Suicide Is NOT Painless

Many of today’s generation will think the title of this post inappropriate, uncaring, insensitive or any variations on this theme but in fact it paraphrases a song from generations ago (the seventies), “Suicide Is Painless”. It may be heard nowadays as the the theme for the oft-rerun TV series, M.A.S.H..

This an article written by Doug Golightly, Radio and TV sports journalist, and I reproduce it here in the hope that it will help get the message out- suicide is not a matter to be joked about, nor treated flippantly. I agree with what Golightly says here, and I hope you do, too.

“No doubt there will be plenty of New Year’s resolutions, goals and objectives set as we look forward to 2014. I’d like to think we’ll start to take New Zealand’s suicide epidemic seriously.
In the year to June around 540 people had taken their own lives and, sadly, the statistics suggest the figures will be around that number again.
I’m often asked “But what can we do?” As a bloke where sport has been an integral part of my life I’d like to think that references to suicide made in a sporting context will be, and can be, given the red card. It happened the other day during the Ashes test when Shane Warne commented that a run-out had been “suicidal”. Not quite Shane but it’s sickening how often the term is used in this context.
At the Rugby Awards last month referee of the year Chris Pollock flippantly said that Ireland coach Joe Schmidt looked as though he’d “hang himself” after the last minute win by the All Blacks in Dublin. It showed a lack of understanding, compassion and common-sense but the throwaway comment illustrates how this issue is, by and large, taken for granted here.
So when you hear anyone say something similar then pull them up on it.
Ask them why they used the term and whether it’s appropriate?
If you hear it on radio or TV then note it on FB, Twitter or some other social media platform.
Same goes for the term “political suicide” to describe some indiscretion or stuff-up made by one of our many politicians.
It’s not appropriate or relevant.
I would like to think my colleagues in the media would take a stand on this. We have to make a difference.

Happy New Year to you. Enjoy 2014.”

Thanks, Doug Golightly.

100 Years On

I received an email from a mate of mine yesterday (although it was not new- several friends had sent this to me in the past, but, as they say- that’s another story.) I may be a bit of a chauvinist but I suspect this was originally created by a person of the fairer and, (they would have us believe,) the cleverer sex but whether that is the case or not is somewhat beside the point. I laughed at it when I first saw it, and the next time, and the next time and the next time, and I cracked a bit of a grin this time, too. I must confess I have not tried to verify the dates but again this is a bit beside the point too.

“An interesting but little known fact-The first testicular guard (commonly called a ‘box’) was introduced into cricket in 1874.The first battling helmet was introduced into cricket in 1974.The lesson here is that it took 100 years for men to realise that their brains may ALSO be important!

What I would like to say this time is that rather than this proving it took men 100 years to work out their brains were also important, I think it might simply prove it took that long for fast bowlers to work out how to make the ball bounce higher than a batsman’s nuts!

They can bowl fast but that’s about where the quickness ends!!!

Costs Of Recreation

This today started me thinking a wee bit about costs of recreational activities and it would seem that, more and more, you have to, on the one hand limit the extent of organised ‘things you do’ in your free time, or get a part-time job to pay for the costs of organised ‘things you do’ in your spare time. Of course it is always going to involve costs of one kind or another- for equipment needed to participate (and it seems the higher the expertise the higher the costs of equipment because ‘second best won’t do’?) for club affiliation costs if you belong to a club, for hire of facilities if you aren’t just able to go to a track or a river (etcetera) and ‘do your thing’, and simply for the associated costs of getting yourself to wherever it is you need to be to ‘do your thing’.

More and more people are bemoaning the increasing costs and it is not uncommon to hear that someone is giving up a sport because they can’t afford to continue. This Has particularly been the case when subscription increases are considered at my local golf club. Of course there are always extenuating circumstances that impact on people- age and income, family status (young children about, and I agree completely that the first priority is the family and not the weekend “good walk spoiled” [as Mark Twain is reputed to have described golf]), or prioritising pass-times because I ‘can’t afford both’.

What I attempted to do at the last annual meeting of my club, the Greymouth Golf Club, when a 5% subs increase was moved and a number of negative comments followed was to try to get people to realise (a) how unrealsitic it was to expect subs to stay the same, year in and year out and (b) what a very good deal they get .

Of course it’s easy to talk about ‘cost of living increases’, the CPI, and other such,  but then to see people shrug their shoulders and suggest it’s unreasonable at ‘our golf course’ is unrealistic. Before this discussion the annual financial reports were presented and one of the major items is always depreciation- we have assets and equipment that wear out and need replacement so to prepare ourselves for those replacement costs we should be saving a certain percentage of our income every year- depreciation. We have equipment, especially course presentation equipment that requires regular maintenance. We have staff who need to be paid, and their salaries must keep pace with other sector salary increases. So it is clear that increases are inevitable.

The argument of our membership being a great ‘deal’ is easy. Our course is always in very good condition and is presented to a standard comparable with all but the ‘resort’ courses around the country (although it can be argued that the greens are slower than they might be- hardly a reason for sinking subs!) There is seldom, if ever any problem with getting on the course given our membership is small (around 200 in all, and it is usual that only about a quarter of htese play on ‘club days’.) As well as a very pleasant golf course, membership also allows free access to a number of other golf courses around the country- in the North Island we have ‘sister’ status with Patea and Dannevirke clubs, while in Canterbury our sister clubs are Weedons, McLeans Island and Waimak Gorge, 3 very accessible and well-presented courses freely available for any Greymouth members. Finally, membership of Greymouth Golf Club entitles access to all other Buller/Westland courses, seven in number. A ‘great deal’ indeed.

So while there are always valid arguments about increases it is my belief that if a responsible club management keeps membership increases reasonable and obviously justified the members need to suck it up and if the desire is there to play the sport, the means can be found to fund participation.

Incidentally our members are able to pay their subs by regular direct-debit so for a weekly commitment of around $10 they can play as many games as they wish at Greymouth, play as often as they wish elsewhere on ‘The Coast’ and walk onto 5 other courses if they are ‘out and about’.

Incidentally, if you wish to become a member of Greymouth Golf Club we would love to welcome you.

US Golf Non-Coverage

I am a bit of a golfer (but there will be no conversation about exactly what bit I might be, thank you very much!) and do enjoy watching the fantastic play that the various pro tours put on display week after week. These golfers perform at a way different level and in a different world from we recreational golfers and their skill levels are only to be marveled at.

Danny Lee is New Zealand's newest and currently greatest hope on the USPGA Tour. Good luck, Danny.

Yes, the conditions they  play under are as near to perfect as they can be, yes, they have the best equipment available and yes, they have have a caddy (often a very accomplished golfer in their own right) to ease their burden and to provide them with the very best data and advice to aid in decisions about any particular shot, BUT to maintain the standards they do day after day and week after week is real testament to their commitment, ability and athleticism. They are GREAT!

Watching the ‘Humana Challenge’ (I think used to be the ‘Bob Hope Classic‘) from LaQuinta in California on TV this morning I was struck by the dis-service the coverage of golf in the US does to these great golfers. You might think my use of ‘dis-service’ to be unreasonable but perhaps this will help me justify that. I decided to take note of how much live golf is actually shown so I kept a tally sheet for exactly 15 minutes. This is what I discovered-

IN THAT 15 MINUTE PERIOD I SAW 6 LIVE STROKES – (Tee-shots, fairway shots, shots from rough or hazard)
IN THAT 15 MINUTE PERIOD I SAW 8 LIVE PUTTS

Some might think that 14 separate bits of live action isn’t all that bad, but if you consider that the average time spent showing a stroke ranges from 5 to 8 seconds (less for a putt, perhaps more for a stroke down the fairway) that gives a total live coverage of just 1min20secs or so! LESS THAN 10%!! That’s a joke!

The remainder of the time is not taken up with adverts, as you might imagine, rather it was to do with descriptions of the courses being played (we can probably work that out watching the play), leader-boards (but seldom showing more than the top 20!), trumpet-blowing of sponsors or administrators, history (flash-backs) and unrelated ‘journalism’ (what a notable did on their holidays, what this personality or that thinks of this or that), and so-on. Oh! and that interminable Fedex Cup stuff.

As this morning’s coverage unfolded they also showed segment’s of an interview with ex-president Bill Clinton, repeated vignettes of a notable in the field- for this tournament it seems to be Phil Mickleson (it doesn’t matter that the chosen notable isn’t one of the leading performers, you get to see stats, profiles and ‘oh what a good boy am I’ quotes, etc..)

What a breath of fresh-air the European Tour events are to watch. Admittedly the USPGA  tour is the richest and no small amount of this is due to the level of sponsorship, but you don’t get to be a euro-millionaire playing for peanuts. The European tour events still carry (increasingly) good purses yet they are able to be presented on television as largely non-stop live golf (still of a quality just as good as the USPGA). If I had a choice I would be watching the McIlroys, Donalds, Poulters, Himinezes, Garcias and their European buddies rather than the Woodses, Micklesons, Furicks, Villegases, Watsons and theirs. Pity the opportunity doesn’t exist until the odd WGC event or The Open Championship– maybe Sky could do me a favour and broadcast more live European golf and I can utilise the dinky wee black box with the sexy blue eye!!

Oh! Did I mention the blardy awful background music they use when away from live coverage (and as they are away from live coverage on a regular basis it isn’t something you can really ignore!)

A wee post-script. I am NOT one of those golf-geeks who sidle into shot behind an on-air interview with a player, stand around looking like an absolute dork and (I bet) in their own mind by association project themselves into the pro’s world. I think the TV company should choose ‘sets’ to do post-round interviews that don’t include such gormless looking wannabes.

A wee post-post script. I said “this morning” but the sad thing is that this is going to apply tomorrow morning, the next morning, and every other morning USPGA coverage is on! Annoy-making.

A final post-post-post script. To check the accuracy of my data I did the same exercise this morning. Over another timed 15min period I saw 8 live shots down the fairway and 8 live putts.

Promote The Game

The IRB (International Rugby Board) will be rubbing their hands together contemplating the enormous income that’s they will receive from the 2011 Rugby World Cup tournament currently under way in New Zealand. (At the same time the NZRFU [New Zealand Rugby Football Union] will be gnashing their teeth over the lack of income they will receive from the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Who’s fault is that? Surely it can only be the NZRFU’s!)

The IRB will be celebrating with the rugby watching public of New Zealand and The World over the fun results, the performance of most of the ‘minnows’ and, in general the quality of footy on display. The NZRFU will also be patting themselves on the back with the way the tournament is running- satisfactory crowds ALL of whom are well-behaved and having fun.

The IRB may not be quite so chirpy about the hiccups that have occurred that have taken a bit of the gloss off what should be a glowing show- heavy-handed bullying of local businesses who have (apparently) innocently infringed the rules of sponsorship, players’ after-hour revelries that should be a no-no, naughty tweeters who have been told not to but who think they’re above the restrictions, on-field cheating that is punished by wet bus-ticket slapping, and over the top punishments handed out to a couple of players who carry almost invisible non-official sponsorship on their mouth-guards ($10,000 fine each!!). Of course the IRB will have little problem in taking a ‘hands out’ position over these tournament problems by laying responsibility for dealing with such trivialities up to the NZRFU/Rugby World Cup Inc..

The IRB will probably be snorting at the fracas that have been caused by, at best the shortcomings, or at worst the displays of incompetence by some the referees controlling the games but will again shuffle responsibility for these issues sideways into the court of the International Referees Board.

So at the end of the day/tournament the International Rugby Board, over a few convivial drinks (Heineken?…or perhaps Dom Perignon) will congratulate themselves on another job well done, and move on to reviewing the laws to make sure they cater for the stodgey game played by some of the more influential/wealthy Northern Hemisphere countries (although, to their credit, some of the ‘smaller’ nations did stoop to quite a attractive running/passing game on occasions!) or restrict the mobility of most of the southern hemisphere nations, and to work towards commercial contracts that are more to do with television scheduling and sponsors’ imperatives than they are to do with benefiting The Game.

I have always suffered under the impression (now obviously illusion) that sports administration is there to nurture, foster and promote the game (netball, rugby, athletics, soccer, etc.) It is now my belief that various sports are very poorly served by their collective administrations. This can hold true at the very basest level with clubs becoming more and more susceptible to the whims of the few who are prepared to put in the time but becomes more obvious when at a provincial or national level, then reaching a self-serving rock-bottom with international bodies such as IRB (or ICC, IOC, FIFA, and others.) These closed and apparently self-serving societies have had the sight of their prime imperative clouded by the influence of the mighty $$$. Professionalism has done little for the various sports than made them a trade that now generations of sportsmen and women have been able to make a healthy living from. Neither have the lesser nations gained from the advent of the professional game even though individual players from these countries have travelled to take up contracts in foreign lands. This doesn’t grow the game to the extent that I believe the international administration has a responsibility to do. I can cite the New Zealand national rugby team as an example. It is one of the most visible rugby teams in the world, and is even recognised by many who have little or no interest in the game. The All Blacks are a team that could be a boon to the growth of the game if only they were used as wider-ranging ambassadors. The World Olympic Champions in rugby are the United States but to my knowledge the All Blacks have never played a test in the States and neither have the All Blacks toured there. They have a following, especially among the universities of the Western US and with the success of The Eagles, the US rugby team in tournaments such as the World Cup and the ‘Sevens’ there is a ready market for the game to grow. All that would be required would be for the contact-sport loving spectator-dominated US public to see the stars of International Rugby teams performing live.

The same applies in many other nations of the world where rugby is played as a much more minor sport in soccer dominated countries, Central and Middle European the most obvious but also Asian and the once ‘Iron Curtain’ states. My Club Captain from WAY back went to Europe and Russia on business on a regular basis and he once told us, in the early 70s that when he was in Moscow he was told there were as many club rugby players in that city as there were in New Zealand. You would expect a country with such a player resource would be fairly active on the international scene, but this is certainly not the case. This is another country that has never seen the All Blacks. The All Black international involvement has been pretty much confined to IRB countries (no, not all countries are represented on this august body!) If we went through the list of participants at this year’s Rugby World Cup I am sure that the countries who have had tours by the All Blacks or who have played full Test Matches against them (outside the Rugby World Cup tournament) would be significantly less than those who deserve to have. I have singled out the All Blacks, but to varying degrees the same holds true for all of the other Test-Playing Nations of the IRB. And so I say the IRB are not fulfilling their role in promoting and growing the game world-wide. They should!!

Something that could help some of these underprivileged rugby nations is for the IRB to be convinced to extend their membership to include representatives from those countries on their Council. If you believe they should do this, you can put your name to an on-line petition that calls for Samoa, Tonga and Fiji to have a seat at the Council table as of right. Perhaps then these nations, and others who have largely been ignored by the IRB and the BIG BOYS of international rugby can get a fairer deal and the game can grow in those countries and not just by exporting their players to points around the globe, away from home, family and hardly benefiting the game ‘back in the homeland’.

Pink Ribbon

Blue awareness ribbon for prostate cancer.

One of my pet grypes at the present is seeing NRL teams, USPGA players, and various other sportsmen repeatedly wearing pink ribbons or pink items of clothing “to raise awareness” of breast cancer, yet seldom do I see sportswomen attired in such a way. I support the concept of awareness campaigns, I recognise the danger of breast cancer (in women and men), but I think that if sports organisers and teams are going to promote such awareness campaigns, they should give due recognition to other common illnesses, and the least that should be done is to highlight health issues for both genders.

Violet awareness ribbon for testicular cancer.