24 : “The Following Takes Place…”

The following takes place over 24 hours, immediately after Sunday January 4, 10:20pm, when Johan Botha smacked a six down the ground to continue Adelaide Strikers’ undefeated start to the 2015 Big Bash League.

It being the temperate evening after the hellish night before, it was more than a job of work to get my mother settled and counting Zzzzzzzzz’s. She was wired for another scorcher, but maintained she had no interest in watching them on TV.

Once that Mission went from Impossible, to Possible, to ‘nighty-night’, it was time for this somnambulist to find a few empty moments to prepare for the impending sporting avalanche.

05:00 Monday January 5.

After an entirely underwhelming US Sports Saturday, with two mostly desultory NFL Wildcard Playoff games, and a super pre-hyped MMA PPV – UFC182 – that produced more yawns than WOWS, my hopes were high that Sunday’s (U.S) first playoff game would be something.

Cincinatti Bengals entered the game on a six-match Playoff Losing Streak. It became seven after Andrew Luck made his streak matter more. His third straight Playoff game with over 300 yards Passing kept the Bengals at arms’ length. And propelled his Colts into a Division matchup with Denver, in a rematch of their thriller to open the 2014 season at Mile High.

Although the game was a little better than the previous night’s desultory pair, it still didn’t really feel like Playoff Football. But that WAS coming. And for the first time in five years, it was coming to Dallas. Cowboys Stadium was buzzing. A seething mass of hungry fans filling the best stadium in the world to the brim with hope, joy and expectation.

Approx 08:40 Monday January 5 (AEDST) Matthew Stafford connects with Golden Tate and we’re off to the races. 7-0 Detroit and you could feel desperation enter the emotional equation for the Cowboys’ fans.

So began the most quintessential Playoff struggle so far and it developed into a Buddhist Lama’s wet dream – One with The Lot. Early breakaway leading visiting team, slowly, inexorably getting hauled back by a desperate Home Team in front of their success starved beseeching fans.

NFL is famous for its moments. ‘The Immaculate Reception’. ‘The Butt Fumble’. ‘Scott Norwood‘. This game had ‘The Flag that Wasn’t There’. With Detroit up 20-17 and surging downfield to blunt the Cowboys’ wave of momentum, a flag was thrown. A defensive Pass Interference penalty was called.

Then time passed as replays were shown. Sideline histrionics were commented upon by various expert talking heads, who all agreed on one thing – it was a penalty. Good call. First Down Detroit.

Only for them to turn around from talking amongst themselves to realise … The Flag wasn’t there anymore! Eleven against eleven in the NFL Playoffs is hard enough, but 17 vs 11 while playing on the road? That’s a whole ‘nother thang.

Like any good ‘Home Shopping Soap Opera’ there was still more. Dallas took advantage of that artificially, officially assisted euthanisation of Detroit’s offensive series and a subsequent shanked punt, that made one think of Carlton ruckman Robbie Warnock shooting for goal. They marched downfield to score the go-ahead touchdown and then eventually got out of their own way with less than a minute left when rookie Tackle, DeMarcus Lawrence sacked Detroit Quaterback Stafford on a Detroit fourth down. [For the uninitiated, if you can’t move the ball 10 yards in four ‘downs’ you give the ball over to your opponents wherever the ball is at the end of that fourth down – Ed]

Lawrence thus finally ended a game he could have iced minutes and several plays earlier after he recovered a Stafford fumble, established possession, only to have it stripped in turn, to gift Detroit a first down because of the ‘hot potato’ chain of events.

All’s well that ends well for the Cowboys, but the Lions, along with all of Detroit will be roaring injustice for a long time to come.

That took us to lunch and a warm Greek Salad for Ma, after lengthy negotiations made headway where ‘open wide for the aeroplane…’ failed miserably.

Tennis was happening in Brisbane, but I wasn’t watching yet. Still, I heard Aussies had been stomping Frenchmen like stale escargot as Thanasi Kokkinakis and James Duckworth beat Julien Benneteau and Gilles Simon respectively. Sam Stosur had fed us another heartbreaker the night before and I was pretty much running on empty.

I crashed hard after putting Ma to sleep. It was a race for who would zonk out first that I think I won. Only to wake an hour later as my ‘Mama antennae’ picked up a disturbance in the force.

Like a jack-in-the-box, Ma was poised to make a break for it. What ‘it‘ was not even she knew , but we agreed on a toilet break to squelch the impending tantrum.

Back to bed goes Ma and I notice the tennis on in the background. It’s 21:06 and the familiar ‘melody’ of Viktoria Azarenka on a tennis court was anything but my lullaby.

But who was that she was playing? Pliskova, the scoreboard and commentators said. And although she was losing handsomely, she cut a fine figure on court I thought. Both in herself and of her play, Pliskova’s presence was magnetic enough to get me to wax rhapsodic on my newly created twitter account.

It went a little something like this:

(There was other sport going on. I was not so transfixed by my newly found tennis muse to miss it … but more on that later).

And with a scoreline of 4-6 7-6 6-4, you can see the match was in the balance throughout the last two sets. The commentators intimated often enough that after an injury ravaged season, Azarenka was bound to be rustier than Wyatt Earp’s second favourite pistol from grade-school. Her strong start and gradual plateau bore that logic out, to a point.

However, that should not detract from what Pliskova was able to do, playing from behind on the scoreboard throughout. As they say, she managed to be in front at the only stage it mattered – The End.

It is of course the summer of Tennis’ traditional period to dominate elite sport, in terms of quality and coverage. This year though, the competition is hellacious.

The A-League keeps growing. While all of the above was going on, Adelaide were making a comeback of their own against ladder leading Perth Glory, on a stinking hot Perth evening. 2-1 was the final score in their favour, but as is often becoming the case with Adelaide, they should have won by a lot more.

Also chugging along at the same time was the fourth iteration of the Big Bash League. The Stars hosted the Sixers and we went to extra-time (I wonder what penalties would look like in cricket. A series of Free Hits perhaps?). Still, the sudden-death over works fine.

As does James Faulkner’s performance with bat in hand at the death. I know BBL is a bit of a knob-polishing exercise disguised as lucrative family fun, but after some of Faulkner’s and the whole Stars team’s earlier efforts, you wondered if his fierce nouse had gone the way of Glen Maxwell’s batting focus.

On the other side of the ledger, Brett Lee had two cracks at saving the game and got outplayed by a fingernail by the emerging Tom Triffitt in regulation, before being spiflicated by a resurgent Faulkner in sudden death. Lee didn’t do much wrong originally. Triffitt was just barely able to get things his way off some good deliveries.

But maybe Lee’s second bite of the apple was more telling. We’ll wait on TIME to give us an update there.

So that’s pretty much it for this particular series of 24. Another one was in production with Bernard Tomic set to take the court as I gave the TV a rest.

Oh:

There is one more thing. I believe many – some illustrious denizens hereabouts included – will be knocking back a dram or three … or more, in honour of Scot, Gary Anderson’s World Title win. Unlike Tommy Dysart’s Gogomobile, Anderson’s win WAS in the Darts. Against the legendary Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, in a squeaker, 7-6. After having beaten defending champion Michael van Gerwen in the semis.

Och & Aye! How good was that? It brrrrings a tearrrrrr to yerrrr eye.

That’s my first and I think last Sporting Series of 24 done. I don’t think I could handle another. Please, tell me yours.

Comments

  1. Lovely work on the Twitter Gregor! Outstanding use of the #ShakespearianAthority and equating net cords to French noir films.

    Bravo!

  2. Impressive effort Gregor, good to see you putting in the long strides to get as much sport as you can. It is crowded at present isn’t it.

    I was lucky (?) enough to be unwell on Sunday and as I was resting, I got to watch the first two NFL games, and agree, poor, compared to the Dallas game. Thought Lindley lived up (down) to his potential.

    BBL topping tennis for disposable hot summer night’s viewing. Busy sporting scene means I fear the Asian Cup is not getting the attention is needs or deserves, wonder if it will rate or gain interest compared to Tests etc

    Sean

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