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The Sunday Stroll: 19 Dec, 2010

December 19, 2010

Greetings folks. In Britain, the weather is causing havoc. Some things never change. In Perth, England’s batting line-up is capitulating to the Australians. Some things never change. In front of you right now is this week’s Sunday Stroll. Some things never change. Well, apart from last week when we didn’t do a Stroll. But we’re sure you catch our drift. In light of last week’s missing edition, this week’s is a bumper festive feast. Hope you all enjoy…

Good ole Bernie Ecclestone. After Jenson Button survived an attempted car-jacking in Brazil (and a couple of Sauber mechanics were mugged), the F1 supremo tried to play down the serious incidents and offered the following pearls of wisdom:  ‘You have to remember we have a lot of problems in England, Oxford Street and places, and in New York people get mugged […] They look for victims […] The people that look a bit soft and simple, they will always have a go at.’ It is perhaps with a slight air of irony that Bernie found himself being relieved of a watch and jewellery worth £200,000 in Knightsbridge the other day… but as with most incidents, the entrepreneurial Ecclestone came out shining as he coined an advertising slogan and campaign for watch maker Hublot. The tag-line: ‘See what people will do for a Hublot.’ Good on ya Bernie… [click the image to enlarge it]

Meanwhile, Red Bull driver Mark Webber has revealed he raced the final few races of the season with a broken shoulder. He suffered it just before the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, but remarkably did not tell his boss Christian Horner, only informing the relevant medical staff and no one else. Horner called this move ‘obviously disappointing,’ whilst Webber boldly claims that ‘the shoulder wasn’t causing me a problem, so there was no need to talk about it to anyone.’ Whilst we can only speculate the extent to which the injury might have affected him (he was 0.07seconds off team-mate Seb Vettel in qualifying at Japan for instance), what it does show is that this chap is made of steel. True Aussie grit. He has shown in before, when he raced on at Fuji a year or two ago despite being sick mid-race from food poisoning. Legend…

Given the arctic conditions that have enveloped Britain over recent weeks, McLaren took time out from serious work to play around in the snow. Check out the video on their website via this link – they even attempt to explain why F1 tyres would not work in the snow. Mind you, as 2010 proved, anything McLaren can do, Red Bull can do better. Here’s a link to Sebastian Buemi taking his car for a spin in the snow and on the ice…

Still in the realms of F1 and check this. Next season there will be two seperate teams that are both essentially Lotus-Renaults (or Renault-Lotus maybe?, but that’s neither here nor there) and both will race in the legendary Lotus colours of black and gold. Nothing to do with Sam Sparro. It comes after Renault sold their remaining shares in their F1 team to Lotus Cars (owned by Proton), whilst the Team Lotus F1 team have signed a deal to use Renault engines for 2011. Team Lotus have already announced plans to run the historic black and gold livery next season, whilst Lotus Renault have stated the following: ‘For 2011, the Lotus Renault GP cars will race in a new interpretation of the iconic black and gold colours that were last used when Lotus and Renault joined forces in the 1980s.’ The beeb’s Andrew Benson has done a cracking job of attempting to explain the story in his blog, but here’s what matters – next season there will be two teams bearing near-identical names, racing in near-identically liveried cars. Good luck to the commentators…

Meanwhile, a whole raft of changes to the rules that govern the sport have been announced for 2011. The team orders ban has been lifted, which has delighted Ferrari who called the rule a ‘pointless hypocrisy’ – not exactly surprising given the Massa-Alonso team orders controversy at Germany last season. There are also to be moveable rear wings to aid overtaking, the minimum car weight has been raised by 20kg, gearboxes must last a race further, whilst there are returns for KERS and the 107% rule for qualifying. Interestingly there is a revision of driver protocol, with stiffer punishments being threatened for dangerous driving. Schumi, beware…

Perhaps one rule change they consider is to allow a very literal form of overtaking like this:

Apologies for finishing F1 on a sad note but this week ex-team owner and current Gloucester Rugby chief Tom Walkinshaw passed away. Walkinshaw is most famed for his time in F1, where he recruited Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher to Benetton (where they won two titles), before time at Ligier and then Arrows, where he recruited ex-champion Damon Hill for a season that included a near-victory for the unfancied car in Hungary (highlights on the beeb via this link). He was a controversial character though, being involved in the illegal removing of the filter from the Benetton fuel pump which caused that legendary Jos Verstappen pit-lane fire (as well as giving the team an unfair advantage over rivals as it quickened the speed with which fuel entered the tanks, i.e. faster pit stops). Controversies aside, Walkinshaw helped shape the contemporary F1 world as we know it, so his loss is a sad one. Here’s that famous fire, in case you had forgotten. We suspect not, but here it is regardless:

The two wheeled world of motoracing also got in on the rule change act – you can read about them via this link. It essentially refers to grid positions, the structure of practice and qualifiying, and a few other tweaks. Nothing too revolutionary thankfully. No medal system either, Bernie! Most remarkable, however, is the news that Paris Hilton is to have a MotoGP team for 2011. Yep, you really did just read that. The team name: SuperMartxé VIP by Paris Hilton. Ingenious. Hmm. They will run in the 125cc class incidentally.

Right, Ashes now and boy have we had an eventful week or two Down Under. England thumped the Aussies in Adelaide, but it was also notable for Stuart Broad’s injury, Aussie batsman Michael Clarke apologising mid-match on Twitter for not walking, and a bit of a dust-up between cricket legends Beefy Botham and Ian Chappell. Good times. Oh and the ever-extrovert KP got done for speeding in Shane Warne’s Lamborghini. Who said cricket was boring eh?

More pressing matter for Oz involved the humiliating defeat. They were soundly thrashed in a manner that they have become used to dishing out. Nevertheless, the Aussie media savaged players and management alike, and called for whole-sale changes. Such was the parlous state of affairs that even the great Shane Warne was touted for a comeback. He declined – all those poker games and sessions in the commentary booth have left him a tad out of shape – but here’s a reminder of what the great leg-spinner is capable of, with Strauss the victim of a real ripper back in 2005:

Football now folks, and a remarkable week. Sacking season is officially here. First we had the farcical decision by Newcastle to sack their boss Chris Hughton – the man that got them back into the Premiership at the first time of asking, and has since engineered a win at Arsenal and thumpings of Aston Villa and rivals Sunderland at home. Bizarre. Speaks volumes for that chap Mike Ashley that supposedly runs the club. Blackburn Rovers’s new owners (Indian chicken giants, the Venky’s Group) then got in on the act by sacking Sam Allardyce, despite the fact that with him in charge your team is pretty much guaranteed to stay up. Whilst he might claim his talents are more suited to Real Madrid, another sacking will not sit too prettily on his CV. In fairness to Big Sam, he has done relatively well with modest resources at several clubs, so you have got to feel for the chap. But given how most true footballing fans seem to disagree with his long-ball tactics and underhand approach to goal-scoring (subtle fouling of the keeper etc) maybe this a victory for FOOTball. Still, Fergie spoke out in favour of Allardyce, stating his shock and suprise at the ‘absolutely ridiculous […] stupid decision’ to dismiss his fellow manager, and at SportingBlogs we can’t help that feel Big Sam has been harshly treated in this instance. It’s a sorry state of affairs, but these dismissals speak volumes for the sack-happy, short-termist nature of contemporary football.

We have also had the pleasure of the Carlos Tevez saga this week. He wants to go. His team, Manchester City, and their fans do not. An unholy mess? Certainly…

All goal celebrations should have as much effort put into them as this one. It should be mandatory:

This week saw a cracking Champions League draw. Arsenal face Barca in what should be a footballing feast, Spurs return to Milan to face AC (which, given his performances in that city last time around, should delight Gareth Bale), and last year’s finalists (Bayern Munich and Inter Milan) meet once again. Lovely stuff…

From European football to Japan and check out this goal by 17-year-old starlet Kumi Yokoyama – she does a cracking impression of Maradona as she bangs in this goal. The commentary is equally impressive… well worth a listen:

Sepp Blatter plonked his oafish feet in the shit once again this week when he stated that gay fans should ‘refrain from sexual activity’ during the World Cup in Qatar (homosexuality is illegal over there you see). Not the best of messages to kick off with Sepp. At least he has had the compunction to apologise for his remarks. Aaand then he suggested the Qatar-hosted event should be moved to winter on account of the 40-50°C temperatures expected in the Middle East in the summer. Should perhaps thought about that before voting, eh Sepp. Final word on the matter has to go to Blackpool manager Ian Holloway. Never short of a good quote or two, the affable Olly had his two cents on the latest developments in an amusingly forthright manner…

On the lighter side of football, SB would like to draw your attention to SkySports’ WAGs & STAGS column. In a nutshell, footballer plus attractive missus represent each club ahead of that weekend’s fixtures, the public then vote. For example, last weekend saw Emile Heskey and his fiancée Chantelle Tagoe triumph (60%-40%) over West Brom’s Cat Deeley-Frank Skinner double act. Heskey scored in the actual game that weekend too. He’s banging ’em in…

Whilst we are on the subject of aesthetically pleasing females, all sports fans – heck, any red-blooded male – love Sky Sports News broadcaster Georgie Thompson. Attractive and loves sport… ideal. And it turns out she has a sense of humour too. Perfect…

On to the athletics (sort of) side of sports, and in response to Tottenham’s bid to move into the Olympic stadium post-2012 and remove the running track as a consequence, a huge group of athletes have got together to complain against such plans. ‘[It would] bring to life a sporting promise made to a whole community for generations to come,’ was the argument offered against Tottenham’s plans. Not only that, but removing the track would break the pledge of creating a legacy for future athletes, with UK Athletics deeming Spurs’ proposal to be ‘completely unacceptable.’ Damn right…

Royal Mint has won the contract to produce the 2012 Olympics medals. Bet that made your day.

If it didn’t then this might. Classic horse racing commentary… two horses – one called Mywifenoseverything and the other Thewifenosenothing.

Poor ole tennis legend Pete Sampras has his trophies nicked. As deplorable as the actions of those involved are, it’s quite a self-explanatory story, so we’ll leave it at. A few other events of note occured this week in the tennis world. Firstly, Rafael Nadal and Caroline Wozniacki have won the International Tennis Federation’s World Champion awards for the 2010 season, so well done to them. And secondly, Serbia won the Davis Cup for the first time by beating France the other week. A remarkable achievment given how poorly backed financially this tennis nation is, and a right kick in the teeth for the British LTA given how much they spend on tennis. Kudos to Serbia though, brilliant effort…

Snooker, and John Higgins has returned to UK snooker with a victory the UK Championship in Telford, following a sixth-month ban for not reporting a match-fixing approach. Higgins stated that he was ‘very proud’ of returning from a ‘tough six months’ with this win, an achievement that Steve Davis saw fit to describe as follows: ‘You’ve seen a performance by the greatest player this game has seen.’ Quite some praise, we’re sure you’ll agree.

Going to mix sports here, we are sure you will love this. F1 commentating legend Murray Walker gives snooker the Murray treatment with brilliant results…

Amir Khan won a belter of a fight against Marcos Maidana in Vegas the other week. Kudos, Amir… Maidana is no mug, so that is a cracking win. David Haye, take note. For Khan, there is now even talk of him lining up against legendary boxer Floyd Mayweather – pound-for-pound one of the greatest ever – next year, which would be quite a fight. Although the Guardian (who reports this story) admit that ‘It is a giant ‘if’.’ Speculation aside, Khan should be commended for his fine win, not least as he emphatically quashed rumours of him having a ‘glass chin’.

UK Sport has withdrawn all funding from the sport of skiing, in particular from British skier Chemmy Alcott. This was yet another disappointing turn of events for the 28-year-old, ranked #8 in the world, who also crashed and broke two bones in her right leg whilst competing in Canada earlier this month. This prompted an emotional interview with the beeb, as Chemmy contemplated a real week from hell, a year on the sidelines, and financial-based questions about her future in the sport. Figure skating and men’s bobsleigh also lost all funding, whilst their were improved financial packages for British medal hopefuls in boxing, canoeing, gymnastics, hockey, rowing and taekwondo, and – amongst the winter sports – for those in skeleton. Still, we can’t help but think a bit of funding in the bobsled attire department is needed…

And finally, spare a thought for Brett Favre whose record of 297 consecutive NFL appearances was ended on Monday when a shoulder injury prevented him from featuring for the Minnesota Vikings against the New York Giants. That streak began in 1992. So that is nearly twenty years in the rough’n’tumble world of American Football without a missed appearance… quite some achievement. Here’s the man showing he’s still at his very best…

Happy Christmas folks… All the best, SB

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