What’s your favourite hobby sport?

Yesterday afternoon I took in my first live Australian Rules game and watched Brisbane Lions play Melbourne at the MCG. Melbourne unexpectedly edged the match and won by a single point – 14.9.93 to 13.14.92. The scoring soon made sense: 6 points for a ‘goal’ (the first number) and 1 point for a ‘behind’ (either side of the goals) which are added together for the actual scoreline (the last number).

I had an introduction to AFL last week courtesy of my cousins partners seven-year-old son who had to give a talk to his class on his favourite things and used me to practice his presentation, so I wasn’t completely at a loss as to what was going on. I was confused for a while about the guys in HiViz outfits running around the pitch, seemingly at random. I knew they weren’t officials, water carriers or medical staff. I asked a friend who told me that they were ‘runners’ and ferrying messages from the coach to the players.

It wasn’t the most free-flowing of games but I enjoyed my afternoon. Like a rugby match, integrated seating and being able to have a beer during the game helped the atmosphere. Attendance was over 23,000 but the ground felt bizarrely deserted as the MCG has a capacity of 100,000 or over four times the crowd on the day.

After the match we jumped on to a tram down to St. Kilda – made famous a few years ago in the TV series The Secret Life of Us. We headed home after some people watching, a nice dinner and lots of slobbering as we passed by the multitude of cake shops.

Not so Grand National

“I’ve made some mistakes with my selection of rides before.”
– Tony McCoy

The main reason why things have been quiet of late on my blog of late has been researching the big horse race that took place today.

Over the past several years I’ve taken several hundred pounds from the bookies on the Grand National. Before today, the only time that I’ve failed to get a substantial return this decade was the year I actually went to the race. The appealing triad of Tony McCoy, Jonjo O’Neil and JP McManus involved with a previous Irish National winner (Butler’s Cabin) called to me like the Sirens. All was looking good until eight fences from home when my main gamble fell.

Thankfully, I had a back-up bet with an each way bet on Snowy Morning.

Net result this year? A loss of 50 pence.

Somehow life will go on.

Tough decisions: gym or TV?

I very nearly went to the gym this evening but I’m still counting this weekend as constituting part of my birthday so I decided to stay in with a glass of wine instead. I’m glad I did as I had completely forgotten about the new eight-week season of Ski Sunday that started on BBC 2.

The days of David Vine commentating are long gone but I feel that the Winter sports magazine has been overlooked and underfunded in the past several years. Pitifully short runs or ratings killing early broadcasts have almost been the death of the show so I was glad to see a new look with elements from Top Gear and some Michael Palin travel escapade thrown in for good measure and actually shown in a prime time slot. I was also much relieved to find out that Sam Fonteyn’s anthemic theme tune Pop Looks Bach has survived the refresh.

As for the racing, what better way to kick things off than with the Kitzbühel downhill? A horrific crash to American Scott Macartney left me hoping that this year wouldn’t be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Thankfully he’ll be okay despite some bruising to the brain. For some light relief, Bode Miller’s outrageous riding of the safety netting was the most thing jaw-dropping thing I’ve seen on the Hahnenkamm since Kristian Ghedina’s spread eagle at 135 km/h off the final jump a few years ago.

The Gambler

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.”
Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

This is the song that is being played by the England Rugby team before their World Cup games for inspiration. Appropriate really seeing as though they were quoted at 150-1 to retain their title before the tournament kicked off and after a 36-0 mauling at the hands of South Africa those odds looked to be about right.

I don’t bet often, usually limiting myself to a “flutter on the Grand National” once a year and it has to be said that I don’t do too bad. The only time that I’ve not walked away with at least £150 from the bookies was the year that I actually went to the race.

Now I’d like to think that a bit of patriotism would have won over my head if I saw the odds against England becoming the first team to defend the Rugby World Cup trophy. I may have stuck a couple of pounds at most on them each way. I certainly wouldn’t stick more than that on a horse at those odds. Still, hindsight is always 20-20 and I guess that’s why it’s called gambling.

Besides, I’ve had this feeling throughout the tournament that South Africa were going to be World champions. I hope I’m wrong. If not and I have predicted the score correctly then at least I’ll get free hair cuts for a year from my South African hair dresser!

Urban Downhill

I spent the afternoon watching the Hearts vs. Falkirk match on Saturday (while nervously keeping an eye on the Australia vs. England Rugby World Cup quarter-final — third victory from three matches I think, which means we get to keep them or something).

After a couple of pints debating the offside decisions which led to the late surge from Falkirk, I made my way down to the Grassmarket to meet some friends and catch the Edinburgh urban downhill night finals which were a part of the 2007 Fat Face Night Series. Judging by the turnout I wouldn’t be surprised if this was repeated again next year.

I was amazed by just how quickly the top guys were flying down the course. It was very exciting to watch but I think only because of the great view we had. We were so close you could feel the breeze from the riders passing by you. It could have been a bit tricky to catch anything than the occasional blur if you were elsewhere. Head on over to Flickr or check out my friend’s shots for some photos.