Ed Smith Wrong In Denigrating World Cup To Praise Six Nations

Ed Smith, writing in the February 2011 edition of GQ , extols the virtues of the long running Six Nations rugby tournament by beginning his argument thus :” I am sick of world cups. In prospect, they are over-hyped and over-promoted. When they arrive they are under-powered and underwhelming. World Cups are sport’s grey squirrels: once they’ve scuttled their way into the system, they dominate the whole ecosystem, killing off all rivals. Strangling more deserving competitions is what World Cups do best”.

Yes. the tournament which sees the world’s best rugby nations, plus Scotland and an assortment of minnows, puts them all in territory familiar to but one country, and has them duel it out in a test of strength, tactics, composure and temperament for a month is bad. Bad for rugby, and bad for the likes of the Six Nations and the Tri-Nations.

Which is presumably why those tournaments still exist and thrive more than ever. And why Mr Smith remains so moved by the Six Nations that he feels compelled to write a defence it does need.

Firstly, the World Cup is good for world rugby. It also has its place without diminishing the stature of the two major multi-nations tournaments. Go ask players who have just given their all in a Tri-Nations or Six Nations slugfest if it’s all okay because it wasn’t the World Cup and you will have a pretty decent clue as to what playing for one’s country still means to players.

The thing is, on a basic level, the rugby world needs the World Cup. Beyond having a showpiece spectacle with which to help market and grow the game, it is pretty much the most accurate barometer of where rugby is at the given point in time. You could compare November Test results all you like, there will always be mitigating factors diluting the significance and usefulness of the results.

The World Cup is as close to a level playing field as you can get when you need to rank nations. Yes, New Zealand’s success in consistent failure at the event could be said to diminish that meaning a tad, but that still leaves six other top nations whose worth can be accurately measured by their performances.

Seeking to praise the Six Nations by denigrating the World Cup reeks of a bitter petulance on the part of Mr Smith. It is all too easy to link that to the perennial southern hemisphere dominance of the tournament, the shining example of preparation, professionalism and composure displayed by England in 2003 remaining the only break with the pattern, yet this does not diminish the validity of the tournament.

The World Cup has its own growing legend and history. New Zealand always showing where the state of the rugby art is en route to the inevitable choke, Australia willing themselves through as far as acumen can without the backing of grunt, South Africa and the art of backs to the wall underdog grit, French, well Frenchness, Irish heart and Welsh gusto.

Not to mention the Pacific Islanders seeking to bruise a couple of bigger egos and reputations while they remain in the tournament, and the fairytale stories of Namibia making Ireland dig deep into their souls as a supposed walkover turns ugly.

The battle for the William Webb Ellis crown has its own charm, allure and a story growing every year.

The Six Nations has more history than the World Cup not because it is inherently superior, it is just a simple matter of that tournament simply having been around longer. In the same way that Super Rugby and the Tri-Nations build their story every year, and with each edition the World Cup grows in stature, acclaim and legend.

I cannot imagine Mr Smith would favour England having their 2003 win expunged from the record books because the World Cup is “under-powered and underwhelming”. If he is, good luck convincing Martin Johnson mate.

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Ode To The Summer Fling

“Baby I ain’t Mr Right, but if you are looking for a faster love…”

 

George Michael’s ode to public restroom romance may well have been intended to celebrate that most enjoyable and frequently revisited of annual traditions- the summer romance.

 

You know the one that leaves you reading/sending through bitter e-mails, texts and voicemails in January when you realise the summer madness was just that, madness. But what awesome madness it is. In the olden days when loving was freer the post summer loving season usually meant a boom for the penicillin industry as young men queued up at doctors rooms to atone for their lust and passion. Now of course prophylactics see to it that the only regrets from the holiday period are the drunken Facebook messages and photos in cyberspace that you wish could spontaneously cease to exist. Now if there was a penicillin for the eternal shame of cyberspace.

 

But enough of the downsides. If we accept that the comedown occurs after a week back at work, inflamed gonads etc, summer love is pretty much all upside. With now work, boss, traffic, deadlines and your bank manager giving you a month’s leeway with credit card payments, the December period is nigh on perfect for a no strings fling. You can see each other anytime, anywhere, with friends, without friends, with a plan, without a plan, boozy or non-boozy (though I have never really understood this way of life) and with the advent of PVR you aren’t even worried about missing Greys or Top Gear. It’d down for whatever, wherever and whenever. And if you can’t make it? No sweat, on to the next one as they say in the hip-hop world.

 

In the summertime, when days are long and the sun brighter people will always feel more attractive and adventurous. Think about it, how appealing does a winter fling sound? It’s cold, dark, you are smack in the middle of yet another soul destroying year at the office, bills are piling up and the annual bonus is either a fading memory or a distant pipedream like potholes being fixed. All you want to do is flit from warm place to warm place with minimal hassle. The house, gym, office, pub and home. In front of the TV, under a blanket, with a glass of forticiation. Random unplanned uncertain groping with a person equally as grumpy as you are is just not on. You can’t even have a happy conversation with people you like in winter, much less a stranger whom you are busy wondering if a quick toe curler with their flabby winter body, is worth driving down Main from her place in Fourways at 2am with the heater on full and your alarm clock ready to pounce in just 3 hours.

 

There’s a reason you’ve never heard of “the winter of love” and it’s not season prejudice.

 

Summer is quite different. No work stress, lovely weather, all day drinking and everybody being the happy, gregarious person they were before life happened. It’s like varsity except everybody has their own car, house, money and they work out more. Or have enough money and party connections to make up for the kind of body that comes with the easy life. And you are magically better at talking your way out of traffic fines. Holidays are a distraction from reality, as are summer flings. You get what you want, hot sexy times, and you leave out what you don’t want, anniversaries, PMS, emotions and birth control obligations. And work even prepares us for them.  From the offsite office lunches to motivate a flagging workforce in early November right up to the big daddy of inappropriate flirting opportunities, the office party, by the time one takes leave we are all ready for a bit of extreme mingling.

 

The best kind is obviously with someone who isn’t a part of your ordinary January to November life. That comes with baggage and is too interlinked with your reality. The ideal summer love is a stranger from a different town. A different country is even better in fact. Different culture takes the cake. To quote How I Met Your Mother’s Barney Stinson “Lebanese girls? Leba-please girls”. And take it from this writers experience (baby please stop reading) mind bending marijuana is NOT Swaziland’s best export. And this was not picked up stuck on the M1 north during a heavy October downpour. Now drinks on a deck overlooking the beach, best thing for superficial relations ever.

 

Bring on the summer, and the January regrets.

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Unshackle The Boks, and Yourself Heyneke

Maybe Heyneke intentionally set the bar low.

If he goes through the 2013 Test season selecting players on form, combinations that work, maximizing the chances the Boks create and doing revolutionary things like dropping the blue filter from his selection criteria, his season will be a marked improvement from the vague, cagey problems of 2012.

Of course what does help Heyneke is that in 2012 only one team was objectively better than the Boks. That’s the All Blacks, obviously. Australia were in the worst of their nadir, Argentinians remain limited if spirited at home, and the north remains the North. Always willing, often scrappy, but seldom quite able.

The stats will say we had a massively successful year. But the stats as ever only tell the stories of those they flatter. Fact is, the Boks looked off colour up North, Morne Steyn endured a shocker no player should be made to endure for a coach, transformation stalled if not quite reversed, and the Boks rarely impressed or showed the true difference in ability between them and their opponents. The game plan curbed the attacking instincts of some of the worlds most gifted and experiences backline players, young talent (Mvovo, Jantjies and de Jongh stand out as the most obvious examples) was stunted and stiffed.

And the coach took a very defiant approach with the media. An approach baffling if only because a man of Heyneke’s ability and experience, and one who resuscitated a sleeping giant from the doldrums really should have had more belief in himself and his players. When you have taken the Bulls from Lions form in an empty stadium to winning being the minimum expectation, surely you can take to your dream job (in a time of weakened rivals no less) with a bit more assurance and charm?

I will give Heyneke this though, the man loves his job. Peter de Villiers aside, I cannot think of a Bok coach so in love with what he has been blessed with. No offence against Jake etc, but it always felt like a career move far above anything with them. But the passion of our current coach and his predecessor, it is awesome.

So let’s hope he does as the marketing folk say and grabs the “low hanging fruit”. The Boks performed, for me at least, at no more than 70% last year, we can and should do better.

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The Modern Family Juggernaut

Modern Family, or The Modern Family Juggernaut as it has become known during awards season, returns to our screens.

The fourth season of this oddball comedy about a family as removed from the Brady Bunch as you could get is getting rave reviews overseas after the third season dipped ever so slightly into average to good territory. This of course has always been the problem with starting off on a high note.

While other shows take time to get going (see Parks and Recreation) Modern Family was pretty much a classic from day 01 and this means expectations are always sky high. The show is critically lauded it actually has a Wikipedia article listing its numerous accolades. Forty-five Emmy nominations,  10 Golden Globe nominations and 13 Teen Choice award nominations headlining its 189 different nominations and 61 wins. Add in a curious six NAACP Image Awards nominations and you have a true crossover winner.

Of course that could just be a reflection of the ridiculous saturation of the awards market in the States.

So we should all then be very glad that they have found their way back into top form.

During the US elections last year conservative US TV analyst Bill O’Reilly made a comment along the lines of ““It’s a changing country, the demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore” in explaining Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama. Now the (in)validity of that statement aside, a show like Modern Family and its increasing number of knock-offs do point to a shifting in the demographic now considered the “norm” in America. Of the show’s characters, only the nominal lead Jay Pritchet could be considered old school All American type. Yet he is the one who is married to an immigrant with a pre-pubescent son.

The Dunphy’s look most traditional but Phil the head of the clan, and Claire his wife aren’t the typical Middle America types of yore. Smart, sassy, cosmopolitan and quite liberal in raising their family. They are very much the 21st century take on the Brady Bunch. When Phil encountered a black neighbour, his reaction was to be the one eagerly , and hilariously, crossing over the cultural divide. Hilariously so as it turned out.

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Reshuffling the Super Rugby deck.

Super Rugby isn’t working. Too diluted, too convoluted and too obviously structured for max profit (as well as the artificial sustenance of Aus rugby) to be enjoyable in the pure way of the Super 10, Super 12 and to some degree the Super 14 before it.

 The worst part is it wasn’t even expanded to the benefit of the sport. All that has come to pass is that Australia has some semblance of a year long rugby season while fans have to put up with ever increasing volumes of dross and club-level players polluting the space between the odd classic clash.

You want to do rugby good? Reward South Africa’s volume and commercial dominance. Reward Argentinas efforts to be a consistent major player. Bring back the meaning in round robin games (instead of this farcical “derby centred” who doesn’t play who nonsense), have a shorter, more intense season and play-offs that see form and quality rewarded instead of slugfests between jaded players preserving themselves for international rugby, playing in half empty grounds in the height of winter.

Now professional sport being what it is, one wouldn’t expect that the competition could ever see a reduced number of teams. Nobody would volunteer removing their finger from the pie, not in this age. So we would have to accept a further increase in the number of teams. Yes, a Super 18. Six SA teams (SA has the player, audience anc sponsorship numbers to justify this), two Argentine teams (one would merely be paying lip service to development of the game there) and Australia and NZ keep their five each.

The Highlanders struggles remind us that for all their quality, New Zealand still lacks the volumes of players to justify an increased allocation. And the Kiwis wouldn’t be so ready to dilute their teams for the sake of money. Australia gets to be saddled with the Force and Rebels still. Enjoy.

Now of course an 18 round league format would just be unwieldy, full of meaningless empty games, and of course be a travel nightmare. Plus make for a cruelly long season, to the detriment of the Rugby Championship and the national provincial championships in the countries with a proud tradition of such.

Instead, we would split the teams into two streams. Splits based on seedings, which in turn would be based on the last five years points totals (wins as tie breaks).

I imagine, off the top of my head, that the seedings would look something like this

  1. Crusaders
  2. Stormers
  3. Bulls

Obviously leading the pack, with the following close contenders;

  1. Chiefs
  2. Reds
  3. Sharks
  4. Hurricanes
  5. Waratahs

Then the dross;

  1. Brumbies
  2. Blues
  3. Highlanders
  4. Cheetahs
  5. Force
  6. Rebels
  7. Lions
  8. Kings
  9. Argentina A
  10. Argentina B

Now the pool system would work on a basic evens and odds system, so ; Crusaders, Bulls, Reds, Hurricanes, Brumbies, Highlanders, Force, Lions and Argentina A, would be one pool, for example. We would then hold an additional “lottery” annual derby round where teams would play a local rival not in their pool to pay due regard to traditional head to head rivalries.

So for example, Bulls vs Stormers, Lions vs Cheetahs, Reds vs Waratahs, Crusaders vs Blues and the two Argentines sides in the above draw.

This would mean each team would play 9 round robin games. Five at home and four away or vice-versa, swopping annually. The seedings and therefore the streams would be updated annually using the three year accumulated points as a basis and wins as a tie-breaker.

The play-offs would see eight teams, four from each stream of nine, go through to a simple ; quarter-final, semi-final and final knockout format. The seedings from these would be based on points totals with teams not facing a team from their stream in the first (quarter-final) round. This would mean 12 games in total for the two teams at the final stage and with a single bye-week added in, the whole tournament would span just 13 weeks. Or say March to May. All in.

16 of the 18 teams would be finished with sufficient time for national coaches to get their squads together for incoming tours and The Rugby Championship and for players to have recuperation periods factored in. Of course players from the successful teams would carry a bigger load, but that will always be so.

It would also mean that with June-August free for international rugby, the Currie Cup and ITM Cup would have the very best players available for 12 weeks, from September to November, to represent proud provincial traditions with rest time and rotation easily factored in.

No more Currie Cup as glorified development and injury rehab exercise.

Also, three months from start-to-finish means greater interest could be sustained consistently in Super Rugby. Now yes, there would be a few one sided whippings with the weaker teams involved, but that already happens. But we would be spared the farce of the Reds picking up easy five pointers against the Rebels every year while the closest thing to respite the Crusaders have is the Highlanders. Hardly like for like.

And the current travel schedule farce facing teams from SA in particular would be mitigated by a shorter season. And teams would be rewarded for greater winning form by hosting knock-outs, instead of some teams having a predetermined home ground advantage despite the actual merit of the log.

Much better than the current six months with a short break in between then straight into another tournament and how does this log system work again mess.

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Are we Moving to Multi-Source Affairs

Now parallel monogamy/cheating etc has been around pretty much as long as our species has been. That is just how we roll. In the hay or otherwise.

Tortured puns aside, with open multiple sexual partners/liaisons becoming less and less taboo, thus freeing up the entire spectrum of human relations to more of us, are we in an era where we can treat relationships purely by their function, and do so openly.

By that I mean, having different partners for different needs. Someone who willing fulfills material needs in return for sexual favours. A partner who is more a friend. One whose career/religious/political views match yours, and someone who may well be a play date for your kids, but with benefits for you. We can all accept that it is possible to be attracted to different people simultaneously. It is also very possible to be attracted to other people whilst in a committed relationship.

The latter is increasingly accepted in our society, and in many instances, indulged generally with an understanding for priority and emotional intimacy. We have had friends with benefits, older men-younger women relationships, the reverse, marriages of convenience, swinging, group love etc.   We have had them for the duration of mankinds existence, and we are still here. Maybe now we have just reached a point where it is all just acceptable to not mask it. A girlfriend, a partner whose company you enjoy beyond the platonic but not quite in a relationship space, someone you hook up with for no strings sex, and a confidant/mentor.

Why not? It IS 2013.

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Jobs That Will Get You Laid #1 : Bouncer At A Strip Club

Now you may think if getting better acquainted with a lady of the pole is your dream, then a career as a strip club barman/manager/owner/oiler is the way to go.

And as much as that may make sense, I must disappoint you and let you know that you’d be wrong. I mean sure, you’d be around a lot of hot semi-naked Bulgarian girls with the finest breasts modern cosmetic surgery can deliver. And you’d be familiar with them and maybe even familiar enough that they would roam naked around you. But that would be about it, I’m afraid.

Why is that you ask? Well simply put, the reason women can have such an effect on punters in clubs of the exotic kind is quite simply because they are hard at work. I mean, yes, they are naked and twirling limbs and curvy bits about in an arresting mixture of flesh, music and imagination, but the difference between them and the girl doing it in the regular club (clothing aside) is that this time it’s professional. It’s a show. A hustle. Its doing what it takes to make you open your wallet.

That’s why the best girls, the ones that keep you coming back because they stroke your ego just right, make a proper living out of this and do not come out scarred by any personal demons, are the ones who keep a distance between themselves and what they do. And so, unfortunately is their relationship with the men at their chosen place of employment. You are all part of the job. In the same way that it’s hard for you to think of your boss as another oke henpecked by his girl and quite willing to visit bodily harm on Bryce Lawrence for his country. Ekaterina can’t look at the male staff at her joint as potential shags.

That would blur the lines. And be bad for her bottom line. And yes, maybe even her bottom itself. That is, with the notable exception of the bouncer. See, while everything and everyone else at the joint is there to provide an atmosphere that best exploits her bodily wares for profits; owning the joint, keeping the patrons lubricated and maybe even keeping her lubed up properly, the bouncer is the one guy helping her keep her boundaries unviolated.

He is the guy that screens out trouble and deflects it form her. With him present, she is safe and can go about her business uninterfered with. Sure, you could argue that being an owner grants you unfettered access to your girls, but let’s face it, if you’re that kind of scummy low-life, you probably aren’t an FHM reader, you’ve mistaken this fine publication for Low Life Pond Scum Monthly and are putting it down, now.

The bouncer is that guy in the shadows making sure creeps remain there. And he isn’t visibly profiting off her wares. Merely getting paid to ensure she exploits them in peace. They are in the same boat. Just out hustling amongst the night owls escaping their frumpy wives and their whining. And when the girls leave the club in the crisp 04h00 air, who will they be looking to to call them a cab home and share a fag with while waiting for it and unwinding? The greasy creep counting the nights takings in a stuffy back office? The guy who kept the hyenas hydrated? Or the border between dancing and degradation? Big, sturdy and re-assuring? The one they can open up to.

Think about it. And go get yourself an ill-fitting black suit and a buzz cut. Svetlana will be ever so grateful.

 

 

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