key (extremely tedious too – I feel like he’s doing a reasonable job, but he’s clearly not a sports fan of any description) and, most mystifyingly of all, replacing Jeremy Coney’s column with one from WINSTON PETERS.

Am I dreaming? Jeremy Coney’s columns were a perpetual highlight of the magazine, erudite, compelling pieces of writing which talked of Harold Pinter’s love for cricket or drew lines between Snow White, Odysseus and the All Blacks. They were characterised by surreal anecdotes, dazzling leaps and the same kind of sparkling intellect which has long made his entry to the commentary booth such a delight.

And in his place we get Winston Peters, that most self-serving, career-before-country abomination of a politician, less than a year distant from his eviction fom parliament by the electorate after a series of  serious scandals, which tainted his very fibre and obliterated any shred of credibility. Golightly’s Muldoonist tendencies and rank cronyism bring him back in front of us. The only saving grace of the whole fiasco is that Peters has chosen his first column to celebrate the history of Maori rugby, an institution which has always rankled Golightly, who so loathes ‘racially selected teams’. Middle class white men have always been the staunchest defenders of ethnic equality.

The rest of the magazine is little better. The longest feature runs to six pages, and the entire thing is a mess of sidebars, TV listings and wacky facts, with none of the passion or vibrancy which characterised it under Young’s stewardship. Within one issue Golightly has drained the life from Sky Sport: The Magazine and suffused its spirit, turning it into an extended version of his Sunday News sports section, plodding, empty and riven with clichés. And New Zealand sport is much the poorer as a result.

– Duncan

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Filed under Announcements, Dick-List, Reminiscing, Rugby

New Zealand's Next Top Model Power Rankings 6

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj_Lh3T2UBQ%5D

If ever an episode cried out to be spread thickly over two nights, so we could luxuriate in its gratuitous modelity it was our ‘ relocation to America. Every single second was outrageously good, so you’ve got to think we missed some incredible stuff in editing. But full credit to the sublime judge’s table machinations that put mortal enemies Teryl-Leigh and Hosanna in the bottom two, then sent home Teryl-Leigh – this was an act of outrageous cruelty in the service of great TV, and one for which we should all be forever grateful.

The episode was also notable for the frankness of the guests. They didn’t muck around in delivering their verdicts, with Alexis Borges of Next LA popping Ruby’s balloon, and allowing TL to drop another of her classics on us: “I’m really pleased with that, because obviously I can lose a couple of inches of weight. I can’t grow a couple of inches.” And while Hosanna may’ve got the last laugh (literally, see the instant NZ TV classic moment above), Barker and Borges assessments of her had a necessary brutality which provided a true reality check for the Hose, one she’s needed for weeks and never quite received in our friendly isles.

1. (Last Week: 3) Christobelle

As predicted in last week’s rankings, she turned it on for the US big dogs, but no one could have foreseen the force with which she took back the lead. She won all three challenges, the variety of which (styling/ TV ad/couture) should have proved impossible for any one competitor to take. This served to show her breadth at a critical time, and send a message to model-come-latelies Laura and Ruby that when she puts her mind to it, she can do anything. After indifferent work on the C4 audition a couple of weeks back few would have predicted her sunny confidence in the Cover Girl shoot, and the way she transfixed Barker (who’s seen some wannabes in his time) speaks volumes. There’s daylight between her and second place again, and with a month to go she’s picked the perfect time to make her run. Continue reading

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