The greatest ever sport weekend

Seriously, I can’t remember a weekend when there’s ever been more sport of the sort that I pay attention to. This particular weekend towards the beginning of February is usually pretty good, but this year it really has been remarkable.

It began with the second day of the India v England cricket test match, in the small hours of Saturday morning, and continued on Saturday morning with the final of the Big Bash in Australia. The Vince Sixers defeated the Livingstone Scorchers, teams which I thus name because all I care about in that tournament is how well the Brits do, and Vince did very well indeed. There was Premier League soccer to get excited about, which I do, a bit, both Saturday afternoon and evening and today afternoon and evening.

This was also the first weekend of the Six Nations, which is rugby union. Scotland beat England on Saturday, which was not nice, but this wasn’t because England were rubbish. It was because Scotland were not rubbish, and England were caught by surprise. Scotland being not rubbish made a nice change from the last twenty years or so of Scotland vying with Italy for bottom spot. All the Six Nations needs now is for Italy also to become a serious threat, and this tournament could enter a golden age of total unpredictability. But first up on Saturday, Italy were smashed again, by France. So that doesn’t seem like it’ll be happening any time soon.

Sunday morning. Day three of the India v England test match. England, having batted big, manage to get six Indian wickets. Afternoon, another six Nations, Wales beating Ireland. Soccer, with Spurs winning. Harry Kane back with Spurs and Spurs were accordingly back winning a game, which was nice. Then Man City thrashed Liverpool, and are now favourites, insofar as such a thing can exist in this anyone-can-beat-anyone season. Man City have an England guy called Foden, who everyone says is going to be really good. His goal at the end against Liverpool was quite something.

And now, late on Sunday evening and into Monday morning, it’s only the Super Bowl. Number 55, or Super Bowl LV as nobody says. Live on British TV. I’m watching the beginning of that now. Brady beating Mahomes 2-0 in touchdowns so far.

And then when that’s done, it’ll be straight back to the cricket out in India, also live on British TV. Day 4. Because the BBC is not being allowed to even commentate, let alone show video, of the cricket in India, they are pretty much ignoring it other than at their website, and are instead trying to get excited about tennis. There is apparently a big tennis tournament, going on somewhere on the planet, but I do not know or care where. All of which means that if I want to know how England are doing in that game, I have to get up and watch TV. Which I can do. Piece of piss, and of course it makes sense to combine it with that.

Which is a lot of sport. No wonder, this weekend, I have accomplished nothing. When I was middle aged, wondered if I’d still be paying attention to, and more to the point caring about, sport, when I got old. Turns out I still do. Especially the cricket and the rugby.

I hope you don’t mind the absence of links in this. My thinking is: If you care about any of these contests, you’ll already be linked into them. If you don’t care, then any link to whatever it is you don’t care about won’t add anything to your life.

Cricket lag will now be unavoidable

Oh dear. I’ve just discovered that this is happening, on Channel 4 TV:

You don’t need a jet to screw up your sleep patterns. Interesting television at 4am will do the job just as well.

I was just looking for daily highlights. Instead, I discover the whole thing.

For some reason this bit of computer graphics refused to allow Gadwin, my screen scanner, to scan it. So, I photoed it. “Rating 7”. Bloody cheek.

The game I’m now watching is this one. The very first thing I saw was Stokes getting out. Pujara nearly dropped it, but he didn’t. England now 431-4, with Root approaching his second double century in the space of three test matches.

And Root now has his two hundred, going to it with a six. 440-4. The stadium is empty, but he won’t care.

Marine v Spurs

I think, on balance, that I did want Spurs to win, but it would have been fun if they hadn’t. Biggest gap in League places in the FA Cup ever, apparently.

There was a burst of four Spurs goals in the first half, but Marine kept it to five, presumably because, the game having been won, Spurs sent on lots of children, one of whom actually scored their one second half goal.

But what fun it would have been if Marine had actually managed to score a goal. To satisfy me, they would have had to score four goals.

Deprived of such enjoyments, I had to get my fun from the geography of the ground where this game was played:

Yes, houses and their gardens, right next to the touchline, which meant that some of the TV pictures looked like this:

That’s a party in one of the gardens, watching the game through a see-through fence and revelling in the attention of the cameras.

Where is “Marine” exactly. (Another oddity is that it seems to be only football club of any significance not to have a place in its name.) It seems to be in a relatively posh place, name of Crosby, somewhere north of Liverpool. Apparently quite a few football high achievers and managers live around there. I think the ground they played this game was this.

Hitchens talks to Paxman

I fear that I may now be an I-may-be-about-to-die bore. In the sense that I can think of nothing which I am now doing or saying or even thinking which is not happening under the shadow of my recent lung cancer diagnosis. And given the subject matter of this particular posting, any pretence along such lines would be absurd. Which is why I start with that now. Which could get very boring.

Anyway, what I want to link to is this video, lasting about half an hour, in which Jeremy Paxman talks with the late and then staring his about-to-be-lateness in the face Christopher Hitchens.

Here’s a still from this video, which I think I am presenting because one of the many things I like about this conversation is how Hitchens looks. His head entirely shaven, his face serious, the very picture of a ancient stoic, looking both at death and at the kind of life he might have to suffer before death with an unflinching gaze:

Hitchens’s appearance reminds me of that of my friend and fellow Samizdatista, Paul Marks. “The Sage of Kettering”, as the Samizdata commentariat refers to Paul, looks a lot like this already, despite the fact that to the best of my knowledge Paul is only going to die in the same medically relaxed sense that we all are.

The link to this video was, of course, sent to me, by a friend who had learned of my current medical predicament and thought that I might appreciate learning about it and watching it. Which I very much did, having missed it the first time around.

The friend picked out a bit right at the end, where Hitchens says that he especially appreciated communications from strangers who had in one way or another appreciated something that he, Hitchens, had said or written or done. “If in doubt about whether to send me such a message, do not hesitate. Send it.” Or words to that effect.

He added that he regretted having failed to do this for others in similar circumstances.

I agree on both counts. I am being very cheered up right now by all the kind things that I have persuaded various people, not a few of them pseudonymous Samizdata people whose identities are otherwise unknown to me, to say to me about my own various sayings and doings over the years. And I too regret having failed to do as much of this as I could and should have, when I saw valued friends and intellectual comrades nearing their ends.

New category in the category list below: Death. Here’s hoping that at least some of the remaining postings I manage here are not thus tagged.

By the way, that could be quite a few more. Hitchens was facing the certainty of death, pretty soon, when he did this interview, and he duly died soon after it, I believe. Not long, anyway. All I can really say about my lung cancer is that it sounds pretty bad. But that might merely mean it being pretty bad for quite a while longer.

John Simpson Architects

Fake Ancient is my rather sarky description of architecture that looks like it was designed a whole lot longer ago than it really was. But at its best it can be very impressive, and this evening I channel hopped my way into a television show (episode 9 of those 10) about a certain John Simpson, who seems like he knows all about how to do this style, although I only caught the end of it. A new name to me. He shouldn’t have been, but he was.

From that, straight to the John Simpson Architects website, and immediately a rather surprising discovery. John Simpson Architects are the people who have been redesigning the Royal College of Music, which is where GodDaughter2 has for the last few years been learning about how to sing. Throughout that time, finding my way through the college to wherever she and I were meeting, or to where she was performing, was like some sort of Ancient Greek myth involving a Labyrinth, the Underworld, and frightful punishments like Eternal Damnation if you got lost.

With luck GodDaughter2 will retain her right to take me to the RCM, and enable me to see all the new reshaping that’s been going on once it’s well and truly finished. What I’ve seen of it, of what has been finished, has looked very nice, but I never thought to wonder who had designed it all.

I think this is because this traditional style, to be more polite about it, of doing architecture, and especially when it is done as well as it is being done at the RCM, doesn’t give off that sense of an individual architect, imposing his wilful whim upon everything, in a way that would have been totally different if a different architect had been let loose on the place. Traditional architecture is, in other words, the opposite of Starchitecture. That being the point of tradition. It looks roughly the same, no matter who is doing it, because “doing it” means following it. So, although I wish I had been more curious about who was doing what at the RCM, I wasn’t. It just was happening, seemingly of its own accord.

But now I do know who’s been doing the designing, and I’m very glad to have learned this.

Judging by his performances on the telly that I did catch, John Simpson still seems to have plenty of active life left in him, which is very good news. And there was me thinking that this kind of thing might be dying the death whenever Quinlan Terry dies his death.

A new Fulham stand (and a very good Spurs win)

Even as I write, they are showing a Premier League soccer game on the telly, and more to the point, at the BBC Website. Which means I can go back and watch goals without all the tedium in between, and also pause things, when instead of blokes just kicking a ball, they show something more interesting, like this:

Fulham are at home to Everton, and I can’t help suspecting that they are 1-3 down at half time because the people running the club have more pressing matters on their minds than how well their team is doing. They are building a big new stand. You can tell how seriously they are taking the job by the fact that they are prepared to have two platforms sticking out over the River, just to hold all the associated building stuff, presumably because there is nowhere else nearby to put it.

We are way out west, with Central London off to the left as we look.

With cricket and rugby, I find the routine stuff that happens during games interesting, probably because I actually spent longish periods of time when I was a kid trying to do these things myself and realising how hard they are to do right, especially passing in rugby, which the pros now expect to get right every time. But the regular moves of soccer, the kicking, the passing, the tackling, I find boring. I never bothered with this, because I was a goalie, so this never really came alive for me. The goals I like, or when the goalie stops a goal. And the more distant views as above I also like, for totally different reasons. So I really like being able to keep the visuals of a soccer game going in the background, and then when something of interest happens, to pick those moments out for myself, which you can do on the internet, but not when it’s on old school TV.

Yesterday, my team, Spurs had the sort of game they have in recent years tended to lose, or to draw disappointingly, namely a home game against a genuinely top club. For all their bizarre heroics in a recent European Cup (getting to the final), Spurs have never in recent years been any better than a best-of-the-rest team rather than a truly top team. But yesterday’s game, if they could only win it, would suggest true topness. So, yesterday, I had three very nice surprises. The first was when I learned that Spurs had gone one up, against Manchester City, no less. Second, even better, was when I later learned that they had gone two up. Then, best of all, they conceded no goals themselves towards the end when Man City were pressing to get back into it, and closed out the game. This is top team stuff. If Spurs can beat Chelsea at Chelsea next Sunday, then they really will start looking like a top team, and I might start paying them some serious attention.

Fulham 2 Everton 3, with a quarter of an hour to go. Go London Fulham, given that you are not playing against London Spurs.

I support all the London teams, unless they’re playing London Spurs. That’s right, I support Arsenal against all other comers. This enrages Real Football Fans, which is all part of why I do it. As does calling “Football” soccer, the sneer quotes because what of Rugby Football, American Football, table football, Australian Football, etc.? I’m a Londonist, see above, way before I’m a soccerist.

LATER: Here’s how they reckoned, in 2018, that this new stand would look:

From the report below that picture:

Fulham FC will redevelop its Riverside Stand to increase the capacity at its Craven Cottage stadium to 29,600. The work will also see the Thames Path opened for the first time, for pedestrians to walk from Hammersmith to Putney Bridge.

Memo to self: When they finish this, check it out.

Reflections on how an abundance of news every day has transformed American politics

This abundance, brought into being by the internet, means that you don’t have to read or listen to anything you don’t want to read or listen to. Whatever view you have of the world and what is happening in it, you can spend whatever time you have each day for such matters to confirm what you already see and think. I now think that the Democrats can only win the Presidency if they get away with their cheating. Meanwhile, Democrats think Trump is just a sore loser and a conspiracy theorist.

And I think the latest Lockdown here is a great folly.

The big change in America, brought by the Internet, is that the “mainstream media” used to be just that, but are that no longer. Before the internet, the “mainstream media” (basically the big television news shows) spoke to almost everyone but a few truly contrarian oddballs and freaks. Now, if you don’t entirely care for the point of view they give you, you can go elsewhere.

This had a knock-on effect on the mainstream media themselves. They started to acquire those inverted commas. They began not to be so mainstream. Their centre-left, what-the-government-is-doing-is-what-matters, if-you-want-something-sorted-get-the-government-to-sort-it attitude mutated towards an extreme left, put-the-government-in-charge-of-everything, capitalism-is-evil agenda. Why? Because if you thought the problem with government was that there was too much of it, you could now go elsewhere for your daily news, and commentary. You could choose, and daily have reinforced for you, any “extreme” agenda that suited you, in a way that only freaks like Marxists and libertarians of my sort used, before the Internet, to do (by writing our own news for ourselves). Now, if the “mainstream media” tried to appeal to everyone, they’d end up appealing to no-one. The smart thing for them to do was to choose the most popular “extreme” agenda and run with that. Which is what they have done, and which is why calling them “mainstream” no longer makes nearly much sense. (It sill makes some sense, because they have gone with the most popular extreme agenda. Which is still a bit mainstream, hence the survival of the expression.)

All that was needed to turn America into a profoundly different place was for a rival “extreme” agenda to arise, comparable in volume and force to the dominant extreme agenda, and, with Donald Trump arriving on the scene and proclaiming such an agenda, there you have it, America now.

And each tribe spends its entire day that it can spare telling itself how right it is about everything, and what evil nincompoops the other fellows are.

I’m part of this. I’m a Trumpist now. A Trumpist with libertarian trimmings and libertarian reservations, but a Trumpist. And I duly think that the Democrats are, on the whole and with various polite exceptions and reservations, evil nincompoops.

All of which explains why my posting here yesterday evening, about literal reflections, although it began as an attempt to change the subject away from mere politics, actually didn’t really do that. What that ended up being about was the human inclination to see what we’re looking for, rather than what merely “is” there.

See also, Scott Adams on two movies.

I’m now watching the election coverage by Newsmax TV

It’s 3 am on Wednesday morning, and yes, I am up again. Truth is, I did sleep a bit, but my actual night’s sleep has been slipping forwards, and it hasn’t actually begun yet.

Originally I was tracking this election by following the PJ Media live blog, but one of the people there said they were following Newsmax TV, and I gave that a try. I’m liking it a lot. No jokes, and constant explanations, for viewers whom they assume to be smart, but ignorant. No prior knowledge assumed. No doubt many Americans would find this insufferable. I am finding it very sufferable indeed.

The only slightly annoying thing is that there are four of them, and often they all seem to be talking at once. They need a chairman, to say: You, shut up. You: talk. Okay thanks, stop, now you. But otherwise, when they can agree who has the floor, it’s very informative.

Took me a while to work out that they are very pro-Trump. Which is exactly what I want. Pro-Trump, but not relentlessly and boringly so.

Is Newsmax TV “television”? Or is it merely stuff that’s live on YouTube? Until now, I had never heard of these people.

LATER: Well, their pro-Trumpery is actually pretty strong and obvious. And, as I’ve not yet mentioned: Trump is winning.

I’m going to bed now

I had planned to stay up all night, to see whether I get the President of the USA that (see below) I want. But, I’m tired, and it already (at 11pm UK time) looks like Trump has won. Early impressions can be wrong, goodness knows. Look what happened last time. But as of now, I’m fairly optimistic, more so than before the earliest evidence of what is happening started to emerge.

I’ll find out tomorrow. Or sooner, if all the fruit juice I’ve just been drinking gets me up in the middle of the (the as in: my) night.

Big sport day

Two IPL games have been happening, both disappointing. That being twenty-overs-plays-twenty-overs cricket, in India. Both games started out with low scores by the teams batting first, followed by relaxed and successful chases by the opposition, and neither contained any English players for me to support. I don’t care which IPL teams do well. I just want the England guys to do well. Some are doing okay, like Stokes, Buttler and Archer, who are all, if I remember it right, playing for the same team. Many are not doing so well. Roy got dropped early. Bairstow seemed to be doing okay, but also got dropped. Blah blah. If you care about the IPL, you’ll know how to follow it. If you don’t care, you don’t need any links from me. (This applies to everything in this posting. So, no links. If you care, you know. If you don’t care, you probably aren’t even reading this.)

So, the Rugby. My over-riding feeling going into today’s games, the last of the 2020 6 Nations, was that the English commentators were being insufferably smug about how well England would do against Italy and how badly Italy would do against England. Well, it’s now half time in that game, and England are up by a mere ten points to five, with each side having scored one try. England have to score four tries to probably win the title, but have kicked away all their possession, as I just saw Clive Woodward complaining about also. When will these people ever learn? This is the Six Nations. Anything can happen.

One thing in particular made me suspect that Italy might do well, which is that they have finally got shot of that guy whose name now escapes me who has been their best player for the last two decades. Sergio Parisse, is it? When a bad team has a “great player” playing for them, there is a temptation for the other guys to ease off and let him do it for them. But once he goes, all the other guys look at the team sheet and say: My God, we’re going to have to do this ourselves. And they can end up playing better. In particular, Italy have what looks to be a great fly half, who pulled off a wonderful dummy pass to score against Ireland last week. He looks really good. To say it again: It’s the 6 Nations. You, famous ex-England player, you don’t know what’ll happen. I don’t know. Nobody knows.

Oh, I just tuned back into this England game, and it would seem that England have scored another try, and need just two more to serve their purposes. Which is quite probable. Presumably they got a bollocking at half time. And yes, that’s exactly what the commentators are now saying. Italy 5 England 17, with somewhat over half and hour to go.

The France Ireland game that happens later is predicted to be a high scoring high risk affair, with both teams seeking to get four tries and a chance to win this thing themselves. So, I now predict a low-scoring stalemate, in which they cancel each other out, and win the tournament for England despite England’s worst efforts.

Why am I in such a bad mood about these games, because I definitely am? It’s partly Lockdown, and partly the fake crowd noises that happened during the earlier Wales Scotland game. Who do they think they are fooling with such nonsense? (Wales lost, by the way, not because Scotland were that good, but because they were not very good.) At least this Italy England game is being accurately reported by the television, without any added-on “atmosphere”. But, that makes it hard to take very seriously, because that means there’s no atmosphere. You need to be able to suspend your disbelief about these contests really really mattering. The seats in the stadium are all empty, and the only people you can hear shouting are the players. It looks and sounds like a training game. It needs to feel and sound like an actual life-and-death battle, but does not, at all.

It doesn’t help any that I have been suffering from persistent “lower back” problems, caused partly by having been sitting for far too long on the wrong sort of chair. I am now trying a different chair, but it’s too soon to say if this will work. This, for me, could be it from now on. If I could trade England winning the 6 Nations for getting rid of this pain in the arse, I’d do that deal in a blink.

England have try number three. They need just one more, with half an hour left. Expert prediction: Doddle. Me: Let’s just see about that, shall we? Meanwhile, England, after a very poor first half, are nevertheless 5-24 up.

In soccer news. West Ham are now leading Liverpool by a goal to nil. Will they do to Liverpool what Aston Villa did to Liverpool, and beat them 7-2? Well, probably not. Liverpool have already equalised. There’s been much discussion about why so many goals are being scored in the Premier League all of a sudden. It has been suggested that, in the absence of spectators, defenders aren’t taking their duties as seriously as they would if there were spectators present to jeer at them when they cock it up. But I would like to suggest another explanation which is that attackers are, for this same reason, a bit more relaxed, and hence better able to score goals, instead of turning into terrified blocks of wood or bodies of jelly just when they need to be at their sharpest. With no spectators to put them off, they can score goals just like they do in training.

England have just scored try number four. So, all those damn experts were right, despite everything. Boring.

Final score: Italy 5 England 34. My understanding is that if Ireland win by more than seven, or if France win by a lot, either of them could win it. But honestly, I find that I don’t care enough to check if that’s right. I’ll just wait to be told.

Result: Liverpool 2 West Ham 1. Boring boring.

Maybe I built all this up too much beforehand, only to discover on the day that I had become an adult. Maybe that’s my problem. It seems unlikely, but I suppose it could be that.

Apparently Ireland have to win by seven or more, and score at least four tries. So England are now hot favourites for the Six Nations 2020. Hoo ray.

LATER: Biggest laugh of the day. They got it wrong, and I got it right the first time! Ireland just have to win by seven or more. No four tries. Just win by a bit. France have to win by a mile, so, go France. But don’t go too well.

EVEN LATER: Well France obliged, by winning, but not by enough. England are champions. It didn’t feel like anyone was, really. The way France took their tries against Ireland was what I’ll remember from today.