Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

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Colosseums and gladiators still exist

Sport stadia, indoor ones included, are merely old Colosseums under a new name. While you might only know Colosseums from history they were arenas where gladiators satisfied their need to show themselves as strong, ruthless men with the killer instinct and tried to satisfy the blood lust of the thousands of spectators who had come to witness the killing.

Although the killing today is not physical but mental, the underlying motivation is a case of plus ça change plus c’est la même chose, with one significant difference: it is more common today for women to become gladiatrices (mow more commonly called battleaxes) as recorded by Roman writers Tacitus and Petronius in the reign of Emperor Nero and Suetonius in the reign of Emperor Domitian.

In some respects however, today’s gladiatrices of tennis have at least one characteristic in common with the gladiators of Rome. As they fire their serves at their opponents their accompanying screams and shouts probably sound more terrifying than anything a gladiator served up to his opponent. And probably the screams and shouts of spectators also match those of the spectators at the Colosseum.

When the tribal war system which maintained gladiatorial killing throughout the ages collapsed, it was replaced with sport, a gladiatorial system that did not involve killing. This spurred all kinds of organised sporting contests such as rugby union, rugby league and soccer that were played in stadiums.

It was only to be expected the man’s world of that time it would be men only sports that were supported. This is why soccer became the number one sport in Britain and then around the world where it is now growing stronger in countries where previously it struggled. I suspect the reason for its growing popularity is that it has being taken up and supported by women who stopped being spectators in favour of participation.

Some sport such as tennis and hockey that had been played for a long time by women continued to be played but without ever reaching the popularity levels of the gladiatorial sports. Nonetheless, women eventually started asking why they couldn’t play the gladiatorial sports and finding no good reason why, began their own organised contests.

But it was Baron de Coubertin’s Olympic Games and sporting philosophy that he sold successfully to many countries that became the catalyst that advanced women’s contests making it inevitable that contests between women became part of the sporting gladiatorial scene. But that’s not the only reason it advanced, it also advanced because sport became part of school curriculums.

And as more and more women took up sport, more and more sporting opportunities were opened up to them so that today women participate in the myriad athletic events that are part of today’s Olympic Games. Indeed women’s sport is now featuring prominently on the sporting calendar of many nations and perhaps more importantly sport now has a major role to play in the life of people with a disability through the Paralympic Games.

Sadly however, some men playing at the top level of football in Australia seem to have succumbed to using violence like gladiators in the old Colosseum claiming that violence such as king hitting, biting your opponent or felling them to prevent goals being scored is only to be expected.

Perhaps they might remember that the Colosseum in Rome and the many Colosseums built elsewhere in the old Roman world, are either now nothing but ruins or have vanished completely. And they might care to note also that the almost continuous stream of violence that bedevil the world today does not produce winners.

That said let’s keep the violence of the old Colosseums out of the new ones.

Comment welcome.

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My latest blog is always available at: To make direct contact e-mail me at:


An old adage has an answer to racism

Common sense is thought a valuable quality and the people who possess it worth their weight in gold. Let me declare immediately that I lay no claim to having common sense which is probably why my value on the gold scale is minus. However, if the behaviour of many Australians surrounding an incident at a recent Australian Rules football match in Melbourne is anything to go by, it seems I am in good company.

The incident in question was a 13 years old girl calling Swans’ player Adam Goodes an “ape’.” When pointed out to Mr Goodes, an Aboriginal, he accused her of being racist. Well in Scotland, and more years ago than I care to remember, I heard players being called ape at football matches by spectators of roughly the same age as the girl. None of the players were Aboriginal; all were indigenous Scots.

I have to say also that during my fairly long life I have been called names I didn’t like but remembering the old adage “sticks and stones many break my bones but names swill never hurt me” and the accompanying common sense advice given me by my parents that people who name call will get their come-uppance one day, I always pay name callers no heed.

Unfortunately by his simple and, I think, un-necessary act, Mr Goodes created interest in a minor matter and in the process unleashed a storm of interest, driven in my view by ill- informed political correctness that might well damage the young lady for years to come and do little to advance the Aboriginal cause. It may even destroy the work of many other people. Nonetheless, with the young girl cast as a racist, many media and some non-media people courting publicity turned a proverbial mole hill into a mountain.

But hey the media said: it’s too good a story to let it pass, though what connection the word ‘ape’ has with racism, I am at a loss to understand. Sadly, it seems that many people subscribe to the Humpty Dumpty view that “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”
(Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6)I.

At the time of the incident, the young girl apologised to Mr Goodes who, to his credit showed common sense and accepted her apology. Collingwood President Mr Eddie McGuire, a well- known media performer also apologised to the player, for which he received praise.

Unfortunately, the story in the media brought out the usual brigade of do-gooders who wanted to have their say about the incident. And because, I am given to understand, Mr McGuire was less than popular with his media peer group the story continued.

He was then pursued relentlessly and put under pressure to such an extent that in his own radio show he  gaffed by commenting that Mr Goodes might be usefully employed in publicity for the soon to be released film, ”King Kong.”

Many voices called for him to be sacked from various positions while some said he should stand down. Of course it’s easy to sit on the sidelines and say he should have known better but do all of us act well under strong pressure?

Fortunately for Mr McGuire,  no doubt in light of his efforts to assist Aboriginal development, colleagues began to see how ridiculous it was that a man who had offered his apologies for something he didn’t do and made a comment under pressure, decided he should retain Presidency of the football club.

Unfortunately for him, he will have to appear before an Australian Football League panel to be punished for his transgressions. I understand that in expiation of his sins he must be educated to know what is politically correct.

However, it seems to me that a lot more would be achieved if all of us used our common sense and heeded the wisdom of the old adage I mentioned earlier.

N.B. I do not know the young girl, or Mr Goodes or Mr McGuire, apart from which, the football I follow is played with a round ball.

Comment welcome.

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Take the cure: start writing

More often than not when I sit down at the computer to write, I don’t have a topic in mind. As I sit there I’ll idle my time away write something such as: Mary had a little lamb it had a curly tail and everywhere that Mary went she hung it on a nail. Suddenly not just one topic but myriad topics will spring to mind which is what happened a few minutes ago. Indeed I now have so many topics the only worry I have is that the topic I choose is of interest to readers. I’ll soon know if it is because if it isn’t readers will tell me.

For exmple the topics in this piece will be a gallimaufry of brief comments about Australian parliaments; the Pope’s resignation; politicians; the Oscar’s; the firstitis syndrome; status disease; the state of Australian education; and the state of Australia’s hospitals and health system.

Parliaments, as you know,  are gatherings of politicians most of whom credit themselves as the originators of ideas created by other people. Another distinguishing feature of politicians is that many have brass necks which , depending on wind direction can swivel in an arc of 3600. Sadly too, they have a limpet like quality which enables them to hang on to seats in parliament that voters should have pulled from under them a long time ago.

As for the Pope’s resignation, well may he have been infallible but he was not invincible. Like other mortals who, as they age, find their physical and mental capacities often distorted by pain, his decision to cast aside involvement in activities that require a clear mind and strong body at all times, seems wise.

The Oscar’s are a different kettle of fish.  I use that analogy because many of the winners seem to have been arrived at in fishy fashion. The winners also have much in common with people afflicted by the Firstitis Syndrome: a need to be first.

You would be surprised at how many people are afflicted by this syndrome. For example: athletes who have a need to be seen as number one in a particular sporting activity so that they can then spend the rest of their life boasting about it.

Despite its alleged egalitarianism Australia is a country filled with people for whom status matters more than happiness. This lack of status makes some people ill with depression. It also destroys the idea that egalitarian societies can be created by legislation.

As for education, when I read various articles and hear Education Ministers mouthing off about how their new education system will illuminate minds that seem resistant to education,  I wonder. The truth is some of these ministers and their supporters are so dim they should be sent back to school for arithmetic lessons while lessons in logic and philosophy might not go astray.

I would love to say Australian hospitals are a wonder of the world and that Australia’s health system is also in that category. I will concede that many of our hospitals are first class but unfortunately many are far from being places in which a stay ensures wellness. And as far as the health system is concerned while the free national health system has some benefits at the same time it has created a new class of people in an allegedly egalitarian society

Stuck for something to write about? Why not try my cure?

Blog: Allan Takes Aim; web:;    

NB.  It’s pleasing to see the US Federal Court agrees with me that the Sea Shepherd is a pirate ship, as suggested in yesterday’s post: About Smart Aleck Bloggers, political plagiarists and Green Pirates

Canberra is a place where lots of people who know little about a lot eagerly join the queue of people who want to be seen as ‘elite.’ Such is their vanity that not only do they delude themselves into thinking they deserve the title they also delude themselves that they are people of influence.

Many of these people can be seen at functions attended by local politicians, bureaucrats, business people and people from the Arts who labour under a similar delusion. In an effort to dismiss any suggestion of being snobs they describe themselves as part of the common herd to avoid being seen as discriminatory.

Politicians are urged to use this phraseology by well-paid public relations advisers as protection from being seen as making a politically disastrous comment or engaging in equally disastrous conduct. I confess that in Australia’s egalitarian society I thought everyone was part of the common herd. We live and learn.

Although I can understand the politicians’ behaviour, I cannot say the same for some bureaucrats or business people. The former cannot blame anyone but themselves for being seen not as elites but toadies who hope their reward will be an upward step in the bureaucracy.

And much as I always thought the goal of business people was running a successful business. For some however, status is clearly more important. However in past times this strategy has been seen as disastrous because keeping too close to politicians makes the common herd wonder about their politics.

Another group of self-appointed elitists are to be found in Arts/Culture. These elitists are forever on the lookout for appropriate politicians and business people whom they can butter up in hope they will fund the next great Art/Culture idea that will spread across Australia and the globe.

That said, I think elitism is dying. Why? Elitism is dying because it no longer is it a title conferred on someone with special talent. Today, everyone wants to be seen as elite when more often than not they are big-heads. And if elite ever meant a person of status some so called elite have done a good job of wrecking its meaning.

Current examples of that wrecking can be seen in cycling. Reprehensible as the behaviour of Lance Armstrong and other cyclists’ has been, with major sponsors now threatening to sue him for the return of monies, I haven’t heard any of them say they will refund the monies people spent on their products because of Armstrong et al.

Nor do managers of the various football codes do it when ‘elite’ players are found morally wanting or managers’ of other elite sportsmen and women. The fact is elitism is rampant in sport although one could argue about what is sport these days.

For example I love ballroom dancing and when a young man (so long ago that I scarce remember it), I visited the local palais de danse (by the way though my mother and father were local ballroom champions I never ever heard them describe dancing as a sport), I enjoyed nothing more than taking to the floor for a quickstep, foxtrot or tango.

And what about other games that today are called sport?” Marbles, for example or billiards, snooker and darts, all of which have elite player not to mention angling or tossing the caber plus lots of other activities (now sports) in a list too long to mention.

I find it surprising that in egalitarian Australia they use the word elite so lightly. I think it’s time we coined a new one. Suggestions welcome.

Blog: Allan Takes Aim; web:; e:

Measurement of sporting greatness

Are Olympic medals the true measure of sporting greatness? It could be argued they aren’t because the four years between the games negates the results produced by many athletes during those four years are better than the results achieved by Olympic medal winners. That apart, they are also deprived of the glory, status and financial rewards an Olympic medal can bring.

It could be argued also that the Olympics has helped to widen, rather than close, the gap between peoples and societies where sport is not a war but an activity whose aim is to encourage good health. Western nations make such claims but practice it more in the breech than the observance.

To some extent the Olympics have become political wars in which bragging rights describe the status of participating countries with athletes the ammunition used in their non-lethal fighting but as in lethal wars get decorated as heroes.

As with wars, the generals directing the athletes can be found giving advice from the rear along with politicians who like nothing more than grab the opportunity to bask in the reflected glory of the winning athletes in hope that it will help them win their political race.
It seems inequitable also that more riches attach to some events than to others despite every athlete facing similar regimes of discipline and arduous training, many of which are managed by parents and siblings, that are considered necessary to win medals.

I feel sure also that every competitor is full of admiration for every other competitor whether they win or lose because they know what it takes to compete. With that in mind I’d like to suggest that every competitor get an Olympic ribbon to show they have competed, so that they too can show it to their children and grandchildren. Such an award could well help restore the lustre the Games seem to be losing.

Olympic Change of pace

Before adding to my previous blogs I have to say it is difficult to please every viewer and reader about the Olympics because it is much like the curate’s egg, only good in parts. Let me add also that because I thought the commentary poor I had started to switch off because the performance of so many commentators paled when compared with the performance of competitors, whether medallists or not.

As I said about competitors in my first blog the fact that they had made it to London made every one of them a winner. That said it struck me as odd that over the years, while many competitors had subjected themselves to rigorous physical exercise and tough competition to show they deserved to represent Australia in London, commentators faced no such test.

Regardless of the fact that Australia’s medal haul was less than the expectations of the swimming hierarchy took me back to the 1948 Games also in London, when the expectations of the people in my home town of Motherwell, Scotland, were different. The 1948 Games were expressions of joy not of war which seems to be the case today.

A young lady Cathie Gibson who lived at the top of our street and had only a twenty five yards public pool to train in won a bronze medal in swimming. Other non medallists from my home town also competed but had had Cathie’s medal been tin, the respect and admiration that Cathie and the others received would have been no less rapturous. Unfortunately in Australia today that kind of respect and admiration seems to have diminished.

With the first half of the games wrapped up we now come to the second half and athletics which have been given a huge boost by Usain Bolt and the other 100 metres competitors for the 100 metres title which all of them are capable of winning. In a thrilling dash for the wining line Bolt retained the tile he won in Beijing.

I make no apologies for the fact that I prefer watching athletics to swimming. However I make no distinction between the competitors. I think also it’s about time that some of Australia’s sports administrators stepped aside or at the very least, instead of making excuses for poor results, started to improve their own performance.

When the winning stops

And so the Olympic merry go round keeps turning in a whirl of excitement that puts pressure on the athletes to please the nation’s desire for gold medals. Unfortunately, if the gold medals do not come the fickleness of the nation comes to the fore, and because we cannot bask in the reflected glory a host of gold medals would bring us, we start looking for people to blame.

This effect is not particular to Australia; it can be seen in most nations only because people have false expectations of their athletes’ capacity. Many politicians, managers and coaches, aided and abetted by the media increase these expectations, the politicians as they seek to justify increased sporting expenditure, the managers to justify them being retained as managers; and coaches to justify their asking for more money to set up training and talent identification programmes.

After events, and only when they see an egregious difference between athletes, do commentators say that perhaps our athletes didn’t win medals because the other competitors were better. No; generally the excuse for not winning medals is that Australia had been outspent by its competitors.

Sadly, too, there is a dark side to the winning of medals which, in the main, does not become noticeable until the winning stops. It is only too easy to become depressed when the adulation stops at which time some successful athletes subconsciously decide to engage in behaviour that will keep them in the limelight.

I write this not to excuse their behaviour but simply to say that it’s about time we decided to treat athletes in the same way as we treat other performers whose capacity to perform at a higher level is longer than the athlete. We should initiate programmes that will bring them down to earth. That way, not only will their future be better but Australia’s image will be enhanced.


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