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Farewell piece – the final post

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Goodbye

Well, I can’t believe that this is it!

It’s been two years since I became overwhelmed with the plethora of sporting options on offer to consumers and began The Year Without Sport.

Keeping up with the relentless saturation of the NBA basketball and AFL football seasons, to go along with soccer – Australian A-League, English Premier League and the Champions League, as well as WWE, UFC, Major League Baseball, the NFL, tennis and cricket, was just too much.

Desperately wanting something more from life than just creating enough time to watch ‘x’ amount of coverage each night, I went cold turkey.

Or, to be more poignant –

“Stuff this!”

It’s a move I’ll never regret and is one I’m particularly proud of.

Soon after, the blog began…  –

Exploding bomb

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Stepping away

It’s ironic that the capital letter ‘m’ in the ‘wingdings’ font is an image of a bomb about to explode. I’ll give you a minute now for the inevitable check on Word to see if this is in fact true … … there? Satisfied? Now, the reason I know this is because the ‘My year without sport’ heading at the top of the page I’m drafting this on is in that font, just in case my wife happens to pass by and looks over my shoulder to see what I’m typing. You see, right now, this is a secret from everyone in my life.

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Looking back

Ahh, the long paragraphs, the bolded words to draw your attention to particular phrases. What a rookie! Still, I didn’t know if anyone would read it, or if it would make an impact, still don’t really… (Having said that, it’s still my favourite piece of any that I wrote, with maybe my letter to my son a close second…)

But what I did know is that I wanted to be intentional about engaging with this process, about not just finding other crutches to waste my time on – tv, movies, music et al, but engaging in what was truly important – my wife, my faith, my family and friends and my community.

And now, my son.

Sigh...

Sigh…

Sacrifices

There were things to give up along the way – an amazing NBA Finals series with the evil Miami Heat getting knocked off by the Dallas Mavericks, an epic Cats – Pies AFL Grand Final in 2011, seeing Manchester United in person at Old Trafford, I repeat, in person… (Double italics, still a rookie…!), cricket innings of magnificence from Clarke and Warner, Sam Stosur dominating Serena in the US Open Final on S11, the Bombers going ballistic to start last season before the drugs wore off, Cadel winning le Tour, the New England Patriots in the SuperBowl, Man U clinching the title and WrestleFreakingMania (It’s a sport, don’t make me link back to the two blogs that covered this. Whoops, too late…)

A sport!

A sport!

Were the sacrifices worth it? Of course. Was it a perfect journey? Of course not. There were things I could have done better – been more bullish about finding alternative focal activities to immerse myself in, staying offline and actively avoiding sports results are two that instantly spring to mind.

But it’s given me a deep richness of living and an incredible perspective on my priorities and has created an ongoing dialogue with many people I know.

Two years, almost 150 blog posts, 23,000 blog visits and 141,000+ words later, sport no longer has the hold it once had on me. Was I disappointed when the Lakers got bounced from the playoffs or when Kobe snapped his Achilles?

Not the end of the world ... just the season.

Not the end of the world … just the season.

Yeah, a biiit.

But that’s about it.

You move on

Life moved on for me pretty quickly, and not a single ounce of my energy or being was tied to the result of the NBA season, or the current footy season.

When I started the YWS, I found it amazing just how quickly I didn’t miss it.

First came relief, then came positive alternatives, admittedly there was some boredom (pre Joshie!) and the aforementioned tough moments (in person!)

but

You will never know the hold that your vices have on you until you give them up.

Ever.

You can say all the right things – I’ve got in under control, there’s other people more obsessed than me, we’re allowed just one creature comfort, why should I,

but

Until you actually experience the alternate reality, your sliding doors moment, it can all be a mere mirage from a judgmental outlier who think they know better than you how your life should operate.

Stop making excuses. Give yourselves a little room to breathe without –

  • Punting
  • Your iPhone
  • Buying clothes
  • The tv on
  • Drinking

or

  • The iPad

And see what comes your way.

Trust me, you’ll never look back.

Inspiration

I’m stirred and inspired when I see problem gamblers endeavour to go 100 days without. I’m firmly on their side and wish to God that the abuse of ads for gambling odds during games would cease. These people who have gone public on the fightforyou site have such courage.

Fight for you

Let them watch a game they love in peace.

I guess if there were any final words I wanted to get across, they would be to be flexible people. Be open to hearing about life could be different. Don’t become so rigid in all your ways that nothing becomes untouchable – from sports viewing, to how you spend your money, how you parent, how long you’re online, your attitude to the poor; be an open book.

I’m so blessed in that I get to re-engage with a medium I love (sport!) – for all the positives that it can bring – bringing people together. There’s nothing better.

God bless you.

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Thank you to all those in the last two years who have taken the time to read these pages, offer a supportive word, clicked ‘Like’ on Facebook, written a comment, or better still, questioned some of your own habits; allowed yourself to be malleable.

A special special thank you to Brendan Hughes, who has been a huge supporter of this and of me throughout.

To Jo Jo, you have been a rock of support and your belief in me means so much. I appreciated(d) all your hours of proof reading, well, until Joshy came along. 😉

Ben, your behind the scenes insights, challenges and encouragement kept me on my toes. You’re a star, but I now challenges You to go 12 months without Eurovision. No? Didn’t think so… =>

And for my regular comment people of Matt, Diddle, Craig and Willo and whoever else might have had their say, thanks, guys. It’s been awesome to have your input along the way.

And to my great mate Craig, you’re an absolute gun for allowing me the ‘odd’ week off and writing guest pieces for the blog. Really appreciate your willingness to help out. Let’s hope our boys can turn things around in the next few weeks! 🙂

And to my son, Josh. My love, it was a gift from God that the YWS came along before you did. The choice to disengage myself from one of my vices enabled me to engage with coffee, friendship, my family, and, to you.

I would do it all again if sport got in the way. Though from the faces you often make at me, I think it’s the laptop and the iPhone that will be getting turfed first. And you probably have a point.

I hope and pray your innocence and love of the simple things continue to teach me and all of us about life and what is truly important – that the joys of life are in everyone you meet, that a smile can change someone’s day, that loud shouts of joy should be a daily ritual and that a cuddle from someone you love is the most precious gift of all. I love you.

I have a son!

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World, meet Josh…

Dear Josh,

Well, you weren’t too pleased when you arrived, but dude, after 42 weeks, what did you expect?! You weren’t gonna do it yourself, so we had to call your bluff. And to be blunt, at 4.61kg, aka 10 pound 2, mum is particularly pleased with that decision.

You are so new to this world, yet already you have made such an impact. They gave you to me to hold moments after you were born at 10.33pm, May 30. By the way, in that 40 second or so delay, you moved from 10.32 – Magic Johnson’s number, to 10.33 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Both are from the Lakers, but only one agreed to give me his autograph. You guess which one – the fun loving, uber-skilled, best point guard of all time, or the grumpy bald man who played with glasses until he was 42?? Yep, I thought you’d get it…

Anyway, when they gave you to me, it was just so natural. You see, I’m normally not great with babies. Am I holding them right? Am I supporting the head properly? What will their parents think? It’s so delicate – will I break it?! But with you, it felt right straight away. You felt safe in my arms. You are safe in my arms. Read the rest of this entry

107 days to go – A simple question…

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Firstly, an update on how the ‘I’m trying to avoid Super Bowl results for as long as possible’ quest is going!

It’s funny what has happened since I hit ‘Publish’ on the last post – the running diary on missing the Super Bowl. I almost immediately came ‘acropper’ (Is that a real word? Two words?! Who can tell…) in trying not to find out anything.

When looking for images to include in that post, even after wisely deciding not to search for images under ‘Super Bowl’ or ‘Patriots’, hence the rather bland images used in the last post … no offence, Jarrad McVeigh, I was almost caught out.

Clicking on one of the sites on my ‘Favourites’ bar in Chrome, I accidentally hit the ‘Grantland’ site (site not linked here in case of similar mistake) and had to quickly turn my head while trying to shut down the tab. Try it, it’s not easy!

I then headed to our staff room, where 352 newspapers* were lying about (* approximate numbers) which I’m sure contained numerous little images or headlines telling me the scores. Keeping my head down and therefore seeming somewhat non-communicado seemed the best way to travel.

The true and unexpected test came last night when I bumped into a great group of secondary school students who I get along with. One, with no idea of this journey, smiled and said, ‘Did you see the Super Bowl?’ which was hastily followed by me throwing out several disclaimers, even while others joined in with phrases such as, ‘What? You’ve avoided any news so far!?’

And then there’s the comment from my good, soon to be ex-mate Craig on this very blog, whose cryptic remark regarding ‘coaches’ and ‘even breaks’ has had me pushing thoughts about the game out of my head to varying levels of success. Buddy, you’re not helping!

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A simple question

I had a friend pose me a question the other day – ‘What are you looking forward to watching when May 24 ticks around?’ I initially responded with, ‘Oh heaps, there’s a list!’

And then I started to go through it. Read the rest of this entry

Why not use technology to help?

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This is a very difficult day to highlight an area of sport that I’m thankful to be missing at the moment. You see, because there’s television news updates, and pop ups, and headlines, and big screens in shopping centres, and online images, and people who text me, I am aware that my two favourite cricketers had big days yesterday. Huge.

Ponting finally got his century and hopefully buys himself a bit of time in the process to prolong an amazing career. And then our captain makes over 250, is still not out, and could push for something truly special today.

And even Mike Hussey sits on 55 and could push for a much-needed century. (Blogger’s update – which, of course, he did!) Hussey, the focus of the last post, was terribly unlucky in the first test and had his career placed in jeopardy as a result of a farcical decision by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Clarke and Ponting were major elements that came up when I first realised I would be missing the entire summer of cricket in a November post. I doubt that there’s now any focus whatsoever on Clarke’s ex-girlfriend or the tatts. Silence, haters…

Meanwhile, throughout all this yesterday, I went shopping for health insurance. I could go into detail as to why, but I’m already bored with the topic and figure that you must be too.

Serena injured. No comment...

(I’m also aware that Serena Williams could be out of the Australian Open. Unfortunately, as it’s not because of yet another tantrum or threatening to kill more officials and is in fact due to an injury, I won’t make fun of her. Sigh…)

Surely it can help

A natural segue from the Hussey and cricket debacle is to the use or non-use of technology in sport. There’s nothing more infuriating than a blatant travesty of justice in the sporting arena that can be easily identified simply by looking at a screen. We’ve all familiar with them –

  • Game winning shots in basketball incorrectly allowed or disallowed.
  • Goals in AFL that came off hands or the wrong team or even the goal post.
  • Soccer goals that went over the line and then spun back out that no one saw, well … except for the millions watching on television…
  • Players given out or not out in cricket or catches claimed that have clearly hit the turf.
  • Touchdowns claimed where the player didn’t actually catch the ball, but simply hugged the ball next to him as it and he skidded along the ground.

Kobe with a fallaway 3 for the win. Both the game clock above the scoreboard and the white rim around the edge of the backboard are looked at in instant replays. The backboard edge turns red when the clock has run out. Oh and by the way, he hit the shot.

In all of the above situations, the integrity and the results of the games have been disaffected. Championships and premierships altered. Careers compromised. Millions of fans outraged. Countries at odds. That’s not an exaggeration – Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’, anyone?!

Cheat

Read the rest of this entry

Show me the money!

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Gavin Wanganeen for Port after starring for Essendon. I admit it. I'm still bitter.

One of the hardest acts for a young sports fan to comprehend is when a beloved member of their team leaves to play for another franchise.

In in the AFL especially, such a move was rare, until recently. Players pretty much stayed with their team for the duration of their career. And to be fair, there still is very little player movement relative to other sports.

There is a growing trend in soccer where players aren’t just taking the money from other clubs, but are ‘heading East’ to play in far inferior ‘leagues’ in Russia and China.

Western leagues and teams are finding it increasingly difficult to be financially responsible, let alone compete with Russian oil money and the economic giant that is China. Players are taking the money and in doing so, stepping away from quality competition and powerful leagues. That’s not a criticism, just a comment.

By the way, I’ve lived in Shanghai. While my teaching wage was slightly less than Nicolas Anelka’s $15m a year, it’s still a very manageable city. Considering Anelka’s personality though, I hope he chokes on the ‘air’, is driven crazy by hawkers on ‘The Bund’, fears for his life daily in a taxi and enjoys having his wife openly ogled by all the Chinese men. There. I feel much better. Read the rest of this entry

God and sport

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(In researching this piece, I have asked a number of people for their takes on the topic. The responses have been so thoughtfully crafted that I’m going to include parts of each of them in this Thursday’s post and possibly a Special Monday Edition. Did you like the capitals there?!)

Last weekend, Sunderland EPL soccer player Kieran Richardson dashed from his own defensive 6 yard line, received the ball 18 yards from his own goal and nailed a fierce strike that hit the back of the net.

His celebration involved removing his top (a mandatory yellow card!) and revealing a ‘I belong to Jesus t-shirt’, as you can see.

I’m not quite sure whether he thinks it’s his chiseled arms or the smug smile that’s going to lead people to Christ in that moment. I say both.

It’s brought about some discussion about religion in sport and what role, if any, it has in that arena.

It’s an area that makes this writer feel uncomfortable if it ever arises, not because I disagree with the player’s right to profess their beliefs, but I wonder what the broader public, most of whom do not agree with what they’re hearing, will think –

  • ‘Rubbish!’
  • ‘What, your God wanted your team to win more than mine?’
  • ‘Shut up and just play sport. Let the preachers preach.’

In many ways, it is too easy to jump on a player who acknowledges their faith, undermining their words with a sarcastic or negative response.

Especially in America.

Watch a player score a touchdown in the NFL and in a large % of cases, you will see a player kneel, bow his head and pray, in the end zone! Or, as they trot back to their bench, ball in hand, there’s the inevitable point to the sky above. Anyone who can read will know that many of these players lead unbelievably hedonistic lifestyles and these acts can reek of hypocrisy. Read the rest of this entry

6 month anniversary!

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What was meant to be a celebration turned in something more sinister in the last 24 hours. Going without sport was supposed to protect me from injury.

Let’s just say that a fair bit of time and effort went into typing the second half of this piece!

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It was 6 months ago yesterday that I was coming back from another wasted weekend away. Multiple footy games had been consumed and a big NBA playoff game loomed.

And then everything ground to a halt.

‘Enough of this. I’m going cold turkey.’

I’d tried moderation in limiting my sporting viewing and had achieved some success. But not enough. It was clearly still a crutch on which I leaned too heavily.

And so, drastic measures needed to be taken.

Predictions

If I had known then what I know now, I am not sure I would have gone through with the plan to take 12 months off sports viewing, including newspaper and online articles.

I honestly thought it wouldn’t be that hard! Read the rest of this entry