You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Covid will still be around for a while but one hopes we are winning the war, even though there are more waves likely to come.
Sympathies must remain firmly with the families of those who have lost loved ones, and with businesses that have been wrecked by the pandemic, now at two years and counting.
It is also OK to get excited about the cap on outdoor gatherings and other restrictions being removed. That is massive for sport, and you can just feel the sense of excitement in the community.
From the big Highlanders-Blues clash this afternoon, to the Otago Rally, to the looming winter seasons for various sports, there is a feeling it is time for the shackles (and masks, where appropriate) to come off.
Old Man Covid can feel free to bugger off completely and let us get back to normal. That will help take our minds off the war in Ukraine, climate change and the White Ferns.
The Super struggle
Last week I mentioned the plummeting public interest in Super Rugby Pacific, which had so much going for it before it was affected by the pandemic.
(Well, I actually wrote about the plummeting ‘‘pubic’’ interest, and thanks to my old mate, Ricky Whyte, mind in the gutter like a typical Albion cricketer, for being the first to spot the typo.)
Later that night, there was a good example when I was at a local pub — no, that is not something you see very often — for a quick beer (not something you see very often, et cetera) with another friend.
We had timed our visit for the Chiefs-Moana Pasifika game, reasoning it would give us something to watch if the football conversation ran dry.
The pub’s main screen was showing an Aussie rules game, of all things. And it was, I kid you not, TWENTY-TWO full minutes in a relatively well-attended New Zealand pub before some asked to turn on the rugby.
It wasn’t the Highlanders, sure. But that scene would have been unthinkable even 10 years ago, I reckon.
A formula ...
The Last Word shocked readers to the core last week by revealing he had become a bit of a Formula 1 fan.
It had always been a very minor interest, especially when I was sports editor the first time around, but mostly it remained ignored and/or mocked.
Drive to Survive, the Netflix smash hit and perhaps the greatest sports documentary series of all time, has changed everything. It is just so watchable and I, like millions it seems, have become suddenly attuned to the attractions of the sport.
I need to declare an allegiance to really make it worthwhile, of course, and I don’t want to waste any more time at my advanced age.
But which team to support? Or do I just choose a driver? What if he then switches teams?
There are 10 teams in Formula 1.
I discarded Mercedes (reigning champs, must not be a bandwagon jumper), McLaren (tempting, with the Kiwi link, but they are my brother’s team), Red Bull (just something about the energy drink that does little for me) and, for varying degrees of ‘‘meh’’, the four A teams: Alfa Romeo, Alpine, AlphaTauri and Aston Martin.
The choice was down to Haas, Williams or Ferrari.
Haas is a team that looks on the up. It also has one of the stars of Drive To Survive, team principal Guenther Steiner, as well as a legend’s son (Mick Schumacher).
Williams, well, the only way is up. It’s a bit hopeless right now, but has a glorious history.
So, yes, dear readers, I’ve decided to become a Ferrari fan.
... for fandom
It feels a little like cheating — though I stress this decision was made BEFORE Charles LeClerc and Carlos Sainz jun led a Ferrari 1-2 in the opening grand prix of the season in Bahrain.
Ferrari is the most popular and historically successful team in Formula 1. In fact, it is often the first team many people associate with the sport.
But I think it’s a legit time to jump aboard the prancing horse of Scuderia Ferrari, given the team has not win a championship in 14 years.
There is also — I look for this in everything in life — a bit of a Liverpool link there. Red outfits, glorious history, fallen away in recent years (see: Liverpool 1990-2018) but poised for a resurgence.
I’ve also adopted LeClerc. He seems like a cool dude; he has the link with his godfather, Jules Bianchi, who was killed behind the wheel; and he has a wee feud with cartoon villain Max Verstappen.
So, there you have it. Let’s see how long this interest lasts. In the meantime, Forza Ferrari!
Age? Just a number
There are two numbers you need to know about Al Michaels, the legendary NFL announcer.
The first is 77 — his age.
The second is 11million — the amount, in American bucks, Amazon is reportedly paying Michaels to be on air for its Thursday Night Football show next season.
Whooshka, as they say.
No more Barty party
Still can’t quite get my head around the news world tennis No1 Ash Barty is pulling the pin at 25.
It just seems so weird for an elite athlete to get out of the game at such a young age, having achieved some wonderful things but not the level of success that would place her among the genuine elite.
But then I realised that is part of the brilliance of Barty.
She’s not a robot, and she has made it clear she does not need tennis success to define her as a person.