ODT subeditor Tony Love has been obsessed by sport for more
than 40 years. However, the all-consuming passion of youth
has dulled and, as he gets older, it is the aspects of sport
that bug him that occupy more and more of his thoughts.
In many ways, being a sports fan has defined, and still
defines, my life. I'll never forget lying in bed as a
10-year-old listening to the transistor as the All Blacks -
despite the best efforts of a rampaging young Bryan Williams
- lost 20-17 in the fourth test against the Springboks at
Ellis Park in 1970 to lose the series 3-1. Or listening the
following year as the mighty 1971 Lions beat the All Blacks
in a test series for the first time.
Even though we lost the series, I took consolation in the
fact that my hero, Ian Kirkpatrick, scored one of the great
All Black tries in the home side's win in the second test at
Lancaster Park. And, of course, every kid wanted to place
kick around the corner a la the Lions' incomparable No 10
Barry John. Even today I can picture some of the greats in
the team as if it were yesterday - John, Gareth Edwards, Mike
Gibson, John Dawes, David Duckham, Gareth Davis, John Bevan
and JPR Williams.
And they had some pretty good forwards too!There were also
some talented players in the All Black team but, for some
reason, it's the players who were never really seen again
such as Howard Joseph (two tests), Mick Duncan and Phil Gard
(both one test) whose names have stuck with me.
Despite the All Blacks' loss, I bought an LP (sorry kids,
long-playing record) of that series (yes, they used to
produce such things in those days) although from memory I
think I mainly just used to listen to Kirky's great try.
The following year was notable for the first television
broadcast of the All Blacks playing in a test overseas. I
watched the opening test of the tour - against Wales - with
my uncle, who still tells the story of how I left the room
unable to watch as Wales was awarded a penalty late in the
game with the All Blacks leading 19-16, leaving the home side
with a chance to tie the scores. Welsh flyhalf Phil Bennett
missed the kick and I was able to return to the living room
to celebrate our win.
In the following days, the win was overshadowed as All Black
prop Keith Murdoch - who, incidentally, scored his side's
only try - was sent home for an incident involving a hotel
security guard. All our other points were scored by fullback
Joe Karam, much more famous now for his crusade on behalf of
David Bain. I'd already gone off Karam after he switched to
league in 1976.
Anyway, when you're hooked at such an early age you stay
hooked. Maybe not with quite the same intensity as you feel
as a kid but the off-the-scale lowlights - the All Blacks'
shock loss to France in the World Cup quarterfinal in Cardiff
in 2007 springs to mind - and highlights - their redemption
four years later, will always stand out.
I remember my phone ringing off the hook on that nightmarish
Sunday morning in 2007 and simply ignoring it. Perhaps it was
just a bad dream. Then my mobile went and it was my good
friend and then ODT rugby writer (now sports editor) Hayden
Meikle who'd just witnessed live the train wreck in Cardiff.
I answered the phone and we tried to tell each other the
world wasn't over.
It must be difficult being male and not being a sports fan.
How on earth do you make small talk when you meet a fellow
male for the first time? Perhaps this just means I'm shallow,
but I really can't
think of a good male friend who doesn't get sport. For some
reason with women, it doesn't seem to matter. I'm not sure
what that says about me.
Having said all this, I've been beginning to doubt recently
whether I really am a sports fan. Oh no doubt that I'm a
rugby, boxing, horse racing and cricket fan. I follow golf
and tennis - especially the majors - and I've read much about
the history of baseball.
And when the Olympics roll around, I get a real buzz from
seeing Kiwis shining on the highest stage. Athletics and
swimming aren't my favourite sports but I can't understand
anyone who isn't blown away by the likes of Usain Bolt or
Michael Phelps . I have a passing interest in football, of
course, especially my beloved Celtic, although I'm by no
means a true fan.
I was addicted to the Tour of France when Lance was winning
it but now am so over it.
I can watch the Kiwis or Warriors but usually give up when
they start losing. Having said that I did cry like a baby
when we beat the Kangaroos to win the World Cup in Brisbane
I always take the day off to watch the Super Bowl and really
get into it - probably the beers (American, of course) I
drink help - but I really don't pay much attention to the NFL
the rest of the season.
Still, there are far more sports I merely tolerate or
actively dislike. I hate synchronised swimming, gymnastics,
wrestling, ice hockey and martial arts but then, who doesn't?
Basketball may well be the second-most popular sport on the
planet but I simply don't get it. Why do the final five
minutes last an eternity?I have to confess I saw the last
five minutes of the final when the Silver Ferns won their
world netball title in 2003 in Kingston (the queens of
Kingston) but it truly is an unwatchable sport. Besides,
there are really only two countries in the world which play
it and we're usually second!Don't get me started on
I know it has a huge following but it's usually by people who
don't follow other sports. The term motorsport always reminds
me of North Korea or, to give the country its official name,
the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. If a country has
to have ''Democratic'' in its name then you can bet your
bottom dollar it isn't. If a so-called ''sport'' has to
include that term in its name ... Well, you can see where I'm
going with that.
One sport which I hate with unbridled enthusiasm is
triathlon. I'm afraid my definition of a triathlete is
someone who can't swim, can't run, can't cycle (a bit like
Chris Harris was an all-rounder because he could neither bat
nor bowl). That is an original of mine although maybe it was
inspired by English middle-distance great Steve Ovett's
description of the decathlon as ''nine Mickey Mouse events
followed by a slow 1500m''.
But my real venom when it comes to sport is more about the
terms used or, should I say, often misused. I'm not saying in
every instance that I'm right and everyone else is wrong,
just that certain things really, really bug me.
There is one fad, fashion, affectation - call it what you
will, that really drives me crazy. Why do we no longer play
cricket (or rugby, for that matter) tests? Instead, we now
play test matches. I mean, what is the difference? Test match
this, test match cricket that!It's a test; it's test cricket.
If you don't believe me, then simply pay attention next time
you're watching or listening to a commentary of a test.
OK, not really a biggie compared to what's happening in Syria
but I never said this article was about balance or
On a related note, I can't understand why some people feel
compelled to write test as Test. It's just a nonsense.
Hopefully, my colleagues and I catch those instances when
editing the offending stories so you don't have to see them
appearing in the ODT.
I was at Carisbrook in 2005 when the All Blacks edged the
Springboks 31-27 in a real thriller. It was the first time
the All Blacks performed the Kapa o Pango haka.
But, call me sad if you like, the one thing about that test
(not test match) that really sticks in my mind is not the All
Blacks' late come-from-behind win or that spine-tingling haka
(and I can usually give or take the haka) but the
centrespread of the programme in which the teams were listed.
It had the All Blacks playing South Africa. So what's wrong
with that you say? The All Blacks were indeed playing South
Africa. So why not have the All Blacks playing the
Springboks? Or New Zealand playing South Africa? I would have
been equally upset if the programme had read New Zealand
against the Springboks.
Two great teams - let's face it, to anyone of my generation
the Springboks, rather than the Wallabies - remain the
ultimate foe. Hell, we didn't beat them in a series until
1956 (there's an old joke I remember reading many moons ago:
What's the greatest team to leave New Zealand? Answer: the
1937 Springboks). We didn't win a series over there until
Until South Africa's reintegration into the sporting world in
1992, the Springboks had the wood over the All Blacks. The
teams first played in 1921, so for 71 years of our 91-year
rivalry they had bragging rights.
Anyway, my point is that the terms Springboks and All Blacks
are equally hallowed. Why use one and not the other?Which
brings me to the British Lions. They are not and, since
Ireland's independence in 1922, have not been, cannot be, the
British Lions. They always used to officially be called the
British Isles but were more commonly known by their nickname
of the Lions.
To digress - again - a former Irish girlfriend of mine took
real offence at the term British Isles. I tried to explain
that it was a purely geographical term rather than a
political one (as in Irish Sea with which she didn't have any
problem) but she just didn't get it. The term British and
Irish Lions was coined as a marketing ploy and, while rather
clumsy, I can't argue with it - much as I prefer the simpler
moniker the Lions.
Another recent development -and I'm not saying it's wrong,
just that I hate it - is to use the term All Blacks captain
Richie McCaw or All Blacks greats Justin Marshall and Andrew
It was never All Blacks captain Brian Lochore or All Blacks
No 8 Brian Lochore; it was All Black captain Brian Lochore or
All Black No 8 Brian Lochore (mind you, back then he was the
last man down, rather than No 8, but that's another story).
It was never All Blacks lock Colin Meads; it was All Black
lock Colin Meads. If you read All Blacks centre Conrad Smith
in the ODT, then I had nothing to do with the sports pages
the previous night.
Staying with our national sport, there are no rules in rugby.
But there are laws and, God knows, a plethora of them. That's
why a few years ago we had experimental law variations, not
experimental rule variations.
And then there's the golf tournament played annually at the
Augusta National Golf Club, a tournament instituted by the
great Bobby Jones on a course he helped design. The name of
the event is so NOT the US Masters. It is the Masters. I have
to take a deep breath even writing this. Mind you, I must
confess to being a bit hypocritical here because I have no
problem with the term the British Open when the official name
is The Open Championship or The Open.
On that note, it's time to end. I've just proved to myself,
if not to you, that there's no rhyme nor reason to any of
this. But I know I'm not the only one who gets all bitter and
twisted by things equally as trivial as I've outlined as they
watch the telly, listen to the wireless or read the
For God's sake, it's a test!