Monday, July 14, 2014

Are you not entertained?

So cried Maximus, his rhetorical question echoing off the bodies off his fallen victims, into the ears of the bloodthirsty crowd above, perversely enjoying this feast of death and destruction.

Yes we bloody hell are!!!

I’m not big on hyperbole, but this past ten days in sport has been as vicious, as violent, as exhilarating and as impactful as Maximus’ performance in the Coliseum that day.

So without further ado let’s jump into our DeLorean and travel back to the weekend before last, when the World Cup delivered an entrĂ©e of quarter finals.

The second knockout stage of the Cup promised much, but after an exciting round of 16, flattered to deceive. The favourites all won through in unconvincing style…but this was but the teaser, the lap dance, before the full show began.

And what a show it was!  

The very same weekend the footballing minnows packed their bags to depart Rio, Le Tour kicked off…and in spectacular fashion. Hundreds of thousands of Brits lined the streets of Yorkshire anticipating a Mark Cavendish victory. If the Manxman crossed the finish line first he’d don the Maillot Jaune for the first time in his glittering career, in front of his countrymen no less. Unfortunately Cav took a tumble and was subsequently forced out of the race, leaving British dreams in tatters.

He wasn’t the only Brit to suffer the same ignominy, with Chris Froome becoming the first champion to retire while defending his title. Not the only victim on the dreaded paves, Froome’s early departure has robbed cycling nuts, including yours truly, of a Froome versus Contador head to head clash heading into the mountain stages. At the very least though we can sleep well at night, safe in the knowledge that Froome hasn’t been injected with some horse tranquilisers to stay on the bike. Maybe cycling is clean after all!

From the rough and tumble of Northern France to the more refined greenery of SW19, where Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic served up a main course of sumptuous tennis worthy of being washed down with some sparkling vino and a portion of London’s finest strawberries and cream. Roger’s first served thundered, while Novak’s groundstrokes dominated proceedings, in a four hour exhibition of the highest quality grass court tennis. In the end Novak put his personal demons to rest. To lose four consecutive Grand Slam finals would test even the strongest of dispositions, especially after allowing a seemingly impregnable fourth set lead whittle away. After a public display of nerves that would have made Any Murray proud Nole steadied the ship long enough to slay Federer, once again climbing the summit of men’s tennis. Seven slams, with only Roland Garros standing before Djokovic and true greatness.

While Nole was busy feasting on the sweat stained turf that is Centre Court (would that be considered a gluten free meal I wonder?), 70 kms away Formula One was putting on its own show. From the tens of thousands gathering at the hallowed grounds of Silverstone, to the first lap shunt between Massa and Raikonnen through to championship leader Rosberg retiring, this race had drama aplenty. But nothing was more dramatic than the person dual between Vettel and Alonso. Watching these two world champions duke it out for P5 was breathtaking. Each driver, at the absolutely peak of his powers, was pushing the car harder than it had any right to go, and using more of the road than a New York cab driver. Exhilarating.

At this point I’ve got to give a massive shout out to the good people at Apple and to the late Steve Jobs. It’s only through his ingenuity and creativity, along with the pitiful wages paid to pre-teen Asian kids in some technology sweatshop most probably, that I was able to enjoy watching Nole versus Fed on the idiot box while tracking Le Tour on the iPad and Silverstone on the iPhone. Gotta love technology, despite what An#l C#nt think.

Mid-week and it’s another early morning wake up – this time to watch two powerhouses meet for only the second time in World Cup history. Hosts Brazil versus Ze Germans - the ultimate tournament team. What was to follow will be remembered as one of the most shocking results in the games great history. After 90 minutes the scoreboard read Germany 7, Brazil 1. Generations to come will look back at this score line and believe it’s either a misprint, or that Brazil fielded a team of amateurs as a show of solidarity to a nation on the brink of revolution. Neither is the truth...although most disturbingly eleven overweight amateurs would at least have put 10 men behind the ball at three nil down, protecting their goal, the result and most importantly, their pride.  To be perfectly honest I felt there was something extremely disturbing about my gleefully watching the German machine tear strips off the Brazilian backline, exposing all of their cracks out back. With each goal Germany put paid to the myth that is Jogo Bonito.

In the shadow of Christ the Redeemer, Brazil felt the wrath of the footballing Gods not seen since the Good Lord himself came down to Earth, tapped Russell Crowe on the shoulder and told him to build a big fucking boat because it would rain...a lot! The destruction was absolutely biblical.

Another quick shout out...this time to my mate from the sandpit, Lujo. Lujo correctly picked Brazil, Germany, The Netherlands and Argentina as semi final protagonists. Whilst one could easily dismiss his prediction as stating the bleeding obvious, seeing as all four teams are part of football’s elite, it was a far more scientific methodology that allowed him this wonderful insight. Lujo, a student of history, correctly deduced that there would be a game within a game fought at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. This game was Adidas versus Nike, with ghost of Adi Dassler rising from the ashes to smite his foes. And so it would come to pass, with two teams, Germany and Argentina, both proudly displaying three stripes, dismissing the young upstart with their swoosh sign. 

I was still reeling from Brazil’s atonement for violating each of the seven deadly sins that I almost missed LeBron James stunning declaration that he was leaving the sun, sand and surf of Miami Florida for a journey back home to Cleveland Ohio. The self styled Heatles would be no more, only this time without a Yoko Ono type scapegoat for the general public crucify. It’s rare that one player has the capacity to completely alter a team’s destiny, rarer still to find a player so powerful that his choice has direct consequences on the entire league. But sure enough with this one move LBJ has altered the landscape for almost every team in the NBA. His decision (with a small ‘d’) has made Cleveland a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference, along with a marquee free agent destination. It relegates Miami from Championship calibre to playoff fodder. It meant Chris Bosh cashed Riley’s panic cheque and left Houston empty handed, which in turn secured Chandler Parson’s move to the Mavericks. This bumped the Rockets from potential Western powerhouse to middling playoff team. It has also paved the way for a Kevin Love power move to the Cavs, with the potential of a new super-team in Cleveland. The permutations are seemingly endless.
And finally, if that’s not shocking enough…Ian Thorpe came out of the closet to tell Parko he’s officially gay (despite being unofficially gay ever since he gave himself a pearl necklace)! 

This seemingly endless festival of sport culminated this morning with the Mundial final, where a unified Germany finally conquered the world. A sublime goal by ‘Super Mario’ Goetze capping off a marvelous four weeks of football. World Cup, oh how I’ll miss thee! But I’ll certainly enjoy returning to my normal sleeping patterns.

At the end of the day sports…along with Boris Becker and Puma…are the real winners!