Sunday, May 31, 2009

This is just too weird

Nadal lost.

What

the

hell?

Apparently the bookies say it's the biggest upset of the decade. Only one person bet on Soderling, at 100:1. Madness.

Of course Federer is the big favorite now, but a final against Murray actually makes me feel a bit sick. Nadal not winning and someone like Murray or Roddick winning instead of Federer; the world will truly have gone mad...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

wow

61-17!? I suppose I shoulda seen that coming. A lot of teams don't seem to be able to handle Loftus.

And Djokovic lost! Federer downplays this but it's a big deal. Before the tournament he was basically the only player with a even a chance against Nadal, but in Federer's side of the draw he was a nuicance. I blogged about Philipp Kohlschreiber last year. People seem surprised, and it's true that he wont go far from here, but he can play some of the best tennis you'll see.

I can't resist pointing out that for over five years now Federer has been imune from this kind of defeat. People should make a bigger deal of this.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Relax!

The way the English media reports on sport usually annoys me intensely.

I won't deny enjoying the hysterical tone in reporting Manchester United's loss last night. The fact that it's a guilty pleasure doesn't bother me.

But seriously! Come On! United are still incredibly good and have done incredibly well. Barcelona are a brilliant side and had a good night. United are a brilliant side and had a bad night.

It's fun, but it's ridiculous.

They went

Good for them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Go Barcelona

I just remember that for a short while I had a really nice silver Barcelona replica shirt. They hardly use the strip, but it was cool, and it got stolen.

Pity I can't wear it tonight.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

sporting purity

I've blogged much about sport; about why Federer rocks etc. I argued that in a sense it is the very fact that Nadal is more admirable that makes Federer's play a better example of why we should care about sport at all.

Another way of thinking about it is this. In Federer's story, guts, mental strength, "finding a way to win" blah blah plays a relatively smaller role in his success than many other sporting greats.

He was exploiting the gaps between what was literally possible and what "what one does to get better", the things like training harder, eating better, seeing a psychologist etc. These things make people better at tennis, but also just about every other sport. Every sport demands the mental strength not to choke. What made Federer different were the things that are not replicable and enabled his success in tennis.

Good serving, forehands, backhands etc are components of good tennis, but those gaps between the possible and the replicable are the very essence of what tennis actually is.

What people like Federer do is the essence of sport.

The German Soccer Team approach to sport is not only boring, it is an existential threat to the point of the whole enterprise.

Random thought

I hate to brag, but I'm sometimes impressed by how random and pointless these thoughts can be. Which is no doubt one of my vain attempts at signalling.

Anyway, I have thought in the past that it's crazy that American supreme court judges are appointed for life. These people sometimes go on till crazy old age after having been living in extremely unusual circumstances for decades. These people are exceptional of course, but it still seems crazy to me.

What struck me today though on hearing the news of the new appointment is that not having term limits gives them quite a lot of control over the future composition of the supreme court. Call me cynical, but I doubt that this guy retiring a couple of months after Obama's inauguration is a coincidence. And guess what, Obama appoints a liberal judge, because he's a liberal.

She could be there for 40 years, guiding us through the singularity.

(note, this is nothing against her. I'm sure she's a fine person.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

The biggest anti-climax in sport?

Months after the Australian Open and a year after the last French Open it's finally here!

Isn't it exciting to see that Federer's playing Albert Martin! And he won too! Woo. Nadal beat Marco Daniel. Amazing!

It's good that so many people play in these tournaments though. It's what reminds us how good the top players are. Tennis is just about the most ruthlessly meritocratic sport there is. The fact that top players disappear so quickly is another reminder of that.

Basically I have one competitive match to look forward to. Federer v Djokovic. Which is also pretty much Federer's death sentence. But getting to the semis will be good and the final would be excellent. No chance against Nadal though. Funny how you don't get the feeling that Nadal will be injured. He has lot of injury problems, but I'm not gonna hold my breath.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Seriously?

Ugh. In the "great" Sampras vs. Agassi rivalry I always rooted for Sampras for reasons that now escape me. It's not that I wish he'd won more so that Sampras would have been overtaken by Federer already, Agassi seems cooler and was a more interesting player to watch.

I feel partially vindicated by this stupid comment Agassi made about Nadal winning the grand slam this year

This is the first time in a long time we're going to have the opportunity for somebody to pull it off...

I didn't think I'd ever see it, just because it seems impossible.

It's true that for most of the 80's and all of the 90's there were no players who could plausibly have won the grand slam. But you see, Federer has twice come within two sets of winning four straight slams. The first time he won the first set 6-1 against Nadal so must have been at better than 50% of doing the deed. Or maybe 2007 is a long time ago in Agassi's book.

Yes, 4 straight isn't a proper grand slam, but each of those times he went on to win both Wimbledon and the US Open, which isn't exactly out of character for him since he won each of them 5 times in a row.

That's not to say Nadal wont win all four this year, I think he has a great chance (I compute it at around 10%). But it is to say that it was a really dumb thing for Agassi to say.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Finally!

A blogger has noticed that Barry Weingast's book Violence and Social Orders is out. I don't expect it to start a trend though, cos Arnold Kling was talking about their (North and Wallis too) work for a while now.

The lack of interest disturbs me because I actually ordered a copy and with pay a Vast sum for it when it finally arrives.

It'll do my efforts at pretentious signalling a power of good but why don't people like it?? One of the authors is a Nobel prize winner! I like it (well the paper it's based on)! But nooo, everyone loves Paul Collier. I simply don't understand it.

Yay Federer!

I intended to write a short post before I read any of the reports moaning about all the people wanting to put an asterisk next to this result. Turns out I was wrong, everyone has been pretty gracious. Pointing out that Nadal was tired and below par is fine, pretending that this isn't something that just happens, especially when you're on sucha great streak, is not.

The other time Federer beat Nadal on clay people saw it as sign that Federer could win the French, nobody really thinks that now, and that's also right.

Federer's record against Nadal on clay is now 2-9, which is bad, but only he and Gaston Gaudio (the last time Gaudio won was just as Nadal got good and Gaudio is a past French Open winner) have beaten Nadal more than once on clay. Federer accounts for 40% of all Nadal's defeats on clay since he got good at 17 and he's the only person to beat Nadal in a final on clay, which he's done twice. He also had two match points in a five set clay court match.

Point being that Federer is pretty good on clay.

And Nadal is very good on clay.

Added: The Telegraph wants an asterisk. That's it, I'm cancelling my subscription.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Great sports writing

I take sport ever so seriously. I maintain that its ultimate justification is similar to art. It's about human excellence and creativity. Sure, most people don't see it like that. Sport is also about US versus THEM, about group identity and loyalty.

Sports writing is usually unsatisfying, but this blog about soccer is great. This is just a fantastic (but very long) post. You should read it, but I'm blogging it because of this bit
A great player in the NFL—even someone like Barry Sanders, who regularly did things I've never seen another human being even try—is essentially great because he performs his specific function better than anyone else and gives his team a better chance to win. A great soccer player—Zidane, say—is great because, in addition to that accomplishment, he lifts a new understanding out of the flow of play and says "football can be like this."
I've toyed with a post along these lines for ages. Much of sport, or most art of human activity falls into the category of stuff that may be difficult, but we kinda know how to do. With sport, generally you can become really good by training more, getting fitter, stronger, faster more accurate. This is difficult of course, but knowable from a comfy armchair.

But that's not what's really important. What matters is when someone does something, sees something that you never would have guessed or seen yourself. It matters that it works, that it helps to achieve the goal of the game. But there is kind of a moral element to this, the creativity must be directed towards winning, but winning cannot be the only objective. There's so much room for winning stuff that falls outside of the actual sport itself. You can be thuggish, constantly push the boundaries of the rules, intimidate the referees etc. In an imperfect world there's no way to guarantee that the cynical players or teams don't succeed.

Even within the spirit of the game, there's reason to support the smaller, slower team or player, because if they are to win they will need to do more to explore that non-obvious territory that can't be discovered by relentless training. It's a difficult balancing act, winning is not dispensable, but can't be the only thing.

Maybe you've seen one of the places I've been going with this. These are the reasons why it's Federer and not Nadal who makes tennis worthwhile, something more than my guy beating your guy. Other than deliberately annoying opponents with delays, Nadal is probably the more admirable player, but his superiority over Federer is mostly "outside" tennis itself. He's faster, more disciplined, physically and mentally stronger and he seems more determined. Most of the things he's actually has control over. Federer, despite his frailties, has the ability to transcend the brute mechanics of the game. At his best, it doesn't matter if his opponent has done everything right his entire life. There is a gap between perfectly drilled serve, forehand and backhand, between textbook tennis and what can be done by a creative genius. Nadal is much more than ruthless efficiency, but he's not Federer.

new rule suggestion

Expert that I am on all things, I enjoy thinking about rule changes that would improve various sports. I can't remember which changes I've thrilled readers of this blog with in the past, maybe I'll compile them all into a future post, but today I'll improve one day cricket.

Get rid of restrictions on how many overs any bowler can bowl!!

I've listened to my share of cricket commentary and its not like shy about talking cricketing trivia (nor should they be), but I've never heard the rational behind these restrictions. I'll speculate wildly and suggest that they were trying to maintain the basic cricketing status quo. Trying to keep the same number of bowlers and batsmen per team in both forms of the game.

Status quo is a powerful lure, but this still should not have been allowed. Why not have a rule requiring batsmen to retire if they score a fifty too fast?

I imagine that people would defend the rule on the grounds that people like to see high scoring games. This does seem to govern other rules (fielding restrictions etc). I don't think this is a good enough reason for the rule, but even if I did, one of effects of having better bowlers bowling more would be that more batsmen would be selected for each team, resulting in better batting.

Maybe fewer runs would still be scored, but looked at in the way that surely matters, the result would be better bowlers bowling at better batsmen. Perhaps I'm missing something, but how would that not be a good thing?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

This one's new to me

It's the first suggestion from Youtube's search function and it's great.

Eddie Izzard

I heard this clip when I was still in Smuts. Ah, the wonders of Youtube.

ugh

What the hell is the matter with Federer?