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Saturday, 22 October 2011

Me? Disruptive? Oh, I hope so.

This blog has been prompted by an article I've just read, written by Naomi Wolf in the Huffington Post, in response to Mayor Bloomberg of NYC's stated intention to legislate against the Occupy Wall Street campaigners. Apparently, Bloomberg is upset that the lives of residents are being disrupted. It's a very good article which states plainly and concisely why the First Amendment to the US Constitution forbids him from doing that. Good for her.

Now, while we over here in God's country might think we would never see the kind of abuses of power that being governed by corporations brings, but the truth is we see them every day. The very idea that just because a group of citizens decide to occupy a public space, which they part own, the police might feel the urge to give them a little prod now and then, questioning their right to be there, tells us that. We employ government, they don't employ us. It's their job in a nominal democracy to represent each of us to the best of their ability and equally. It seems, sadly, that not too many politicians see democracy that way, so now and then they need to be reminded  in no uncertain terms of their obligations to their employers. I'm one of the 99%. Are you?


The First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." (My italics)

Naomi's excellent article can be found here.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Encore, nous allons

Once more, the lawmakers and the officials they appoint have conspired to spoil the game. I refer, of course, to the disgraceful decision by Irish/French referee (whose idea was it to think we'd all buy into his non-partisanship?) Alain Rolland. Welsh captain Sam Warburton, guilty of, at worst, over-enthusiasm, went low into a tackle, drove upwards as we're all trained to do and misjudged by inches how far to go. In steps the overly dramatic (aren't they all?) Rolland and issues a red card. This changed the entire course of the game. Wales lost their talisman, a man who will easily get into most people's RWC 2011 Dream Team. He has been Wales' player of the tournament and I would have thought would at least be considered for the major prize. The end for him, when it came, must be tragic. I can't begin to imagine how he feels.

Despite this massive setback, Wales played out of their skins, outplaying the French for a large part of the game. They came very close to winning this game, a victory which would have been talked about for years. I for one am sad they didn't, although I'll now gladly throw my not inconsiderable weight behind their campaign to bring the cup north of the equator.

I strongly believe that this RWC must be the turning point for lawmakers, officials, unions and players alike. It's time we started to take our game back. It seems to me that we as the bedrock of the game have to let these people know that they don't work for the media or the sponsors. They work for us. It's our game and we're pissed. So, start to agitate, complain, let your regional officials know what you think. If they don't listen, boycott international and professional rugby until they do.

I'm not a luddite. I'm for change where it obviously improves the game. However, having 35 year old forwards below a certain league level play Under-19 rules is hard to fathom. Persisting with scrummaging laws which actually cause collapses is moronic and does nothing to allay the fears of conspiracy theorists like me who believe the powers-that-be are trying to depower the scrum to the level of negating it as a contest, thus turning Rugby Union into Rugby League, seen as a more commercially viable sport. When that happens, prop forwards can all pack up and find another sport. Tinkering with the laws to the extent of making defence harder and harder does nothing to improve the game. If you want to watch the Jessicas sprinting up the wing and diving over the line for 80 minutes, Rugby League awaits you. If you truly love this game of ours, wake up and smell the Kenyan Fair Trade coffee.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Chalk and cheese

South African rugby lost a great player today, and a coach who I for one will not miss. Peter de Villiers has been a loose cannon and an embarrassment to his country's reputation for far too long. His disgraceful remarks following Schalk Burger's gouging of Luke Fitzgerald in 2009 marked him, for me, as the kind of person who should never be allowed near the sport I love. Anyone who saw the footage of Burger quite deliberately wrapping his hand over Fitzgerald's forehead and digging fingers into both eyes can be left in no doubt as to the intent of the man. Good riddance de Villiers.

Victor Matfield, a giant in every sense of the word, is another matter. I have been involved with rugby in one way or the other for 42 years. I've been fortunate enough to live through some of the greatest times rugby union worldwide has had, and to witness some fabulous players. I watched the great Welsh teams of the 70s, including the Pontypool front row, Merve the Swerve, Barry John, Gerald Davies, Benny and JPR. I witnessed the sheer beauty and brutal forward play of the French, with perhaps Jean-Pierre Rives the first to spring to mind. I saw Beaumont and Co. sweep all before them. More recently, there has been the appearance of that magnificent 'freak', Jonah Lomu.  I reserve the highest respect, though, for those players who showed that rare commodity to their opponents. Willie-John McBride was one such, Francois Pienaar another. John Eales is yet another. What separated these great players from the others was their perspective. I'm pretty sure that they would all acknowledge, and I say this with confidence because I've seen the way they acted toward their opponents, that rugby is the greatest game in the world, but it's just that, a game. From what I can see, Victor Matfield deserves to be included in this list of great sportsmen. Of course, he is much more than that. With John Smit (another player who is, it seems about to announce his retirement) throwing in, he has dominated the lofty regions of the lineout for years.  He, they, will be missed.

On the same subject, I'd like to thank Victor, John, Shane Williams and all the others who will slip from the international stage for all the entertainment they've given us over the years. Here's hoping they do a better job of guest summarising than Raging Heifer, Jonathan Davies, Eddie Butler and the rest of the dire pundits we've had to get used to over the last few years.