Monthly Archives: December 2008

Barber shop punditry: December 12th, 2008


Unfortunately, not that much punditry was being offered today at the Marylebone barbershop. I guess that says something about how hum-drum the final group games of the Champions League really were, and also how generally unexciting this weekend’s Premier League round appears to be.

However, as one gent was getting his hair shaved closely, the barber remarked that Wayne Rooney’s hair had grown all the way back from the Rio-inspired shaved look he sported a few weeks back, and what a shame that was.

‘Rooney looked good with a shaved head’ the barber mused, ‘and’, he added,  ‘it did wonders for his baldness.’

After a minute of mirror-staring, the customer remarked ‘He played better when he was shaved.’ Then a few sage nods as the barber contemplated that Rooney’s shaved head could in fact have been positively correlated with his performances for England and Manchester United.

Rob Bagchi wrote about the Roo’s new ‘do in The Guardian a few weeks back, and it got me thinking: maybe an athlete’s haircut is not only correlated to a) their performance, but also b)  how seriously they are taken by their opponents and the watchful media.

Consider Roger Federer:

Pony-tailed, The Fed was a) great but b) still considered an upstart to the likes of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.


Trimmed and floppy-haired he was a) in a different tennis dimension and b) the inevitable conqueror of Sampras’ all-time Grand Slam tally and the greatest ever player, probably.


Or Agassi himself.


On the left, Agassi was a) brilliantly temperamental and b) an affront to the decency of the blazers at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club.

On the right he was a) brilliantly consistent and b) cementing his place amongst the pantheon of all-time tennis greats.

Ok, so far my sample of two has yielded the desired results. What’s that you say? Rafa Nadal has gotten better and his hair stayed the same length? Zinedine Zidane remained a bald genius from Juventus to Real Madrid? To that I say Nadal will obviously win the Grand Slam if he shaves his head and Zidane…er, well, he only won the World Cup after he went bald. Yeah, that works.


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Filed under Barber Shop Punditry, Football, tennis

What Man Drought? We’re all at the sport.


Wales 21-18 Australia
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, November 30th 2008

I was lucky enough to be amongst the 74,000-odd people wrapped up in the Millennium Stadium’s grand tiers last Saturday, to see a hard-running, big-tackling Wales team deservedly, albeit narrowly, beat the Wallabies. And what a game: a see-sawing contest that saw the best and worst of attacking and defensive rugby, with refereeing decisions consigned (mostly) to the sidelines, as they should be.

But what struck me most about this game was the abundance of women in attendance. They were everywhere: in the stands; at the stadium bars; running amok on the streets outside the ground; at the pub for the post-game revelry. And they all looked quite happy to be there, despite the fact that it was, you know, sport and, er, women supposedly dislike sport.

So what were they doing there? Is my previous comment that women don’t like sport hideously outdated? Maybe in Wales it is. But it just felt as though there was something else going on. After all, women don’t gather anywhere en masse unless something seriously worthwhile is going on, like Brad Pitt giving out free kisses whilst wearing a kilt.

A sneaking suspicion grew in my mind that they were, in fact, on the pull. The Welsh girls had figured out that the sport – in this case the rugby – is a perfect hunting ground. They were gathering to hunt, and hunting to gather eligible, drunk bachelors. Or just drunk bachelors.

But there’s a Man Drought on isn’t there? For those of you unfamiliar with the idea, the Man Drought started circa 2000 when women generally started complaining that there were no good men around, or available. Really what had happened was they had spent their 20s (during the late nineties and early naughties) working their way up the corporate ladder, drinking their bodyweight in champagne and watching Sex And The City, and when Mr Big didn’t suddenly appear to sweep them off their Manolo Blahnik-clad feet, they quickly cried ‘Man Drought!.’

But that’s beside the point. According to social commentators, the Man Drought is real and it’s happening RIGHT NOW and it’s serious. Serious enough for Aussie social boffin Bernard Salt to create what he calls a Fella Filter in his book The Big Picture, so women can know exactly what locations and what professions are most likely to yield husband material. Incidentally, he reckons accountants are the best bet. Yikes.

But I’m going to save you women the 15-odd bucks for Salt’s book and tell you where to go to find a husband, or at least to start looking for one where there are all kinds of blokes to choose from. I gave it away in the heading already, but hold onto your clutch purse anyway: it’s the sport.

The Welsh girls know it. And the more you think about it, the more the logic becomes glaringly obvious. As far as I can discern, here are the Top 5 reasons the sport is a great hunting ground for wannabe committed lasses:

1. It doesn’t matter if you’re into the game being played or not. The fellas there will mostly just be impressed that you’re there. You can feign interest in it all the way to five champagnes; all the way to a pub snog; all the way to the bedroom even. It’s the same as when a bloke goes shopping with you. You know he doesn’t give a rat’s about which dress goes better with which shoes, but you’re pleased with the gesture and are happy to reward him for his behaviour. Hopefully.

2. You’ve got a ready-made ice-breaker. Consider these openers: ‘Come here often?’; or ‘Can I buy you a drink?’ Then consider these ones: ‘That tackle on Stirling Mortlock was an absolute disgrace’; or ‘too much respect is given to the Haka these days. Do the All Blacks think they’re bigger than Rugby Union?’ It doesn’t take Sir Clive Woodward to tell you which game-plan will have a better outcome. And for the truly daring take Simeon De La Torre’s and Sophie Brown’s suggestion from their book Everything A Girl Needs To Know About Football, by trying an opener that stumps your would be suitors, then watch as a bunch of instantly aroused men clamber to buy you booze.

3. You’re in the minority. Simple laws of probability apply here. If you’re in a room with 67 blokes and about five girls, your chances of getting some attention are pretty good. Maybe too good. But anyway, the boys are not expecting to meet a comely lass like you at the sport, so they’re not doing their usual peackocking nonsense. In fact, they’re doing the exact opposite, which is not giving a second thought to what women are thinking. And weirdly, you’ll find their polar fleeces, uncombed hair and ratty sneakers completely refreshing.

4. Sport is an aphrodisiac. Men won’t admit it, but the sight of 30 burly boys bashing each other around the park is a turn-on. But then so is Beach Volleyball. It’s a win-win situation, really.

5. All kinds of men go to the sport. From City boys to White Van Men, the spectrum of men at the sport provides a veritable cornucopia of professions and perspectives from which to pick and choose. Live it up with the Eventing boys or slum it at the darts. Sip Pimm’s or slurp lager. Meet Mr Tall, Mr Teary, Mr Loud and Mr Sporty as well as Mr Big.

Sounds alright? Then get yourselves tickets and get to the game quicksmart. But take your umbrella; it’s raining out there.

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Filed under Rugby Union, Sex and sport Big Blogger 2008: An outstanding entry

When I finally get my head around witnessing 70,000 Welsh singing “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” (“Land of my Fathers”) on Saturday at Millennium Stadium, I’ll post something. Until then, check out this – in my opinion brilliant – piece that won The Guardian’s Big Blogger 2008 Week 4. It’s about darts; it’s excellent and it was the rightful winner of the round. Blogger D draws an analogy of darts to life, but instead of clouding it with the usual guff, it’s a simple case of darts and life either being ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Like I said, excellent. Unfortunately I don’t know the writer’s name or his blog address, but maybe he or she will find my blog and get in touch. Enjoy.


Blogger D

phil-the-power-taylorIt will shortly be that time of year again. Mistletoe and wine. Children singing Christian rhyme. Logs on the fire, leaves on the tree, etc. Darts.
With two world championships on the horizon, we’re about to be treated to a month of top quality darts.

Darts all day long. And for those of us who are, in the mangled words of Robert Palmer, “addicted to Stubbs”, we’ll have Darts Extra in the early hours of the morning. Oh yeah.

“Darts Extra”. There’s a clue in the name: it’s just more darts, in fact it’s inferior darts. They know it, you know it and they know that you know. But who can say no to extra darts? Not me, that’s for sure, but I have a terrible vision of waking up aged seventy to realise that I should have spent more time making love to my wife and less time watching Tony O’Shea making short work of Co Stompé. Or vice versa.

The PDC is where the serious action is nowadays, but for myself – and I refuse to believe I am alone – the BDO has an appeal that is both more elusive and evocative. It represents a land that time forgot for British sport. And is all the better for it.

Take the analysis. In welcome contrast to pretty much every other sport on television, there isn’t any. It’s just wall-to-wall drama. In Bobby George’s universe (not somewhere any sane man wants to visit) there is nothing to say about the game, there is no bullshit insight into technique or tactics, and there’s certainly no wibbling on about “understacking” or “overstacking”.

Someone is either throwing “good darts” or they are throwing “bad darts”.

And this refusal to dress up the spectacle extends to the players themselves. Only the most adventurous would even dare to make a distinction between “good scoring” and “getting his doubles”. The only tactic ever discussed is “speeding it up” or “slowing it down”.

After enough of this you can only conclude that as in darts, so in life. You’re either throwing good darts or your throwing bad darts and if the latter all you can hope is that you turn things around sharpish (but time is precious – particularly in the first round) or at the very least slow things down, put the cruel hand of fate off his game and hope he starts fluffing his out shots.

But the appeal does not stop there. At the Lakeside Arena, there is no clear difference between the people on stage and the people in the crowd. All the celebrities, the pampered professionals, have disappeared to the PDC. And they leave behind a vision of sport as it used to be, magically uninventing all the tedious, “workmanlike” identikit professionals and leaving only the ones who can’t be bothered putting too much effort in.

The pub players, the fat players, the thin players (they don’t come in medium). Men with silly hair, beards, hats. Those that tick all the boxes. Humanity in all its glorious variety is up on that stage. Some of them are Dutch for God’s sake.

So Phil Taylor can throw all the 180s he likes. Barney can defeat “The Power” in what was almost certainly the greatest sporting event yet witnessed this century. But until either of them dons a cape and throws a couple of plastic bats into the crowd, they are fighting a losing battle. At the Lakeside the audience and players are as one. Does anyone really care about how good the darts are?

A couple of years ago, whilst I checked on the progress of a young Jelle Klaasen (who stood to make me a small amount of money), the camera panned over a spectator wearing a Darth Vader suit. This caused great amusement amongst my children. Then one of them asked the question that nobody ever dares to ask. “WHY is he wearing a Darth Vader suit?” There is no answer. He just is. Just like Ted Hankey likes to dress up as a vampire and listen to trance in his loft.

You’re either throwing good darts or you’re throwing bad darts. The rest is window dressing.



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Filed under Darts