A recent development in New Zealand sport has been both
interesting and slightly dismaying.
We are being introduced to the relatively alien concept of
the cult of the sporting owner.
It has been a part of American sport since day one. Everyone
has heard of George Steinbrenner, the late Yankees baseball
owner. Stories abound of disaffected owners moving their
teams (Baltimore Colts, Seattle Supersonics). After the Super
Bowl, the owner gets to hold the trophy first.
English football has become even more synonymous with
ownership. Roman Abramovich, for example, might be as
recognisable as any player. There are fan forums awash with
discussions about ownership. And foreign ownership turned
Manchester City from chumps to champions.
Down in this part of the world, we've sort of escaped the
ownership madness. Our rugby, cricket and netball teams and
the like have effectively been owned by us, the fans, and run
by organisations of varying ability.
But it seems times are changing.
. . . sport?
The New Zealand Rugby Union has partially embraced the
concept, offering up licences to operate the Super
franchises. (Cynics might argue the NZRU is owned by Sky and
adidas, anyway.)There has also been some talk of cricket
associations flogging off their twenty/20 teams.
But the road to prominent ownership is really being laid by
two relatively young teams, league's Warriors (established
1995) and football's Phoenix (2007).
Their (part-)owners love nothing more than causing a stir in
the media, revelling in the spotlight and making sweeping,
strange and controversial statements.
Owen Glenn and Gareth Morgan have massive egos, er, wallets
and use their status to grab the spotlight wherever they can.
Glenn loiters at training in his Warriors gear and burbles
about the ''Polynesian psyche''. Morgan warns of cat-astrophe
and, hilariously, advises the Phoenix to play like 1970s
Dutch artists of football.
Neither the Warriors nor the Phoenix could continue to
operate without the funding of their owners. But personally,
it wouldn't bother me if we heard less from Glenn and Morgan
and more from the players and coaches.
Super Bowl fever
''There is no excess like the excess of Super Bowl week, the
annual bacchanalia featuring swarms of sports media members
infiltrating a city with far less panache than the Greeks
used to enter Troy.''
Lovely description from Richard Deitsch, the brilliant sports
media columnist at Sports Illustrated.
The Super Bowl is American sport at its finest/gaudiest. It's
about the massive halftime show, the million-dollar
commercials and the many ways in which a national anthem can
Deitsch had some fascinating facts about television coverage
of the event in a recent column. The NFL Network's coverage
will total 140 hours, including 10 straight hours (yes, 10)
of pre-game coverage. ESPN will crack 120 hours, with 35
different hosts. CBS (50 hours) and NBC (24) will also be
My pick for the game?San Francisco 49ers 34, Baltimore Ravens
Siblings in sport
The success of the Super Bowl-coaching Harbaugh brothers, and
of the Williams sisters in tennis, naturally makes one think
of New Zealand sporting siblings.
My 13 greatest sibling combinations:
1. Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell (rowing): Double
Olympic gold medallists. Hard to see them ever losing top
2. Bruce and Barbara Kendall (boardsailing): Also two Olympic
golds between them, plus Barbara's silver and bronze and
3. Colin and Stan Meads (rugby): One is the second greatest
All Black. The other, a very good All Black. Together, they
formed one of our better locking combinations.
4. Richard, Dayle and Barry Hadlee (cricket). Our greatest
cricketer. A decent fast bowler. And Barry Hadlee.
5. Martin and Jeff Crowe (cricket): Together, they averaged
71.60 in tests.
6. Brian, Glenn and Greg Turner (hockey, cricket and golf):
They played at the top level, then turned to coaching,
selecting, writing and course design. A remarkable family.
7. Don and Ian Clarke (rugby): A great and a good All Black.
Other brothers played at provincial level.
8. Brendon and Nathan McCullum (cricket): Excitement all
9. The Skeltons, the Butts, the O'Reillys and the De Filippis
(racing): Horse people will understand.
10. Yvette and Roy Williams (athletics): Unbelievable
11. Erin and Philippa Baker (multisport and rowing): Eight
world triathlon titles and three world rowing titles.
12. Jossi, Byron, Beau-James and Jackson Wells (freeskiing):
The young kings of the snow.
13. Gary and Alan Whetton; Cyril, Maurice and Lawrence
Brownlie; Sid and Ken Going; Merv and Lyn Jaffray; Robbie and
Bruce Deans; Mark, Doc and Ginger Nicholls (rugby): Call it a
That leaves no room for Kurt and Dane Sorensen (rugby
league), Kevin and Tony Iro (rugby league), Tom and John
Lister (rugby and golf), Matt and Phil Horne (cricket and
badminton), John and Brendon Bracewell (cricket), Onny and
Tony Parun (tennis), Valerie and Steven Adams (athletics and
basketball), Geoff and Hedley Howarth (cricket), the
Maisters, Borrens and Harrisons (hockey), the Haigs (rugby
and rugby league), the Beckers (curling) or the Fogartys
Proudly from Otago
This is something The Last Word has banged on about before,
and it seems it is not an issue that will disappear in a
Modern sport is all about nicknames, which are less to do
with provincial identity than they are with (ugh) brand
awareness and marketing opportunities.
This is nothing to get too concerned about. It can actually
be quite handy, especially for a reporter, to have a second
name with which to describe a team. And, in the case of the
Highlanders, dropping ''Otago'' made complete sense and was a
long overdue move.
But it would be a shame if Otago disappeared from other
My rivals at the Southland Times have quietly started a
campaign to encourage Otago cricket to rename its top team
the ''Southern Districts Volts''. Blecchh.
I hear the Otago United football team may also be considering
some sort of a change.
Say it ain't so.
Come on, Burnley
Yes, yes, thank you to readers who spotted the rather
embarrassing placement of a BARNSLEY crest on our front page
a week ago and presumed it was my fault.
You can be assured it was a simple error and we (especially
the bloke who wrote the story) are well aware it is Burnley
setting up a development centre in Dunedin.
It's exciting news for local footballers, too. Imagine a
Marco Rojas or a Ryan Nelsen coming through that scheme.
Dunedin has at least one Burnley supporter: Adam Binns, a
member of the mighty Pirates rugby club.
Other Burnley fans, I am reliably informed, include notorious
spin doctor Alastair Campbell, Johnny Briggs (Coro's Mike
Baldwin), Kevin Whately (Auf Wiedersehen, Pet), British rugby
league player Stuart Fielden and Prince Charles.
Birthday of the week
Shakira is 36 today.
Fine, she is from the music world, not sport. But she
recently had a baby with Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique.