Who has got the cure for the sit-at-home blues? Ask Dr Grabthar. Now with bigger, easier to read font!

Friday, February 25, 2005


Sorry no blog today.
It's my last day at work for four months and I am rushed off my feet.
I am looking forward to a BBQ on the weekend and picking up some Auckland-made digs from the Cuba Carnival on Saturday.
See you on Monday (maybe).

Thursday, February 24, 2005

NFL Football: State of the (Rugby) Union Address

Before I start, if you are a New Zealander (with an interest in sport): how many times has Otago won the NPC? (Answer below).

The Super 12 (FYI, this is the crap “official” website) will be starting soon and every year when the “professional” rugby season starts I start thinking how amateur the organisation is. We should learn now the lesson of the National Hockey League in the US and Canada (Canada was hit the hardest because ice hockey is their national sport). The owners of the franchises had to shut down the league because they were haemorrhaging money, many through player salaries. NHL clubs claim to have lost $273 million in 2002-03 and $224 million last season. They are now discussing rule changes in order to get TV viewership back up.

And that’s the kicker. If say the Super 12 was a competition where the same one or two teams win every year then people are going to stop watching it. Why would you bother watching if you knew your team never had a chance of winning? The same goes for the NPC (FYI, this is the crap “official” website), outside the Super 12 cities (removing “Auckland” and “Canterbury” etc from the names doesn’t fool anyone) nobody has a real chance. It was only in last year’s NPC season did we get an exciting competition when all of the top players were removed with All Black duties, injuries or fatigue (Canterbury keeping their hand in through a dubious bonus points system).

It seems as though SANZAR’s idea is to head towards the English Premier League plan. This means, unless you are a Cantab or Aucklander give up all hopes of an NPC or Super 12 title. So what should they do? Follow the most successful sports league in America: the National Football League.

In England the main sport is soccer followed by cricket and rugby. In New Zealand it’s rugby followed distantly by cricket and netball. In the US you have baseball, basketball, football and hockey (there are also large market shares for women’s basketball, soccer, and arena (inside) football [note: arena football had higher TV ratings than hockey last year]). And yet with all of these sports, whose seasons often run simultaneously, the NFL comes out on top. Here’s why.

  • The NFL shares its revenue equally amongst all of its teams.
  • The NFL has a strict salary cap.
  • There is a minimum player salary.
  • The NFL releases all player information for complete transparency.
  • The contract rules are clear (i.e. no contract disputes: “I thought he was playing for us?”).
  • Despite there being 32 teams, the regular season is 17 weeks long and each team plays 16 games (if each team played each other just once they would have to play 496 games in a season).
  • The games are decided after the previous season and are determined by each teams division and ranking in the previous season (i.e. the team that came last should have an easier draw next year than the team that won the Superbowl, in theory).
  • Players are allowed to play for different teams (more on this later).
  • There are some benefits to coming last in the league.

Revenue sharing is a big one. All of the money made (with certain exceptions) is dumped into a big bag and doled out equally to all of the teams. Of course there are people who complain about these rules and regulations. Usually they are fans, or owners, of teams who are making heaps of money or win a lot. For example, when the cap was introduced into the NFL the biggest opponents were Dallas fans (surprise!) similarly when the idea was introduced for the NPC the biggest opponents were Canterbury (surprise!). In the NFL in the last ten seasons there have been 7 different Superbowl winners (this includes the Patriots three victories and Denver’s double), in the NPC’s last ten seasons there have been 4 different winners (this includes Auckland winning 5 times, and Canterbury 3 times, which means two teams can account for eight of the last ten years). In fact in the NPC the only non-Super 12 teams to have won are Bay of Plenty (1976), Counties (1979), and Manawatu (1980) [I added the dates to show you how long ago this was]. Waikato’s one and only victory was in 1992, Otago has only won twice (the last in 1998) and Wellington has won it four times but only once in the “professional” era (1978, 81, 86, and 2000).

A sharing of revenue and capping players’ salaries will not only even the playing field (so to speak) but also stop any financial collapse of the league later on. We do not have the billions of dollars that the Premier League does, and we never will.

In the NFL players move to different teams regularly. Each off-season sees a raft of players changing teams or being dropped and sitting in free agency limbo until they are picked up. This leads invariably to one of the large downsides to the NFL: player-centricity.

We Kiwis are a very regional people. Anyone who claims him or herself to be the greatest whatever, often gets a slap upside the head and told to “siddown”. The team is what is great not the players (greater then the sum of its parts, so to speak). The sight of a team slavering over a player they might be able to trade for will probably not go down too well with many rugby fans.

However, rugby is a “professional” game now. If George Gregan comes off contract with the Brumbies and the Bulls want him, why shouldn’t they offer him a contract? Regional pride maybe? I think that went out the window (officially) when the regional names were dropped from the franchises. When Brian O’Driscoll of Ireland said “I would love to play Super 12 or NPC rugby”, where were the franchises with contracts in their hands? When Lomu moved to Wellington there were grumbles from some but most got over it. I think we could probably handle the change.

We either want a top-flight professional competition or a grass-roots level game where the players all still have day-jobs, we can’t have both.

Expect more ranting later in the season.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

NFL Football: Off-season lives up to it's name

Tennessee Titans have a fire sale.

Everything must go! Do you want one of the best cornerbacks in the league? He comes complete with a niggly injury and has only the one assault charge (this year). Perhaps the league’s leading wide receiver of the 2003-04 season? Or a veteran defensive lineman, we wanted to keep the pair but after we got rid of one last year this one doesn’t really fit. (note: at time of posting the Titans were signalling that they would re-sign Kevin Carter) We will do anything to stay under the salary cap…

…except release Steve McNair it seems. Fair enough, one season ago he was co-MVP. But why keep the good QB and release your last good WR?

Tag, you’re it!

What is more interesting than who is tagged, is who isn’t tagged. Here is an example.

Plaxico Burress (WR Pittsburgh Steelers): NFL rookie of the year Ben Roethlisberger wanted him to stay but the Steelers couldn’t match his price so Plax (6’5”) is going to Free Agency. The Pit is going into talks with the Bus however to retain the big RBs talents for next season. Apprently the Ravens want Plax or Randy Moss. Note to the Jets: let Randy Moss go and take Plax instead.


The following is the list of all the players designated as franchise players prior to Tuesday's deadline.

Franchise players must be offered the average of the top five salaries at their position or 20 percent over their 2004 salary. Franchise players (unless they are exclusive) can negotiate with other teams, but any team signing a franchise player would have to compensate the players' former team with a pair of first-round draft choices if the offer is not matched. If a player is named an "exclusive franchise" player, they can't talk to any other teams.

Transition players must be offered the average of the top 10 salaries at their position for the club to maintain rights of first refusal. There is no draft-pick compensation if a transition player ends up signing with another team.

Here are players that have been listed as franchise or transition players for 2005:






RB Rudi Johnson


$6.323 million


RB Edgerrin James


$8.08 million


CB Charles Woodson


$10.529 million


S Donovin Darius


$4.968 million

New England

K Adam Vinatieri


$1.787 million

New Orleans

DE Darren Howard


$6.666 million

N.Y. Jets

DE John Abraham


$6.666 million


DT Corey Simon


$5.134 million

San Diego

QB Drew Brees


$8.078 million

San Francisco

LB Julian Peterson


$5.95 million

St. Louis

OT Orlando Pace


$8.4 million


RB Shaun Alexander


$6.323 million

Green Bay

TE Bubba Franks


$2.095 million

Drew Bledsoe Update

Seems that Drew will play for the Cowboys next season. (see previous blog and note the correction at the bottom).

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Fear and Loathing (and unoriginality)

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (67) committed suicide last night. He was discovered in his Woody Creek Colorado home by his son Juan. There are articles on him here and here.

I am a fan of his work (although I admit I haven’t read much of it). His book on the Hell’s Angels was the first I read (thanks for the loan Jim) and I own his collected letters and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail (both of which I have yet to finish).

He began and ended his career as a sports journalist, most recently for ESPN. He loved football and was a big Raiders fan, but also enjoyed shooting and golf. Lovingly he added these to pastimes together in a late night phone call to Bill Murray as part of his last column.

As for the suicide, I like to think, although I never knew the Doc, that he would have been happy that person who finally shot him was him.

So long and Mahalo

PS. the ‘S’ stands for Stockton.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Half Life 2 Masterpiece Theatre

Welcome to a new feature here at Grabthar's Hammer. Our inaugral skit is called "The Long Winter."

Thursday, February 17, 2005

NFL Football: Begin the "Cull"

The alternate title for this post had to do with sci-fi movie Logan's Run, but I thought that night be too obscure.

With nearly 40,000 career passing yards, Drew Bledsoe is looking for a new team.Drew Bledsoe (at left)has been dropped by the Buffalo Bills. Bledsoe headed for the Bills after being dumped by the Patriots for Tom Brady. When he got to the Bills in his first season he broke 10 franchise records. Bledsoe ranks 10th overall in career-yards-passing with 39,808yds. He is seventh with 3,449 completions and 18th with 221 touchdowns. By releasing him the Bills will save $2.2 million on their salary cap. They will also lose a big bunch of knowledge. He is replaced at starter by JP Losman.

Losman was the second of Buffalo's first-round picks last year, 22nd overall. He made four mop-up appearances after missing the first half of last season with a broken left leg completing 3-of-5 passes for 32 yards with one interception.

Are the Bills insane? Bledsoe described the situation like this:

"Do I think this is fair? No, I don't think it's fair," he said. "But I'm also aware that that's how it works, and I understand that. When I had the conversation with [Buffalo Coach] Mike [Mularkey] and first found out the direction they were going to go with J.P., I was beside myself. I completely disagree and can't understand their point of view."

Neither can I Drew. Maybe they hope to gain Kurt Warner or Jeff Garcia who are also on the free agent table from the NY Giants and the Cleveland Browns respectively. Surely the Bills could’ve talked Bledsoe into a one year deal that would’ve kept the salary cap down and kept all that knowledge in the team. Losman didn’t look that impressive in the games he did play; he will need an old head on the sideline helping him out. By the way Losman broke his leg when an offensive-line man stood on him during practice; that is some good pocket presence.

I am not a Drew Bledsoe fan. Nor am I a Bills fan, in fact as a NY Jets fan I am obliged to hate the Bills. But this is crazy talk. I just hope for the Bills sake that JP steps up and that they do something good with that $2.2 million. Bledsoe himself is saying that there may be home for him in Dallas, the Old Quarterbacks Home, because Dallas coach Bill Parcells drafted him into the Patriots in 1993. If Bledsoe (33) did join the Cowboys (and nobody else left), that would put the average age of the four QB’s in Dallas at 30. Would 41yr old Vinnie Testaverde, the oldest ever NFL QB, still be starting?

Garcia will officially be the first veteran to be dropped by his team this off-season followed by Bledsoe and Warner is going to void his own contract but they won’t be lonely in free agency for long (although rumour has it Garcia will be going straight to his old coach Steve Mariucci at the Lions). Other QBs expected to join the list include Brad Johnson, Rich Gannon (if he doesn’t retire), and Jay Fiedler.

The draft list can be found here. Notice that Buffalo does not have a first round pick.

In other free agent news the Vikings, who have a new owner in Arizona businessman Reggie Fowler, are looking at trading or releasing star Wide Receiver Randy Moss (top). If he does go it might be to the Jets who are showing a lot of interest. If they trade for him I hope it is for a draft pick. The Jets showed during the play-offs that they are quite strong on defence and not that bad on offence. It would also make for the only “All Moss” WR line-up as Randy would line opposite Santana Moss (below).

NFL.com notes:

It's difficult to say what a trade might bring to Minnesota. When the San Francisco 49ers traded Terrell Owens last winter, they got a second-round pick from Baltimore. But when that deal was invalidated by the league, they got only defensive lineman Brandon Whiting from Philadelphia.

But Owens was still under contract to San Francisco only because of a paperwork mistake that prevented him from becoming a free agent, while Moss is in the middle of a lucrative long-term contract. The Vikings almost certainly would need a solid veteran and a high draft-pick to be persuaded to give up one of the NFL's best playmakers.

Please, Jets, don’t give up any one you will regret. Maybe they will trade LaMont Jordan with a draft pick and try to get a good RB in the draft this year to back-up Curtis Martin.

I’ve been playing Madden too long. That’s all from me on this today, except to say try out NFL Street 2, it is excellent.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

26 ain't old!

I have been a little slack with the blog over the past couple of days. And today will be no exception. I will write tomorrow about football and maybe even NBA stuff.
But it's my birthday today so screw all that for the moment.
It's Dom's birthday too, he will soon be reporting on the world of Major League Baseball right here on this very blog.
I do feel quite old at 26. I don't understand the kids these days etc.
See you tomorrow when I will be older, and hence, wiser.

Monday, February 14, 2005

You, the people.

Call me Mister Hoi Polloi.
The following post is not snobbery, it is faux snobbery. Please take no offence. If you do get offended you probably deserve it.

Last week we travelled to Kilbirnie for dinner. As we were looking in the window of the Cambodian restaurant we noticed across the street a KFC. I am sad to say that we actually crossed the road and got KFCrap. Needless to say it was terrible. My girlfriend opted for the chicken salad which was full of brown limp lettuce and icky tomatoes. My burger was as to be expected and fries were ok (KFC used to have the best fries outside of a fish & chip shop). I shall not speak, however, of the Twista.

This is a yearly event for us. Once a year we say: “Hey, that KFC smells real good, maybe…yes let’s do it”. Then afterwards, every year, we say: “let’s never go to KFC again”.

Now don’t get angry and start calling me “PC-gone-mad”, I understand that junk-food (or fast-food, as the marketers would have us call it) is by definition: junk. I do not expect nutrition from KFC; I just want it to taste nice. Once-a-year is probably the recommended dietary intake for KFC anyway.

Adding to my inadvertent “bonding with the masses” down at the KFC, I also caught part of this year’s first episode of Sports Café. I belly-laughed during the much-hyped show as the microphones refused to work. When channel surfing brought me back to “the café” I again laughed to discover that the first show of the year had been replaced by highlights of last year. Let’s be frank, Mark Ellis is …hmmm, what word would be appropriate for a publicly accessible blog… a colostomy bag. According to Mark those opposed to the Auckland V8 race were “PC idiots”. Despite the best attempts by Lana Cockroft to explain that perhaps the residents wouldn’t like being put out for three days (and really more like a week); Ellis stuck to his anti-PC guns. Let us end this discussion of Colostomy Mark before it becomes a rant.

I also picked up the best-selling Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Read by roughly 6.5 billion people, this book firmly ties me to you, the people. Once finished, I hope to read one of the many “truth behind the Da Vinci Code” books. Many of these seem to include colons (the punctuation not the anatomy) in their titles. For example:

Da Vinci Code Decoded: The Truth Behind the New York Times #1 Bestseller


The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code: A Challenging Response to the Bestselling Novel.

I also hope to see the common man’s favourite actor Tom Hanks, in the title role of the movie version of The Da Vinci Code. Raise your hand if you saw the Nicholas Cage thrill ride National Treasure as a way of sating your thirst for a DVC movie. My hand is firmly down.

In a vain attempt to distance myself from the sweating, heaving throng that is the rest of “humanity” I watched (finally) Lost in La Mancha To be frank it was a little disappointing.

I also rented and watched the only nine episodes ever made of The Tick live-action TV series. My only real criticism was there was no “Spooooooon!” but there was:

(biting into a fortune cookie) “It's a secret message... from my teeth!”

And of course “spreading my buttery justice over the city”

Maybe if people were voted off it would’ve been more successful.

Still, my people, it was good, if only for a week, to walk amongst you Morlocks before returning to the Eloi.

Yes, I do see the irony of this metaphor.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Sleep and dinosaurs

I have jus finished January's National Geographic (yes even though I subscribe I am a month behind).
In it there is an excellent article about caffeine.
Some interesting points were the fact that most people don't get enough sleep, so we take stimulants like caffeine which then causes us to lose sleep. Brilliant!
I needed a coffe to finish the article because I have had a troubled week of sleep. Partly due to a new bus timetable that means we can no longer sleep-in to catch "the late bus" because there is no "late bus". And partly due to hyperactive nocturnal kittens.

I also just finished a book called The Dinosaur Hunters by Deborah Cadbury. It gives a great insight to the world of Victorian science and the epilogue details where you can see all of the pieces mentioned in the story.

One of the pieces is the tooth of an Iguanodon (pictures at the bottom) that was discovered by the books "hero" Gideon Mantell. It was the first piece to be indentified (by the French Baron Cuvier) as coming from an ancient reptilian species. And it resides in NZ's National Museum Te Papa. The catalogue number is MNZ GH 004839. Te Papa may have some more items as well and so may the Auckland Museum.

How cool. Um, ok maybe not cool. How interesting.

Superbowl Ads

Yeah I know the Superbowl was at beginning of the week but here is one of the best articles I have read about it. Thanks Onion

Also the real ads can be seen here. And a bunch of other places I'm sure.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Jim's Travels: part 4

This is a series of emails sent to me by my friend Jim Coe who left New Zealand to travel a bit and then maybe join the British army. I have editted them to be more story-like and less email-ish.

Jim's last exploits were his last in England before he headed to Morrocco. Lets see what he gets up to in North Africa.



Finally, what you've all been waiting for...


Sat, 06 Mar 2004 00:01:19 +1300


James Coe

Well, I know it has been a while since I last wrote, but I can explain. I am currently in El-Jadida, a coastal town about an hour and a half south of Casablanca.

I believe I last wrote to everyone in Cambridge, so I will quickly get up to speed. I headed back to London on Monday afternoon, after spending a couple of hours charity shopping with Jessie. Surprisingly, and in the last place we looked, I found this lovely Italian suit made pure wool, used of course, for only ten quid. I also got this brown velvet jacket that Jessie told me I had to buy.

For you see, I needed to be at the airport at 7am, and my travel agent, let's just call him Mr Coe, booked my flight from London City airport. This meant I got up at 4.15 in the morning so I could catch the 4.40 bus - the first of four I needed to catch to get there. It wasn't easy, let me tell you, and I even ran about 2km, pack on, along one of the routes when I missed the bus.

Anyway, got to the airport, got to Frankfurt. The weather was actually sunny there this time and it gave me a feel for the sheer size of the place. Not only is there a train around it, there are buses that take you out to your planes. Wow.

Lufthansa play music in the cabin when they land, and I have now heard 'It Must Have Been Love' by Roxette twice.

Anyway, yeah, Casablanca. Well, forget the movie; for one, it was entirely filmed in the US, and secondly the movie was based on Tangier, which just doesn't have the same ring to it. It is basically a larger, dirtier, noisier Auckland. There is not all that much to do here but yesterday I did the tourist thing. I went through the medina (the old, walled, pre-European part of the city). The streets wind all over the place and there are lots of cats. That about sums it up. On the other side fo the medina; built by the seashore is the enormous Hassan II mosque; apparently the third largest religious building in the world, the minaret is 210m high. It cost over 600,000,000 USD to build, which is an awful lot in Morocco where a lot of people earn less than 5 USD a day.

I also went to the markets and met this guy called Yousef, this oldish Berber guy. He started talking to me and seemed quite interested when I said I was a New Zealander. Anyway, he showed me around the markets, and the whole time I was wondering whether he was after my money (as I met a guy like that on Wednesday). But we sat down and had tea, and he told me where in the country I should go and what I should do. I paid for tea (two bucks) but he even gave me some Moroccan crepes. So that was nice.

In the afternoon I pottered around. I then decided to go see a movie at the local Western cinema. 'Le Dernier Samourai' avec TOM CRUISE sounded like a good one. Of course I could barely understand a word that was being said but I like to think that without the dialogue I gained a better understanding of this feature. Then I got some frites and went to bed.

I was up at 6am to get the coach to El-Jadida, a coastal town of about 150,000 an hour and a half south of Casa. The bus was really nice, nicer than the English ones. The funniest thing about the Moroccan countryside is how there are all these houses (what we in NZ would term 'shacks') but they all have satellite dishes on the roof. There will be a little hamlet, with all the places close together and the roofs bristling with dishes. Meanwhile the people will be out milking the goat or kicking the mule, or whatever. Interesting.

So now I am in El-Jadida. I checked into the beautiful Hotel Royal, at a hefty 10 NZD a night. My very next move was to find an internet cafe, as I know my anxious readers have been on the edge of their seats, postulating all kinds of wild situations to account for my seeming disappearance. Well, here I am. I plan to stay here for one or two nights, and then move down the coast to Essaouira.

But I will keep you informed. The internet cafes I have found are rather dodgy sometimes, with ancient computers that I swear are all hooked up to a single dial-up connection.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

We don't like Cricket, Oh no!

I had my first "angry" response to a blog. How controversial! Here is some of the text.

You've dissed our reputation as a sporting nation, our media, and cricket. Fair enough, media internationally suck.

But don't go dissing cricket.
Cricket is the only reason you have an ass to sit on. No cricket, and the worlds most agressive nuclear nations would already have started playing nuclear tiggy. Every time they play cricket, the heart rate of everyone should drop. Indian and Pakistan fans sit next to each other and wave their banners in happy harmony.

Not if the Indian bloke at work is anything to go by. Nor the scenes of various stuff burning in the stands at cricket matches…wait that might have been Christchurch.

Noone plays American football.

Actually there is an NFL Europe league that is kinda interesting and the genesis of many great players of the current era. NZ, as I have linked to before, has a American football league, and I understand that the sport has a HUGE following in South Auckland.

A lot of people play soccer, but notice how they are mostly Catholic. Rugby Union & League are for the rich and poor Anglicans respectively. Only Cricket is played by such a range of different religions, from the Muslims in Pakistan (and welcome to international cricket, the all conquering Bangladesh), to the range of religions in India, the pious poms, and the ex-fascist South Africa.

…If not for cricket, we wouldn't have feet to march with. Worship cricket. For it is a merciful and forgiving god.

This is a good point and I suppose I should point out that I have nothing against cricket. The idea of sitting with a picnic, a glass of wine or beer in your hand at some small venue (even the Basin Reserve), the sun on your back, listening to bees buzz and the clack of leather on willow sounds very nice. Similarly, getting plastered with your friends over the course of a day for some one run victory over the Aussies and then burning the couch you dragged in from your mate’s flat also has its appeal.

It’s just hard to imagine a game of cricket being thrilling, all the time. Most of the plays in cricket are dull. Block, block, single, block, single, block. Or worse, a maiden over with no wickets. They often bring in spinners to slow things down!

My friend (who just pointed out that a golf game was described by the Dom Post as “drama filled” and “intoxicating”) believes a sport is exciting if there is a chance you’ll miss something if you look away. But with cricket you know when not to look away, i.e. when the bowler bowls. With football, soccer and rugby et al. you never know when it will be safe to avert your gaze. Even in football where there are gaps between the plays, a quick offence can fool both the viewer and (on occasion) the broadcaster.

But hey you wanna watch cricket, that’s cool. I hold no grudge against you. As long as you don’t support the Aussies.

I would like to note that NO ONE came to the defence of poor Eric Young. Sorry Eric, seems you can rot in hell.

Gregg Easterbrook

My "hero" of sports columnists is Gregg Easterbrook. Read his weekly NFL column (Tuesday Morning Quarterback) here.
The following is an extract from this weeks post-superbowl column.

On media day before the Super Bowl, Terrell Owens declared, "I think God put me on this stage for a certain reason. ... I think God is using me [and] put me on a platform to really show the world how great he is. God has put me in the position, and I'm welcoming that challenge. Just by the timing of me getting hurt, he had to sit me down and put things into perspective for me. And that's what he's done. He put me on the biggest stage of my life to show people how great he is." Many commentators ridiculed the notion that God would allow 150,000 people to die in terror in the Indian Ocean tsunami, but intervene in Owens' football career in order to bring him more publicity. As a churchgoer, I add: If God cares who wins football games, we are all in worse trouble than we thought. Whether God intervenes in daily life is a complicated question in theology. But supposing there is divine influence in events, God help us, as it were, if it's used up on touchdown passes.

Owens may have summoned a higher power, but it didn't help the Eagles.
Owens may have summoned a higher power, but it didn't help the Eagles.
There's a second problem in what Owens said, and in similar, though less extreme, statements that athletes sometimes make -- that their victories are really victories for God, or that Allah or Jesus helped them prevail. Praising God for success in sports can be a form of self-flattery. When an athlete says God helped him win a game, he's saying that in a world of poverty, inequality and war, the Maker believes the athlete's touchdown or interception was more important, and thus worthy of divine intervention, than the active suffering or quiet unhappiness of billions of human beings. "God wanted me to win" is an awful lot like saying, "God cares more about my sports career than about the 20 million people who have died of AIDS in Africa."

Of course, many athletes who praise God after victory do so because what they want to express is humility. But it just doesn’t work. The way to express humility after a sports victory is to praise your teammates, because they actually had something to do with the victory. Don't praise God, because God had nothing to do with whether both your feet came down inbounds.

At this point, the athlete who is sincerely religious might respond, "What I mean is that if I live a moral life and then prevail at the Super Bowl, this gives glory to God, and shows people that if they live a moral life, they will be rewarded, too." That sentiment is admirable. But sometimes athletes who are completely contemptible human beings prevail at the Super Bowl, and then what is the message? Observing the world, we don't see much relationship between those whose for whom virtue comes first and those who get on magazine covers or receive megabucks bonuses. Living a moral life is a goal unto itself, and is its own reward: The reason to live morally, regardless of whether your inspiration is faith or secular philosophy, is that living morally is the right thing to do. As for giving glory to God -- when you help your fellow man or woman, this gives glory to God. Sports events are only games.

Gregg Easterbrook Gregg Easterbrook
Special to NFL.com
Gregg Easterbrook is a senior editor of The New Republic, a contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. His latest book, The Progress Paradox, was released in December, 2003 by Random House. He will contribute his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column to NFL.com readers each week during the NFL season. He will also appear on the NFL Network, providing weekly commentary on NFL Total Access.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

NFL Football: Eric Young you suck!

Across various media in New Zealand the reporting of sports, a nation that apparently loves sport, is atrocious. The facts are never quite correct. A report one day will say “Team A is going for their third title” the next day it will be “Team A is going for title number two” (this happened during the recent Wellington Sevens, no one could agree for days). And when it comes to sport outside of New Zealand, watch out.

Here is a recap of what some have said about yesterday’s Superbowl (about which I will report below).

Sky TV: “A win [for the Patriots] over the New York Jets this weekend would mean the Patriots were just one game away from another Superbowl. The Jets haven't been to "the show" since their win back in 1969 and it would be a surprise if Tony Dungy's outfit got there.

The Pats didn’t play the Jets in the play-offs. I can only assume that the reporter meant the Colts, who are coached by Tony Dungy (although Jets coach Herman Edwards was on Dungy’s staff at Tampa Bay). This reporter did half of their homework.

NZ Herald: The Pats won “cementing a place among the NRL's great teams.”

Um… no comment there, except that R is just above F on a keyboard.

Stuff.co.nz & TVNZ.com & NZ Herald (part two): All exactly the same.

The Sunday Star Times had an info-graphic from Reuters and a brilliant full page article sourced from someplace else about why the NFL is so successful (compared to other major sports leagues around the world). Obviously they couldn’t have anything on the game itself.

The Dom Post’s Friday sport section had an article on how Tom Brady is the most underrated player in the NFL. By who? Idiots, that’s who. He may not be a technically great QB, like Peyton Manning. But he handles stress better than anyone I’ve ever seen. He’s no Joe Cool, but we could call him Cucumber Tom.

And I am told by a colleague that talk radio this morning was full of people saying what a boring game it was!!! I imagine these same people could watch an entire day of cricket and call it “thrilling”.

TV3 ran their article at the end of their sports news and didn’t really give it much respect. Fair enough, it is only the second-largest single-day sports event in the world (behind the soccer world cup final). Most of the item was on Paul McCartney and the ads. And that’s cool, the ads et al are now part of what the Superbowl is about. However, I feel that the “off-field” entertainment should be in a separate article from the actual sport. It also feels slightly demeaning to the players when some smug b*strd (who isn’t much of a reporter at all) says “you probably don’t even remember who won last year”. I missed TV One’s coverage if you saw it please tell me.

I watched the game in a crowded Sports Café on Courtenay Place. The place was packed with about a 1:4 mix of Americans and Kiwis. Football jerseys and hats were everywhere, and not just Philly and Pats ones. I saw Seahawks, Browns, 49ers, NZ Ironblacks, Wellington Wolves and I was wearing my Jets jersey. It was as loud and raucous as any All Blacks match I have seen at a pub. Any camera crew that had come down just before half time would have had a real nice moneyshot for their broadcast (no, I didn’t take my camera so no photos for the blog).

Before getting into the game some Kiwi news. Minnesota Vikings Left Guard Dave Dixon (formerly of Pukekohe) will be a free agent at the end of this season. He (nor I) has any doubts that he will be picked up by a team and that his phone will be busy with offers at the end of the month. Dixon has the record for the most games started for the Vikings and played for the NZ All Black Colts. I think he would fit in nicely at the Bengals or any other blue-collar power-rushing team.

Now here is my take on the game (with the aid of NFL.com’s brilliant play-by-play and information depository to keep my facts correct).

Dallas won in 1993, 94 and 96 to become the first team to win three Superbowls in four years (they also won in 72 and 78). Pittsburgh won four in six years (1975, 76, 79, 80). San Francisco won five (1982, 85, 89, 90, 95). As Dallas were doing their thing the salary cap was brought in to make sure teams couldn’t just buy all the big players. It was supposed to be the “end of the football dynasties”. Well, New England is a new dynasty.

Pats Offensive Coordinator Charlie Weis said: "When you're in the middle of it, you're not thinking about what you're doing, dynasties are talked about 10 years later."

He’s right. But what I think everyone is excited about is the fact that this has happened under the looming salary cap. By taking no-names and off-cuts from other teams the Pats have created a force to be reckoned with. How much will they lose next year though? Is this the last year of the Pats run? I think so. Both Weis and Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel are off to head coaching positions, Weis at Notre Dame and Crennel at the Browns (Hadyn Tip: watch the Browns next year). Without Crennel and Weis to anchor the team can Coach Bill Belichick contain players like Ty Law, Troy Brown (who was reported unhappy with his contract at the start of the season) and Corey Dillon? And how long will Kevin Faulk want to stay the #2 running back? If the Pats make the play-offs next year they have a good chance of returning to the ‘Bowl with Belichick, that’s IF.

This year Cucumber Tom did his thing. He played cool and didn’t get flustered. Well just once. Brady, starting the play from almost on his own goal line and spooked by a good Philadelphia rush, skyed the ball in a slow arcing lob. Two (2) Eagles defensive players watched the ball come down and neither made any attempt to catch it. “What are you doing!?” I yelled (It wasn’t the first time I had yelled that during the game and it wouldn’t be the last). Apart from a fumble that was also more Brady’s fault than anyone else’s that was it for mistakes. Well, from the Pats.

Donovan McNabb was all over the place. The Pats had put the hoo-doo on him. His passes were wobbly, erratic and off-target. Me and the pub crowd were yelling at him to “just run it” on so many occasions. After his second interception McNabb dejectedly patted his chest and looked at his team-mates saying: “It’s my fault. That was me.

"We were too sloppy to win," Eagles receiver Terrell Owens said. "It was great to get back, but we made too many mistakes. We could have won, and that hurts." T.O. made good on his promise to return at the Superbowl getting nine catches for 122yds. His ankle looked pretty good but you got the feeling that he wasn’t at full stretch on a couple of those runs down the field.

But what about that Todd Pinkston? Played the game of his life and then got busted up. Stink.

And LJ Smith (the man has L and J tattooed on the backs of his arms) made some great plays and some very bad plays.

Deion Branch deserved MVP and I’m glad to say that I called it. He also equalled the Superbowl record for receptions (11).

The most decisive factor in the game seemed to be the ground. Players were slipping and sliding all over the place. (A quick check round the table revealed that none of us could remember a Superbowl played in the rain (or snow), again if you know of one please tell me). The play seemed to go to which ever team had the most players upright for the most time. If the Colts had made it they wouldn’t have won on that surface.

Well the season is over, except for the Pro-Bowl. Next year I predict that Superbowl XL will be between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers. You can hold me to that.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Superbowl enjoyed by all.

The Philadelphia Eagles have finally made it to the that upper echelon of of teams that have won a Superbowl. They beat the Patriots by 9 points, a David Akers field goal 1 minute before full time icing the game for the riegning champs.
Scenes of extreme delight exploded all over the field as Eagles players ran around with sunshine practically radiating form their faces. Coach Andy Reid, soaked to the skin in Gatorade(tm), thanked his opposing coach Bill Bellichick for a good game, wished departing Pats coordinator Romeo Cremmel all the best at Cleveland and then went to celebrate with his team.
Holding aloft the Vince Lombardi trophy (specially minted each year by Tiffany's of New York) QB Donovan McNabb gave all the credit to his team, thanking especially Freddie Mitchell for catching a 61yd pass on 3rd and 12 that set up the Eagles for their game winning FG.

This is all fiction. This is being written at 11.30 on the morning of the Big Game. If I have to be honest I would say it's gonna be a close game and the Pats will win by 1 or 2 points with a pissy little FG. If this is what happens the Patriots should officially change their name to the New England Vinitieris, in honour of the man, kicker Adam Viniteiri, who won them all of the Superbowls. The little face on the side of the helmets can be altered to look like him and when he retires he can become their offical mascot.

Well, lets see what really happens.
C U all at 12.30

Friday, February 04, 2005

Get your f*ckin' ACT together!

Well there was a humourous post here regarding John (Banksy) Banks' return to politics with the ACT party.


The ACT party's website crashed my browser (Mozilla Firefox) and I kissed my post goodbye.

Here's the gist: please don't vote for him.

Interestingly ACT would want to run as an electoral (not a list) M.P. This alters ACT's gameplan which was previously to simply pray for enough votes.

I have just realised that my post is getting close to "political correctness gone mad". So I had better stop. (Actually I need to get back to work)

Have a good weekend. Have you applied for leave yet to watch the Superbowl?
Better get onto that. We'll be at Sports Cafe' on Wellington's Courtenay Pl @ 12.00ish
come and join us if you support the Eagles. We'll be the loud ones at the table up the front.
Tah rah

Life inside the cubicle part 7

This is still old (circa July 2003) but is to be juxtaposed with the blog the follows it.

Shit. It’s been a while since one of these came out. How have you guys been? Good? So many things have been happening to talk about. Let’s start with the national “IQ” test.

I say “IQ” because really the only thing “IQ” tests measure is your ability to do “IQ” tests, (my girlfriend will be happy to know I used her joke). This is not sour grapes because I did badly (I am in fact Mensa level [upturn nose], however after having seen the Mensa people they had on TV I wish I wasn’t like them at all), but because the questions were stupid, the sample of “New Zealanders” was stupid and the whole thing took 3 stupid hours. Again, I’m not bitter. The only thing that it really showed was that I have great patience to sit watching a crap show for three hours and that Lana Cocroft is smarter the Simon Dallow. For example does Simon Dallow know that the Sleeper (or Greenland) Shark eats Caribou? No, I imagine he does not.

Did you notice (those who watched the thing), how smug the “psychologist” was when everyone complained about the use of BEDMAS (or BIDMAS) in the arithmetic section? Firstly, for those who are not maths savvy, BEDMAS stands for Brackets, Exponential (or Indices in BIDMAS), Division, Multiplication, Addition and Subtraction. This is the order that operations should be performed in an equation. In maths and science one takes this for granted and uses BEDMAS in the equation pretty much without thinking, in the real world however, most calculators do not even have BEDMAS and so BEDMAS should be specified before any equations are given to general old Joe Public. This smug bastard did not specify and should be hung up by his balls for the mistake. I have so much to vent about that test but for brevity I will just say this:

What comes next in this sequence? C U N _

Why is it so cold? I can handle a lot of things (those who really know me know this is a lie and that I complain all the time about everything), but cold and wind I cannot. The hills I can see from my cubicle are dusted with snow like the shoulders of a person with dandruff. That is to say I could see them because the insanely cold wind has covered the hills with thick (and most likely cold) clouds. Cold seems to be way of life for many New Zealanders south of Cook Strait. They live year to year with snow falls of 8 to 9 metres with usually no ill-effects. Northerners; however, seem to fall apart at the first snowflake, normally driving straight off the road.

I am from the north, specifically from the sunny Bay of Plenty, (motto: Old people gotta live somewhere). Snow does not exist in the BOP; even snow on television will start to melt if viewed in the BOP. This means when I moved to the harbour capital of Middle Earth (motto: What wind?), I had a hard time fitting in with what the locals would call “bracing” weather. I call it “bracing” because one must tie oneself to flagpoles and the like to stay in one place. This strange acceptance of harsh cold windy weather as the norm by Wellingtonians is a strange thing for me, especially when they try to explain why the weather is worse in other major centres. I have lived in Auckland for a longish time and I have never seen the type of weather that Wellingtonians believe is there, nor do I believe their stories of “fire storms” in Dunedin. The recent by-law to remove homeless people from Wellington’s streets was actually a plan to lower the numbers of polar bears attracted to the “easy prey”. This by-law had the full backing of John Banks by the way, and upon learning this Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast was heard to say: “Oh Giant Fuckballs [sic], that’s just great. Why don’t we just go and get an endorsement from Hitler!”

What else has been happening, oh that’s right, a runaway circus monkey trashed the women’s toilets in a German pizzeria. The world press’ well oiled journalism machine did not miss this news bonanza! Naturally the pizzeria did not want to be named and refused to answer any questions on how the (clearly) male monkey gained such easy access to the women’s toilets. It was mentioned later that John Banks had backed the monkey’s escapades; however he would still be forced to throw pensioners out of their homes.

Speaking of John Banks, Stonehenge is now believed by archaeologists to represent female genitalia. If so Stonehenge, the Stone Age cosmic calculator, may be the world’s first example of computer porn. But seriously, if you were creating a thing like Stonehenge would you really think of doing that.

Stonehenge contactor: “Hey Bill, the last stone is in almost in place, but the lads and I were just wondering what you based this on?”

Stonehenge designer (Bill): “Oh, um…nothing. Why?”

Stonehenge contractor: “Well we were going over the plans and it’s just that it looks kinda like a giant…”

Stonehenge designer: “Hahahaha (nervous), don’t be stupid”

Apparently the altar is the clitoris. If you were the priest (or even priestess), and you knew about the altar, you would be able to touch it without thinking: “Oh my god this is a giant clitoris!” I know I couldn’t.

Lastly the NZ American football team, the “Iron Blacks,” are playing the Australian “Outbacks” at Eden Park on July 19. Go along and support them. American stuff just doesn’t get promoted enough over here, poor devils.

PS. what kind of name is “Iron Blacks?” Why not the NZ “Toilet-Destroying Monkeys.”

Jim's Travels: part 3

This is a series of emails sent to me by my friend Jim Coe who left New Zealand to travel a bit and then maybe join the British army. I have editted them to be more story-like and less email-ish. Due to my slackness of the last couple of days the following is a large post comprising of Jim's last weeks in England before he headed to Morrocco. (And I promise I will write something freash today!)


There is a baby singing to me.


Wed, 25 Feb 2004 04:08:07 +1300

It's been a while since I sent a proper email to everyone so, so here goes.

I am now in Brighton, directly south of London on the coast, staying with my cousin Dan, his wife Andrea and their 2 year old daughter Yasmina.

I was just interrupted by the baby bringing me a 'cup of tea' from her tea set. We have discussed animals and what they say, and assembled a series of numbers from one to ten. I am, in fact, getting quite clucky. She is just talking, so it beats having no one to talk to.

Anyway, I came down here last night on the train and will be here until tomorrow when I go up to Cambridge. I spent the last couple of days in London just tripping around. Sunday I went over to the City of London, the area where the Tower and St Paul's are. A lot of the City isn't that interesting what with all the big modern buildings but there are a few things, like the ridiculous Monument to the Great Fire of 1666. It was amusing just to hear Americans trying to work out what MDCLXVI was? Is it 1615? 1623? Ha, I'm such a snob. For some reason the whole inscription is in Latin, so I stood there fishing out words and pretending I could actually read it. One day...

I went across the 'Millennium Bridge' (if you're wondering, it is slightly more impressive than Mission Bay's Millennium Bridge) to the Tate Modern, which came highly recommended. I must be some kind of modern cultural Philistine, because I thought it was a load of wank. Maybe the weekend crowds of foreigners put me off, but when you've just been looking at Raphael, Bosch and El Greco, seeing a cardboard box painted like a car doesn't really cut it. Call me conservative.

I went up to St John's Wood, which is a fancy suburb just to the northwest of the City to look at the all the fancy houses and walk down Abbey Road in search of the famous crossing. My mental picture of the album cover was rather vague and I spent a fair while looking at the inevitable series of similar looking crossings until I finally hit on the fact it was probably the one with all the tourists crossing it and taking photos. Bloody tourists.

Just down the road is Lord's. Like most stadia over here, you can't see a lot from the street, but just being outside was quite something. I Was almost tempted into the Lord's Gift Shoppe.

Took a walk through Regent's Park, which is conveniently undergoing major works. Nice though.

Yesterday I finished off the National Gallery which was quite an experience. I went back to the British Museum as well and then walked back home via Victoria Station, whither I would return later to catch the train to the South Coast.

Brighton, I'm told, is just London by the sea. Buildings are much the same, rents are almost as bad, it's just there is the Atlantic rather than the Thames. I went shopping for clothes to wear to this stupid pseudo-interview. Clothes are actually remarkably cheap, and I ended up getting two formal shirts, a pair of pants and a tie for 20 quid. Not bad, I thought. Now all I need is a shave.

The sea is really nice; even though it was freezing down at the shore I sat for a while on the beach (it is a pebble beach, not sand) and watched the tide come in for a while. The whole place is just much more relaxed than London and, in a way, much nicer to be in. The people aren't as pushy, and there are obviously a lot fewer of them. However, it's still a city the size of Christchurch or bigger, so it's got all you could want city wise.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Officer


Fri, 27 Feb 2004 10:58:15 +1300

Well here I am in Cambridge. It is still cold, but at least it is sunny here. For a bunch of intellectuals, people seem to have much the same concerns as students at Auckland - shopping, boys/girls and alcohol. The only difference is a considerably larger vocabulary.

The town itself is nice. It has a street called Jesus Lane and a park called Christ's Pieces. I haven't done the whole tour of the colleges and chapels yet, I intend to do it tomorrow.

In fact, even being in this place depresses me by making me think that my entire time at the University was wasted. I mean, this is mostly my fault but I wonder how I would have done if I had been over here. Oh well, whatever, alea jacta est, no use crying over spilt milk, etc. etc.

So I'm sure you all want to know how my 'interview' went. Well, it went very well, basically. I now wait (in Morocco) until June to start the actual selection process. The woman seemed to think I had the qualities necessary, although obviously only a certain amount can be gathered sitting there in an interview situation. She is going to set up a couple of Regimental Visits for me, to the Parachute Regiment and the Royal Green Jackets, both of which are Infantry. So yeah, exciting. Hopefully I will have most stuff sorted by the time I leave (Wednesday).

Well, not much news, I know, but I haven't really done much else last couple of days. The fun will start flying when I get to Casablanca. Did I just mix my metaphors?

Where do I start?


Sat, 28 Feb 2004 13:47:37 +1300

You'll be glad to know that I am making such good use of my time here.

Despite my intentions of a sightseeing tour around this ancient university town, I instead did no such thing. There was a promising journey down to the local Sainsbury's (supermarket) to fetch breakfast, which turned out to be a veritable protein feast, what with bacon, eggs, fried bread (?) and 'Toulouse' sausage. It even snowed a little bit on the way back to the college.

Unfortunately that was the only time I left Trinity College today. My day consisted of sitting around, reading, and performing the mammoth task of, for some reason, tidying Jessie's room. Yeah, I don't know why/ It was so filthy it made my room at Royal Tce look like, I dunno, something actually quite clean. So yeah, I got a kick out of that.


Quick note


Mon, 01 Mar 2004 15:17:40 +1300

Just a very quick email because it is very late and I return to London in the morning.

I haven't done an awful lot in the last couple of days, but the highlights were as follows:

- Going to Evensong service at King's Chapel. No, I'm not normally one for all this God business, and I certainly never would have suspected I would find myself queuing for a church service. But the King's Chapel is a very special building and apparently sported a very good choir so off we went. Memories of my intermediate school days flooded back to me. Anyway, the church is amazing, and the choir was small but accomplished. Still don't see what people see in this religious nonsense though.

- Visited the Botanical Gardens. They are quite extensive and the fact that I could make and throw snowballs more than made up for the rather limited sprouting of trees and plants in winter. I would have taken photographs had my camera not broken. Hmm.

- Oh yeah, it snowed big time last night and even settled all over the ground. Hence the snowballs. Very pretty.

- Went out to dinner, quite a reasonable group of us, to this Chinese restaurant. It was without doubt the best meal I have ever eaten, and the Chinese guy opposite me said it was the best Chinese he has had outside China.It was also without doubt the most expensive (in NZ terms) meal I have ever eaten, but oh well. I met some really nice people and had a good time. I have met some great people and hopefully made some better, more cultured friends here than I did at home, aha. But seriously, although some of the people here are obviously upper class twits with too much money, there are a whole bunch of people from old boys of Eton (actually) to the lowliest coal miner's daughter (possibly) who I have met and are friendly and relatively down to earth. Even if they did keep asking me about Lord of the Rings. I even met one guy going to Sandhurst in January so I might already have an Army friend.

Anyway, I leave for London early afternoon tomorrow so I need my beauty sleep. Hope all is well.

Haere ra,


'A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of Marky Marx and the Funky Bunch.'