The Last Word: Turning back...

Have you ever stopped and thought about how much sport is accessible on television - and online - these days?

It really is incredible.

As a kid, there was a bit of All Black rugby, a few New Zealand cricket matches, Olympic/Commonwealth Games, and bits of football and motorsport and snooker.

Now, well, the options are limitless.

Flick through Skywatch and you see our major supplier of televised sport beams live coverage into our houses of Diamond League athletics, Major League Baseball, NBA basketball, IPL cricket, Giro D'Italia cycling, Premier League darts, PGA Tour (American and European) golf, Formula One, Nascar, Indy Racing League, ANZ Championship netball, Super rugby, NRL rugby league, college softball and world triathlon series. And that's just May.

Sommet Sports has the AFL, Moto GP and German and Championship football. English Premier League fans can watch every game online. You name a sport and it will be accessible somewhere.

. . . the clock
Incidentally, the loss of the EPL to Coliseum has forced Sky to look for new avenues to please its fans of the beautiful game.

Through ESPN, it is screening a series of documentaries under the 30 For 30 brand, and it is also replaying some classic matches in the lead-up to the Football World Cup.

I watched a bit of one of these games the other day. West Germany v the Netherlands, 1974 World Cup final. Muller and Beckenbauer against Cruyff's Dutchmen.

I was struck by a couple of things. The referee was INCREDIBLY lenient - some of the challenges were just brutal, and there was barely any whistle. But, essentially, it was football as we know it today, with the same rules and the same rhythm.

Consider a few other sports and how different they are from, say, 40-50 years ago:Rugby: Virtually unrecognisable. Seriously. The players are twice as big, defence is much more structured and brutal, and the skill level, despite what the old-timers say, is vastly better.

Cricket: An odd mix. Most of the basics of the game are unchanged, but bats are bigger (so there are fewer nicks to slip), there are abbreviated formats, and pitches are better. Still plenty of chuckers, though.

Netball: Radically different. The old ''outdoor basketball'' was genteel compared with the rough-and-tumble of modern netball.

Basketball: Massive changes. A generation of athletes groomed on the playground turned basketball into an aerial game. The three-point line also changed the sport.

Tennis: More of a power game now, thanks to better equipment.

Golf: Basically the same. The players drive the ball further, thanks to advances in club technology, but the courses are longer.

Racing: Matt Smith assures me you can watch a Melbourne Cup race from virtually any decade and it will still look like a bunch of horses running around a track. Only the fashion will be different.

The Clyde conundrum
Last week, following a tweet from the New Zealand Cricket Museum, I posed the question of which international cricketer, other than Roy Scott, was born in the Central Otago township of Clyde.

It stumped me, and cricket writer Adrian Seconi. A browse through the New Zealand Cricket Almanack and Cricinfo proved fruitless. Even noted cricket tragic Warwick Larkins reported he had been unable to answer the question.

I half wondered if the Clyde-born cricketer was someone who played for another country, or perhaps a woman.

Finally, thanks to an online reader - ''Sally'' - the answer emerged.

The other Clyde-born international cricketer is Paula Flannery, who played one test and 17 ODIs for the White Ferns, and turns 40 on May 27.

Less is more?
One suspects the issue of whether Dunedin premier rugby should be cut from 10 teams to eight will never disappear.

This city does not have a booming population, and it has arguably been a while since there were enough players of genuine premier standard to fill 10 teams.

I have sort of argued in favour of contraction but mainly that has been designed to wind up self-proclaimed club rugby godfather Paul Dwyer. Lord knows, he dishes out enough barbs every week.

It's an emotive issue, and it is indeed hard to comprehend premier rugby without Pirates or Green Island or Zingari or ANY of our existing clubs. But change - as long as it is for the better, not for change's sake - should not be feared.

Too much TMO
You don't want to waste too much time bemoaning the state of modern sport. Most of it is pretty cool.

But rugby fans are surely getting frustrated at the increasing reliance on replay technology for the awarding of tries.

Far too often, a Super 15 clash is held up as a TMO endlessly scrutinises a try-scoring play, looking for the most minuscule infraction. Worse, referees now seem unwilling to simply whistle for a try, lest they get it wrong.

You don't want egregious mistakes skipping through. But professional sport is about the fans, and you do them no favours by adding dead minutes to a game.

Tyler O'Bleyendaal
And another middling New Zealand rugby player bolts to Europe, presumably with the aim of eventually playing test rugby for a country to which he has absolutely no link.

Tyler Bleyendaal may be a reasonable player - it's sort of hard to tell, because he's only been around five minutes.

But you had to smile when the press release about the Crusaders five-eighth's departure to Munster came out earlier this week.

The headline: ''Crusaders and Canterbury rugby wish Bleyendaal well''.

The coach: ''We will be sad to see him go but we respect and support his decision and wish him all the best.''

The other coach: ''We are fortunate to have Tyler for another ITM Cup season before he departs and we'll all be hoping to make it a special one for him.''

Fulsome, that's the word. Why are we so eager to praise these fly-by-nighters who take off at the first possible opportunity in pursuit of more money and a test jersey that should never really belong to them?

Give it the boot
There is nothing quite like a Football World Cup to get the mad men who do the marketing for bootmakers gushing about new products.

An adidas press release landed this week, promoting a ''Battle Pack'' just in time for the tournament in Brazil.

It features a new boot from ''each of the five adidas ranges'': adizero f50, predator, nitrocharge, 11pro and adizero f50 Messi.

Each boot has its own ''disruptive black and white pattern to stand out on the pitch'' and has been designed with ''an aggressive identity and cutting edge technology''. So, there you go.

Birthday of the week
Former English cricketer Tich Freeman (would have been 126), baseball hall of famer Cool Papa Bell (would have been 111), dual-code American star Ace Parker (would have been 102) and Estonian skier Timo Simonlatser (28) have birthdays today.

Just one of those collections of cool sporting names.

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