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Finally, some cricket that I can sink my teeth into. After months and months of tolerating the Twenty 20 nonsense and a few jarringly bad ODI matches, I got a chance to watch the ongoing 2009 Ashes series. I must say, so far it has been a real treat. On Day One, when Freddie Flintoff bowled four mean bouncers at Simon Katich and mouthed a stern warning to him, I flipped my middle-finger in front of the television (danger is my last name, courage is the middle one) at the gargantuan fast bowler, sneered, wiped imaginary saliva at the corner of my lips and made a mental note – ‘game fucking on’. The fifth ball was another rising meteor threatening to explode on the batsman’s face and Katich, with footwork that could have saved S Ramesh’s career, lifted his bat, followed the bumper and patted it down.

Now, the average Twenty 20 fan would have preferred if the batsman had stepped down the pitch, turned the face of the bat and lifted it over the wicketkeeper’s head towards the cheerleaders’ section for a DLF maxipad? This however is Test cricket. More importantly, the Ashes. The pleasure index is not directly proportional to the distance that the bowl travels or the sheer amount of bullshit conversations it generates. What matters the most here is a test of skill, patience and confidence.

asheshThe bat and the ball will do battle without the distractions of the mundane. There will be no theme song played in the stadium every time a boundary is scored or whenever a wicket is taken; only a fierce war cries and erstwhile grunts that pack more aggression and intensity than the collective bite of a hundred Rotweilers that could be bought with spare change from your favourite Indian cricketer’s savings account. Before you can impersonate Shah Rukh and start bleating ‘kuch naheee you anpatriatic dawg’, take your medication and understand that I don’t enjoy watching Team India play cricket. It’s not a personal indictment against their abilities; it just is what it is, an aversion towards seeing the same faces that constantly appear on crass commercials in-between semi-decent TV programs.

Ricky-Ponting1_0This however is not about my dislike for the blue men group; this is about a legendary cricket series between the Englishmen and the Aussies; civilized yet conflicting, hateful yet dignified, two teams drenched head to toe with the venomous spirit of one-upmanship and the history of the Ashes spurring them on to magnificent heights their coaches never knew existed. Whether it is Mark Ramprakash’s sudden metamorphosis into a poor man’s Jonty Roads overnight or Paul Reifel’s dogged patience that promoted him to the status of an all-rounder within the span of a few Test matches, the suffocating pressure of expectations has never failed to inspire these cranky buggers. Hell, even the commentators are at their best. Just listen to Nasser Hussain belt out some of the wittiest dialogues since Richie Benaud thrilled cricket fans with his ‘oh dear me’ references.

Day Two had Ponting and Katich on unbeaten centuries, with the captain (who also happens to be the best active batsman in international cricket) looking to wash away the silliness that is the rumour surrounding the fading away of the baggy green era.

All I need now is for Star Cricket to let John Dykes back in the studio for the pre-game show….aahhh sweet cricket, welcome home…I will drink thee once again from the Ashes urn.

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The Ashes coverage

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I don’t watch Indian Premier League because its sycophantic glamour. It can be very off-putting for me. Also, it bothers me that this version of cricket triggers some sort of inconclusive chemical imbalance in people, which leads them into believing that they have understood the game enough to have an expert opinion on it.

“Hayden shouldn’t have played it on the front foot” … “I would have included two more spinners” …”Pepsi has a zanier taste than Coca Cola…”

Riiight. Watching fours hours of capsulated cricket, three hours of random camera zoom-ins of interracial women and two hours of Arun Lal desperately trying to channel his sporting acumen in vain. Great. Go ahead, quit your job and join the panel of experts at IPL. All you need is a penchant for buggery of the English language and the uncanny knack of getting facts wrong at least 60% of the time.

Of course, many just watch the game and enjoy the fuck out of it. Despite what the Rolling Stones might have had you believing, some people actually do always get what they want. And to be perfectly honest, the IPL does cater to those who were never really into the game but always wanted to know what the fuss was all about. I hear that people who suffer from lifelong acute Attention Deficit Disorder get a really good kick out of it, as well.

That’s alright, I guess. I mean, if the PGA had taken my suggestion and hid landmines in random spots on the course, hell, I’d be watching golf right now. Imagine if the boring-ass Snooker Champion league made it mandatory for the players to dress in trench coats and carry bamboo shoots with tiny rodents inside of them. They could crawl through to the other end, jump on the pool table and guide those little bio-bombs into those pockets…of DOOM! Oh yes…POCKETS OF DOOM with MIDGET TIGER SHARKS swimming in there! Hmm you get the picture. Traditions customized to induce mass clamouring. Perfectly understandable.

iplsucks1

In fact, my Zen-like level tolerance with the Twenty-20 shenanigans has led me to read a bit about this year’s IPL competition. The only thing worth mentioning are the swanky nicknames that the Fake IPL Blogger (source…Papa fuckin’ Bear) has come up with for an annoying runt of a fast bowler (Sreesanth) and a prissy actor (Shah Rukh Khan) who makes his livelihood by selling sub-par consumer products on TV, crying like Meryl Streep post-menopause during climax sequences and dancing like a monkey on crack at random weddings.

www.fakeiplplayer.blogspot.com

I know…I know…it’s only a matter of time before the Fake IPL Blogger becomes a marketing gimmick but what the hell, at least for now, this kid’s angst is a source of amusement. Also, I find it hilarious that some moron from Bollywood is lashing out against this renegade blogger in the name of cricketing ethics.

I’m sorry…what?

Did Ike call Tina Turner a sexist for not falling down fast enough when he slapped the shit out of her?

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max_moonI have been a fan of pro wrestling for as long as 15 years. It started off innocently enough with this character on World Wrestling Federation called Max Moon -supposedly a warrior from the future who wore this spiffy spaceman suit and made it clear that he really liked doing cartwheels and somersaults. It was silly gimmick and we, as silly fans, lapped it up. See…I thought this shit was real. Obviously, I didn’t know that pro wrestling was a multi-billion dollar empire that earned its moolah from merchandise sales and four hours of scripted programming.

The obsession began when I was introduced to the local store Ric Video’s vault of classic tapes of Bret Hart – a wrestler who wore pink tights, a black jacket with frills and ridiculously retro sunglasses, which he often passed on to some kid in the crowd as a gesture of goodwill. But he seemingly could wrestle circles around evil psychopaths in scary costumes who desperately wanted the gold belt he wore around his waist. I tell you, if only I had the acumen for iconoclasm then, I would have probably built a shrine in Hart’s honour. By then I also understood that this was scripted sports entertainment and nothing more…but it never bothered me.

hitman-dvd_pic6Mos of my admiration for Bret Hart’s stemmed from his ability to beat the shit out of his opponent’s leg and then lock it in a neat submission move. Years passed and so did my fascination, hatred and indifference for many wrestlers…and it still never bothered me. Back then, even a good film couldn’t make me feel any particular emotion towards its character as frequently as wrestling did with its characters and athletes. Even now, I would prefer watching a good storyline in wrestling culminating over time into a bloody mano-to-mano battle rather than watching a film’s protagonist defy the odds, gravity, theology, the Germans, physics and pretty much everything else in order to beat the baddie and hook up with the heroine.

img1Now I get my fix mostly from AJPW, BattlARTS, ROH, K1, European mat wrestling and mixed martial arts where sweaty, pissed-off, super gnarly bastards look to rip the limbs off their opponents or at least knock them, as the French might say, le fuck out. It might not be entertaining to those who pretend to be non-masochistic (everyone’s a masochist, goddamit), but for us, bloodthirsty hooligans looking for cheap thrills in ligaments being torn and skulls being knocked out silly enough to put tails on them and call them monkeys (Black Adder rip-off #2), this probably is the purest form of athletic entertainment. Watch this to understand the theatre of Japanese wrestling.

wrestler-aronofsky-promo-05And that’s 444 words of build-up just for me to say that I am not ready to review The Wrestler yet. Rather I don’t want to fully review it. I watched it a week ago and well, so far – film of the year. I might even go as far enough to say that it was better than The Dark Knight. A few of the epiphanies I had while watching this film still send glorious shivers down my spine. The nicest one I could think of centered around how only physical pain gave Rourke’s character a reason to live and possibly, to find love. But I am going to go with what William Macy’s character said in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia.

I have got so much love to give, but I just don’t know where to put it

So tremendously unpretentious that you almost want to call up Mickey Rourke right away and tell him that it’s all going to be ok.

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I detest films about sporting legends, both fictitious and actual. It really irks me when the protagonist steals the thunder during the last few seconds of the game. Films like Remember The Titans, The Longest Yard, The Benchwarmers, The Rookie, The Mighty Ducks really, really piss me off. Even Taz, Foghorn Leghorn and Daffy Duck couldn’t save the abomination that was Space Jam.

Ron Howard’s Cinderalla Man is a different beast altogether. Chronicling the series of events that led a haggard, middle-aged boxer James J. Braddock to jab and swing his way into becoming a working-class hero. It’s almost scary how good Russell Crowe was in this role considering his affinity to downplay emotions and generally suck as an actor.

While the predictability of the Braddock-Max Baer showdown can’t really be questioned, it works wonderfully well. I tried to find the final few minutes on Youtube to no avail, but what I did find was something better.

Black and white footage of the actual fight between Braddock and Max Baer.

Part two

Part three

Part four

Part five

Part six

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Shootin' straight

The KISS principle in sports journalism

Keep it About Sports, Stupid

Good for you, Mr. Krish Ashok.

…“getting better” at international sports is what the Chinese have been doing for the last two decades, going from 31 medals in 1984 to 63 in 2004. India also can lay claim to such an impressive growth graph, when we plot “number of officials accompanying Indian contingent” over the years. It requires more than a media circus around Abhinav’s achievement to bring about change in Indian sports…click here for full story.

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You probably have never heard of Kobashi, Akiyama, Misawa, Ikeda, Milano Collection, or Kota Ibushi. In fact, you might even think that these are delicate body parts of little aquatic creatures found on sushi plates.

These men are Japanese Puro wrestlers. Warriors who have chosen a way of life, during the course of which getting dropped on your head or getting punched on the bridge of your nose only meant that it was a Tuesday. Being not-so-politely asked by 50,000 screaming fans to fracture your opponent’s skull merely implied that a paycheck was on its way.

I certainly don’t recommend violence but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to know how to commit it when the situation demands for such. When caught in a tricky situation that smells of trouble, I’d much rather think about what Jun Akiyama might do rather than about what Jesus might do.

Seriously, look at what Akiyama can do.

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Blue men complex

You could burn effigies of cricketers. You could shove your colonial hangover on the faces of Caucasian cricketers who actually forsake comfy commentary stints to make Indian cricket less of a fiasco than it is. Perhaps a bar room discussion on how Ajit Agarkar is still in the team despite having been completely drained of cricketing talent. Maybe you’d feel better if Sehwag slipped into comatose.

My advice to you…hit the power button on the television remote when Sachin promotes yet another product to make sure his kid never works a day in his life and do something far more productive than fanatically cheer for a very mediocre team. Get yourself an ice cream or pursue an online diploma, for instance.

I can understand that cricket is a national obsession and you would feel terribly alienated by your friends, family and peers if you ever discussed hockey. But for the sake of people who still respect cricket as a game which requires skill and not a trendy haircut, say this to the nearest rabid Indian cricket fan, “It’s just a fucking game, you stupid, stupid sonofabitch.”

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