By Stewart Weir
Because of the way their season is structured, January in many ways belongs to the NFL.
En route to deciding their biggest prize, currently we’re in the midst of the play-offs: sudden-death for those who fail, or upwards and onwards to an even bigger challenge – or bigger challengers – next week.
Sport relies on timing, whether a fraction of a second over 100 metres, or a day here or there in a test match. But few sports are played out with one eye on the clock quite like gridiron.
Saturday saw the San Francisco 49ers do battle with New Orleans Saints, complete with passing legend Drew Brees. In the closing minutes both teams looked to have won it, or lost it, depending where you were seated.
To say the end was dramatic is probably the understatement of this season. So judge for yourself – and keep an eye on the clock.
Dutch qualifier Christian Kist beats Tony O’Shea to win the BDO World Championship at Lakeside, or Frimley Green for the more geographically astute.
There were hearts in mouths for this one, not because players missed their doubles, but because the satellite signal dropped off for the start of the match.
However, normal service was resumed with Kist holding his nerve to take the title. It remains to be seen whether he will be back next year to defend it.
Some of his contemporaries are ready to jump ship and head for the PDC, with Ted Hankey and Dean Winstanley heading the 160 entries for the 2012 PDC Pro Tour qualifying school which offers any darts player the chance to win a tour card to compete on the PDC’s £5m circuit.
In recent times, the PDC has needed the BDO as a feeder to their series. But the more qualifying schools Barry Hearn stages, the more the BDO’s importance or significance will be eroded.
There is no doubt the standard and depth of talent within the PDC is much greater. But year-on-year I still watch the BDO championship.
The original, though not necessarily the best …
Opening day of the Australian Open. Six Britons in action, but soon there would be just one. James Ward exited the men’s singles, leaving Andy Murray to face the world on his own, while Elena Baltacha, Heather Watson, Laura Robson and Anne Keothavong all tumbled out the women’s event.
Surely the time has come for us Brits to ask if we can have a wee corner of the draw whereby we can play amongst ourselves, so guaranteeing at least one of the lassies would get to the third round?
Just an idea …
Muhammad Ali turns 70 today. Newspapers, TV and the interweb are filled by flowing, glowing tributes, kind words, his own famous quotes and vintage footage.
Ali’s landmark birthday got me thinking again about those classic contests he had at his peak, especially against Joe Frazier and George Foreman.
For those who were around at the time, the “Rumble in the Jungle” and the “Thriller in Manilla” dominated life, never mind sport.
It’s difficult for many to comprehend just what the heavyweight world championship meant then, or just how colossal Ali was. I’d say confidently that in the early to mid-70s there wasn’t a more famous man on the planet – or certainly not one who could write poetry, play it for laughs and punch like he could, occasionally all at the same time
There was a time when everyone and anyone could turn up for the Olympics, especially if you were paying for it. But those days are long gone, with qualification now required in many instances to reach the greatest show on earth, or at least the biggest sporting event in London this August.
One group which won’t be getting measured for blazers is Britain’s rhythmic gymnastics team – they missed the required qualifying mark.
Sadly, the concerns of Great Britain’s senior rhythmic gymnastics group coach Sarah Binding – voiced in October last year – sadly proved accurate.
Team GB fell 0.273 marks short of the 45.223 target set by their governing body. An appeal to raise that score was refused.
Everything looked on course for the team, coached and assisted in their artistic content by none other than Torvill and Dean, until they messed up in the hoop and ribbon routines.
I’m not an expert in rhythmic gymnastics, but keeping one of those hoops spinning around your hips is a bugger.
And I cannot imagine how hard it was to gift-wrap a present with a ribbon while doing a cartwheel. But others managed it, because they’ll be back in London for the Games.
Referees are constantly scrutinised, their every call monitored, dissected, studied and commented upon. Of course, many of them bring it upon themselves.
But few could have made as blatant a cock-up as ref Jan Verhaas. No, we’re not talking football here. This is snooker.
Historically, there have been some major boo-boos by the men in the white gloves who have deserved a visit from men in white coats.
John Williams mistakenly lifted the cue ball off the table and respotted it on the blue spot. In the 1994 UK final, John Street respotted the black ball on a chalk mark, a few inches from its usual home – not that Stephen Hendry noticed either.
And Len Ganley once replaced the balls so that a player had a direct shot on a ball he’d previously been snookered on. So mistakes do happen.
However, at the Masters in London, in trying to get things right, not that they were wrong to begin with, Verhaas got it monumentally wrong – and with disastrous concequencies for one spectator in this arithmetic debacle, namely former world champion Graeme Dott.
Watch for yourself here and listen to John Parrott’s prophetic words
I remember on his arrival, some broadcaster waffling on that this was no more than the “plugging of a large gap”, and a “short-term fix” to see Rangers through a crisis.
Paul Le Guen had become Paul Le Gone, Walter Smith had been brought in to stop the ship sinking when it needed a crew.
Mixing the services if not metaphors, Smith called up a Dad’s Army reservist, David Weir, into frontline action.
Had Weir arrived at Ibrox ten years earlier, even then there might have been some quizzical looks. But at 37 years old, surely the wise radio voice had got it right. “Short-term fix”?
Today, David Weir bids farewell to Rangers, with a haul of medals and memories from his four “short-term” years.
Had injury not beset him before the league stuff had started, he might still have been filling his customary place in central defence. Unfortunately, he’s had to make way for younger, fitter men. But he will depart Ibrox with the blessing of every fan, for Weir did his bit – and a bit more – for Rangers.
While his longevity, and no shortage of ability, will probably rank higher with others, for me, it was the integrity and standing he brought back to the role of Rangers captain – which he took over in April 2009 – which sets him above others who have been rewarded with that accolade based good attendance and popularity.
In the 140-year history of Rangers, few have earned legendary status in just four years at the club.
Fewer still, however, are remembered as great Rangers captains, something Davie Weir will always be for a great many …
– Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz