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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.

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Maintaining perspective in a cacophony of noise

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NBA Playoffs 2013

It’s NBA playoff time! I know, I know, it’s a niche sport, not everyone is into it, the NBA isn’t even played in this country … why are you even writing about this?!*

(* Don’t make me write another cricket piece!)

Well, apart from the fact that half of the visitors to this blog are from the good ol’ US of A, this time of year ‘holds a special place in my heart’, I guess you could say.

You see, it was at almost this exact time, 2011, when I became overwhelmed by the amount of sporting options at my disposal. Frustrated with the constant lack of inspiration that came from immersing myself in a world of sport, this was the catalyst for what became the Year Without Sport.

The season

An 82 game NBA season (not a typo) brings about fluctuations in team focus, health and care factor. Tune into a nationally televised game and you’re more likely to get two teams who go all out in their endeavours to win, but there are limits even there to their enthusiasm.

"I'm bored, it's been a long season. I'm going to shave a giant star into my own head..."

“I’m bored, it’s been a long season. I’m going to shave a giant star into my own head…”

Sure they don’t want to be embarrassed with the whole world watching, but at the end of the day, it’s just another game with 81 counterparts. Oh, and there’s still a party going on afterwards that they’ll have to get to with enough energy to see through until dawn, giving them 90 minutes sleep before the next day’s practice. (Again, not a typo.) Read the rest of this entry

The top 5 features of the PRE-season!

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AFL marriage interruption

“Is it footy season alllllrrrready?!”

In your head, think of the whingiest, most nagging tone and repeat that previous sentence.

I’m sure each of us has copped this before from someone we know or love.

You know, when it’s still hot in the Australian summer and the hype begins about the footy season … our winter sport! State and international cricket games are still going on, yet our cold weather heroes are running amok in the burning sun, looking as fresh as daisies, leaving the club officials to complain about limited interchanges and travel arrangements.

And look to be honest, those loved ones who put up with our obsession with a bunch of men chasing around some pigskin do have a point. “Didn’t the season just end?!”

Still, there are a number of reasons why, in any sport, sometimes the best thing about the season is before the season … you know, when reality kicks in.

So, without further ado, here are the top 5 features of the off-season.

This trade Actually happened! Sure Kobe had never played a game, but still...!

This trade Actually happened! Sure Kobe had never played a game, but still…!

5. Player Trades

Regardless of your sport, you may only ever be just one player away from ‘almost’ to ‘champion’. Or if you’re an NBA team chasing Lebron James at the end of next season, from ‘absolute nobody’ to ‘legit contender for as long as the best player in the game suits up for you’.

In the AFL, the Hawks have had all kinds of shenanigans in this realm. How’s this for a rollercoaster ride? Lost a pretty good player. But really, they wanted a key big backman. And they got him! Ready to compete, right?!

Well … maybe for this season.

The best player in the game, their stud forward Lance Franklin has put all contract talks off until the end of the season. Which either means ‘Gary ‘I’m definitely going elsewhere’ Ablett, or Travis ‘I have no freaking idea what I’m doing’ Cloke.

AFL oh buddy

This is excruciating for Hawks fans, but genuinely entertaining for the rest of us, especially teams out west, where Buddy may be headed. (As an aside, I’ve already heard the “We always knew we were going to lose him” non-lament from a Hawthorn fan. God I loved last year’s Grand Final…)

You just never know when or if a monster trade will come your way. My Lakers were supposed nobodies until we traded for Steve Nash and the best big man in the game – Dwight Howard. I splurged for NBA League Pass on the back of this news! But then everyone sucked, so thanks for nothing.

Again, you just never know!

Obama hope

4. Hope

Ahh the beauty of off-season white noise! Without nine games a round to dissect within an inch of their lives, we are left with very few snippets of information regarding form, fitness and team cohesion to draw from.

So when anything little arises, like a one point win in a meaningless pre-season game, whispers about rising team unity and confidence, a player looking in top shape, a new game plan or a hot young prospect ‘finding form’, we jump on it like white on rice.

Any why not?! There’s nothing else to tell us otherwise…

Even for those teams expecting very little from their season, glimpses of real potential from some younger players, some good form and a decent effort on the field can take you from dreading the season, to allowing yourself to think, “If factors A, B and C align with D, we might just have a shot at this thing.”

Again, until reality kicks in!

Leverage man woman

3. Leverage

I haven’t played this card yet because the pre-season games have been on Foxtel, but if you win the argument with your significant other that some pre-season games are somewhat meaningful, there’s a tonne of leverage coming your way.

Stay with me, here. You see, if you pro-actively decide to not watch a game in order to be the ‘good’ boyfriend, dad, husband etc, this can pay itself back down the line during the season proper. “I can’t go out that weekend, hon. There’s a big game on. I missed ones earlier in the season, but I just can’t then…”

On second thoughts, why am I putting this in print?! Just forget it; I never wrote it, let’s move on.

'Under attack' ... no, no hyperbole here.

‘Under attack’ … no, no hyperbole here.

2. ‘Stories’

Poor journos. Our insatiable appetite for footy-related news doesn’t end when the siren sounds on the last Saturday in September. Over a long, boring summer in terms of football, they still have to churn out ‘newsworthy’ pieces to placate the masses.

This summer has been somewhat different, however. The drugs in sport scandal, match fixing, tanking (Melbourne, but nearly every club has done it), the report from the Australian Crime Commission, including information on players with direct links to organised crime syndicates and the Lance Armstrong disaster, has seen a more serious tone taken.

But that hasn’t stopped the amount of back story ‘news’ that has proliferated our senses. There’s convicted assaulter Dane Swan heading up the back page because he needs to play even better, where will Buddy Franklin go, rule changes, officials squawking at each other over salary cap concessions, gambling, interchange changes(!), and fights at music festivals alongside drunkenness in public places – just unthinkable for young footballers on holidays with tonnes of cash…!!

Smile enjoy life

1. Ignore it all!

Truly, the best thing about the time in between seasons is that you can just shut off the teev, turn off the phone, flick off the iPad and just, be.

Coffees, movies, bike rides, dinners, tennis matches, books, brunches, beach trips, BBQs, hikes, beers – the extended break enables you to sink in deeply and immerse yourself in your actual world.

And when the season proper finally kicks off, you’ll find that you haven’t been hanging on the edge of the seat, waiting for it all to begin, grabbing at any piece of ‘news’ that you’ve been force-fed over the summer.

You may even ease yourself back into it, missing a few early games, waiting for the rhythms of the season to kick in, finding out who are the contenders and who are the pretenders before you spend your valuable time and money.

There’s a whole other world out there, and if we were true to ourselves, it wouldn’t only be our significant others who bemoan the new season, wondering how the time went so quickly…

2012 – what a year in sport!

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2012

Ok, so I’m officially on holidays.

Well, does that mean I can’t write a final blog?! Well yes, that’s exactly what it means. 🙂 Plus, when you have a soon-to-be-home-in-Melbourne sports journalist legend in Craig O’Donoghue looking for excuses to get out of packing boxes and I need a guest columnist for the final slot for the year, it’s a win-win, right?! I say yes…

Here’s a look back at how the sporting universe panned out this year- from the good to the bad, the tragic to the ugly…

____________________________________________

The best ever. An all time classic. What a champion. In an era where news lasts minutes instead of hours and attention spans are seriously tested, it is easy to turn an above average sporting event into something that it’s not.

But when we look back on 2012, it’s going to be hard for anyone to deny that we’ve been spoilt by some astonishing feats.

The year began at the SCG when Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke belted a triple century against India. It began a year where he’d score another three double tons and make us question what it would take to get him out.

Next came the longest tennis grand slam final in Open history when Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal slugged it out for five hours and 53 minutes before Djokovic prevailed 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5.

A 6 hour final - no wonder Djokovic is spent...

A 6 hour final – no wonder Djokovic is spent…

Read the rest of this entry

Betrayed by a fraud

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A Lance Armstrong fan, I was absolutely blown away on Sunday when reading an extract from cycling star Tyler Hamilton’s upcoming book.

I was waiting in the longest line in Hungry Jack’s history to order my mum and I some lunch. (I’m not kidding! I returned to our table 20 minutes after leaving her. And yes I timed it!) So while I waited, I picked up a Herald Sun and devoured the excerpt.

Now, you might now know the Hamilton name, but it’s worthwhile reading on. In short, he was a gun cyclist who raced alongside Lance Armstrong in three of his Tour de France victories. He won Olympic gold medals but returned positive results on doping tests multiple times (the bad kind of ‘positive’) and retired from the sport as a result.

Blatant drug use

I was stunned at how explicitly he detailed his use of drugs and masking agents used to hide those illegal substances in tests. Obviously I was reading a portion from somewhere in the middle of his book, so it wasn’t the lack of contrition that was sobering. It was the incredible depth that cyclists went to in order to contravene the rules. Read the rest of this entry

Player movement – good, bad or ugly??

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Three days after the Grand Final, I went searching through high-profile sports web pages, searching for any indicators that the mighty Swans were still front and centre in the news. Of course they weren’t; we had all moved on … within 3 days.

In their place in the footy limelight was player movement. Who was going where? Which players might be offloaded, traded back home, move into the draft or be delisted, never to fight another day? (And who dressed up as what for Mad Monday?! Seriously…)

Killing football?!

It was Paul Roos, immensely respected ex-player and champion coach, who commented on the day of a number of player trades, that it ‘was a sad day for football’. Of course the headline read, ‘Free agency is killing football’, but let’s put that down to the usual hysterical sports media in this country. Craig O’Donoghue, you’re excluded from that tainted brush, so are you Tim Lane, ok, and Jake Niall…

‘I was misquoted’!

But is the sentiment over the top? Read the rest of this entry

The 3 day test (again!)

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I feel privileged to have witnessed one of the great AFL Grand Finals on Saturday afternoon. The day quickly reminded me why in so many ways, it is my favourite day of the year. A house full of people, great food, drinks flowing, anticipation, excitement, and a top-class football match to boot. Pun intended…

I’d stated in last week’s piece that Grand Final day (or week) was not the time to conjure up accountability about our overt fascination with sport. ‘Enjoy the day’, we were told!

You see, I thought I was jibbed after missing last year’s classic. ‘How could we possibly get near an epic where a hated juggernaut – Collingwood – was topped by an equally impressive Cats unit, far and away the best team of the last decade??’

This year, when Hawthorn went up 29-10, there were thoughts that the event itself would be an anti-climax. We’d done all we could at Household Evans, now it was the players’ turns. Come on Sydney, give us something!

And give us something they did.

They’re a likeable team, the Swannies. It’s easy for Victorians to get alongside them. Based in NSW (duh!), they’re not in the eye of our media as often and most of us haven’t seen them play enough to fully form our dislike for the red and the white.

So when the celebrations began, most non-Hawks supporters joined in, ensconced in the camp of the underdog.

But for how long would these celebrations last before we all moved on?

Read the rest of this entry