The Last Word: Who 'owns' . . .

Baltimore Ravens' Jameel McClain (left) dances with Telemundo reporter Mirrella Grisales during...
Baltimore Ravens' Jameel McClain (left) dances with Telemundo reporter Mirrella Grisales during Media Day for the NFL's Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Reuters.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh (top) and Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh...
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh (top) and Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh are shown in this combo photo speaking from the same podium but at different times during Media Day. Photo by Reuters.
Fans were allowed in the stands during Media Day for a nominal charge, and this refugee from...
Fans were allowed in the stands during Media Day for a nominal charge, and this refugee from Mardi Gras was making sure she was being noticed. Photo by MCT.

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 be mangled.

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 involved.

My pick for the game?San Francisco 49ers 34, Baltimore Ravens 20.

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 spot.

2. Bruce and Barbara Kendall (boardsailing): Also two Olympic golds between them, plus Barbara's silver and bronze and Bruce's bronze.

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 round.

9. The Skeltons, the Butts, the O'Reillys and the De Filippis (racing): Horse people will understand.

10. Yvette and Roy Williams (athletics): Unbelievable all-round talent.

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 tie.

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 (table tennis).

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 hurry.

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 teams.

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.


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