Happy days: NZ’s summer of great content
Steve Deane's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column revels in the glow of our nation's sporting success.
If winning is grinning, then smiles are littering the Kiwi sporting landscape like little piles of joy deposited by freedom campers.
Some appear a little premature.
Prompted by the misery of others, some are just a touch cynical.
There’s also a handy quotient of bemused grins, and some outright snarky smirks.
But at least we’re happy.
Top of the list of things bringing joy to all just now is the unshakeably-cheerful Joseph Parker’s looming fight against Anthony “The Big Glass Robot/King of Dubai” Joshua.
Still 67 days away, the pre-fight shenanigans are already producing guffaws on a scale commensurate with what will be a blockbuster heavyweight title unification fight.
The New Zealand Herald produced a wonderful early rib tickler think piece arguing that, because of his promoter’s habit of doing odd things to drive interest in and increase the commercial value of the WBO champ, Parker had already lost the fight.
That curmudgeonly column, which led the Herald website and the sports section of the paper’s print edition, prompted a return of serve from a Newshub journalist. Said returner pointed out that, having won the right to pocket millions of dollars in the ‘can I please fight Anthony Joshua lottery’ (a jackpot for which every heavyweight on the planet desperately clutches a ticket), our boy Joseph is in fact already very much a winner.
Throw in the news organisations who will clearly drive huge audiences (from which they will derive advertising revenue) covering the fight; broadcasters who will clip the pay per view ticket; corporates who will leverage the event through sponsorship – oh and sports fans who get to see a likeable Kiwi’s thrilling attempt to topple a giant at the absolute peak of his powers – and literally everyone is winning.
Except Parker, apparently. But at least he’s still smiling.
Vegas mornings 🌤 pic.twitter.com/2Wl0gbDSyP— Joseph Parker (@joeboxerparker) January 19, 2018
Also grinning is a New Zealand cricket team that has been doing its winning in a more traditional fashion – by actually taking part in sporting contests and eclipsing the best efforts of their opposition.
The Black Caps’ winning streak has got to the stage where, should they be as crass as to attempt to emulate Australia’s celebratory Ashes hand-puppetry, they now require a foot.
Thirteen wins on the bounce is a staggering effort against any opposition, in any format. New Zealand now ranks fourth in test cricket, fourth in ODIs and first in T20s. Australia, comparatively, ranks third, fifth and eighth.
Having just lost their ODI series against England with two games to play, Australia has reacted predictably to the threat of a nascent cricket giant lurking just off its shores – by resting Steve Smith for the forthcoming T20 tri series against New Zealand and England.
Not to be out-done, England have rested Joe Root.
No doubt those moves provoked wry, somewhat forced grins at New Zealand Cricket HQ, where administrators are wrestling with the entirely new conundrum of how to arrange opposition of sufficient quality to truly test the Black Caps, and engage an audience already being labelled apathetic.
Having lost 10 of 11 recent ODIs Cricket Australia, happily, is doing plenty of hand-wringing of its own.
Three straight defeats by England have prompted a “full scale” review into Australia’s ODI setup.
"With what's happened recently we are reviewing how we're actually playing the game and type of player that's required in the one-day format," chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said, in a comment that seemed to suggest the selectors might actually be the problem.
Australian cricket is also wrestling with another pressing dilemma: the impact of Australian selection on the business end of the Big Bash league.
Somewhat disturbingly, after a decade of cricket bemoaning the impact of cashed-up T20 leagues on international cricket, the paradigm has now flipped.
A report out of Australia laments the fact that D'Arcy Short, Alex Carey, and Ashton Agar are among six Big Bash stars who have had the dream of domestic finals play cruelly torn from them by being selected to play for their country.
Poor buggers. Imagine having to produce a fake smile when handed the greatest honour of your sporting career.