Goodness! There I was, minding my own business at home, on Thursday evening, when I checked in on the SMH website to see the feature story had the following headline: "Peter FitzSimons' questioning made Ange Postecoglou determined to walk away on his terms."
Goodness! The thrust of the piece, by Fairfax colleague Mike Lynch, turned on an interview the former Socceroo coach gave to Fox Sports about why he quit so suddenly after his team qualified for the World Cup. Turns out, sports fans, it was me on the grassy knoll! The guts of it was that when I questioned him on Channel Nine's Sports Sunday program earlier in the year, as to whether he would fall on his sword if the Socceroos failed to qualify for the World Cup, he was reminded of a similar question from Socceroo turned commentator Craig Foster - 10 years ago when he was Junior Socceroos coach - and decided he didn't want to put up with that kind of shit anymore, so would leave on his own terms.
Now, you'd think, wouldn't you, that with the fallen coach pointing to your humble correspondent, gasping with his last breath "It was him wot done it!" I might be getting an avalanche of social media attacks from soccer fans?
In truth, the tone of most was a tad on the sheepish side, that a bloke selected to take an Australian team to the top of the mountain should instead take a running jump at base camp, and pull the rip-cord, all because he didn't like the tone of a question, respectfully put, six months ago. And that sheepishness is fair enough - for it does bespeak a certain fragility unlikely to be the stuff needed to take a national side to the top of the mountain.
As to the question one of the twitterati put, as to whether a journalist of soccer background would ever put such a question to Michael Cheika as to whether he'd resign if the Wallabies did not qualify for the World Cup, the answer is - of bloody course that journalist would, and should, as part of their job description! Something about "holding coaches to account," as I recall? And if Cheika would resign at the question, he would not be the bloke who is likely to take the Wallabies to the top of the mountain in any case.
In sum, I make zero apology, and stand by what I wrote at the time: "Some call it disrespectful. I call it journalism." There is to be sure, a strand of sports journalism which requires FWTs, Fans With Typewriters. Some sports figures want only FWT questions. It is not my go. In the meantime, as I said to Lynch on Twitter, whoever takes over from Ange, has to be asked this, first up, in his job interview: "If asked a question by loud-mouth know-nothing with stupid red rag on his head, are you likely to resign?"
GREG WILL FIX IT
Didn't I tell you already? This column is NOT the Greg Norman Times, and as fascinating as the great man is, as eminently quotable as we all find his every utterance, it is simply not right to fill item after item with the latest news on our most charismatic golfer. For one thing, we do not wish to distract Greg, as I have no doubt that, as we speak, he is very busy trying to put the Humpty-Dumpty of Australian-American relations back together again, given his intimacy with Prime Minister Turnbull and President Trump. True, relations between our two countries have not been so strained since the days of the great Gough Whitlam and Richard Nixon, but I'll bet it is nothing Greg can't fix with a quick phone call to Trump, and a quick 5-iron to the behind of Malcolm: "Don't you ever ANNOY the Donald like that again! How dare you be so annoying he had to hang up on you! Australia's job is to be subservient spear-carriers for the Americans, and have no right to even ask for basic courtesy in return!"
Trust me, Greg will fix it. Against all that, one quote the Greg gave to an American interviewer this year for a business podcast is too wise and humble not to share, as it finally puts to bed the notion that Greg is a self-obsessed narcissist of such colossal proportions it would make a brown dog weep. So, tell 'em Greg, tell those narks what you said:
"It's not all about Greg Norman. It's all about the brand but the brand is about Greg Norman. So when Greg Norman is not here anymore and I don't like talking about myself in third person, then the logo and the brand has got to live on ... The most important thing [is what] will allow us to get [the Greg Norman brand] 200 years going forward."
And there you have it. Get on with your little lives. Let Greg get on with his enormous one, so that in 2217, the peoploids??? can still raise a glass to the man that was Greg. In the meantime, here's to Greg. He hates talking about himself in the third person!
BEARING THE BIG V
Ten years ago, attending the funeral of the Wallaby great Trevor Allan, TFF was moved by a small episode that occurred when the moment came to carry his casket into the chapel of Northern Suburbs Crematorium. His coffin was to be borne by member of the 1948 Wallabies side he so gloriously captained, and as the old men milled about at the back of the hearse it was clear they were a tad confused as to who should do what.
"Gentlemen," the undertaker took the matter in hand, "Line yourself up like a short lineout, and we'll put Mr Allan down the middle."
On the instant things were sorted out, and the flying centre was borne high on the shoulders of the Wallaby forwards as in days of yore.
A scene poignantly reminiscent of that took place on a Wednesday in February, at the funeral of Daniel Vickerman at the same crematorium. Under the tragic circumstances the coffin his former teammates were honoured to be asked to bear was a heavy load, both emotionally and physically. Milling at the back of the hearse, Brendan Cannon, Richard Bell, Jeanot Boutry, David Lyons, Chris Malone and David Fitter were momentarily unsure, as to who should do what.
"Which is the heaviest part?" Cannon asks the undertaker, who indicates it is at the top of the coffin as it is to be removed from the hearse. Right, then.
"Canno' and I will take the heavy load," announces Fitter, former Wallaby prop, premiership winning tight-head of the 2005 premiership winning side, with Cannon as hooker, and Vickerman, the pillar of the pack, the one who locked between them.
"Canno," Fitter continues, "you go left, I will go right-side, and for one last time we can have the 'Big V' between us."
And so it went. For that last time, the once immoveable right side of the triumphant Varsity team of 2005 was complete again.
This question, from TFF to Ange Postecoglou on Channel Nine's Sports Sunday earlier this year, was so out of line, the coach pointed to it as part of the genesis of his sudden resignation, once the Socceroos qualified: "I hope you get there and I think you will get there - and I don't mean this in a nasty fashion - but if you don't get there and you don't qualify, would you resign to save them the trouble of sacking you? No seriously ..."
Fairfax's soccer writer, Michael Lynch, on Twitter: "I don't think @Peter_Fitz knows a lot about football, and I don't think he cares much about it either. But asking Ange if he would quit if they failed to beat the UAE was a legitimate question, if one that was, at that point in qualification, rather pessimistic."
Former England spinner Graeme Swann was unimpressed by the ground staff in Perth using blowers to dry out the pitch on the morning of the fifth day. According to him it was like ... "Trying to defrost a turkey under the hot tap."
The late Stan Pilecki, Wallaby prop, over 30 years ago, on scoring his first try for Queensland, nine years after making his debut: "Anyone can have a bad decade." Stan died this week aged 70, the first of the 1984 Grand Slam Wallabies to go.
Former Wallaby breakaway Chris Roche, in a heartfelt letter to fellow Wallabies, about the loss of Stan Pilecki: "What is it that makes our props so tough and yet so gentle and kind?"
Des Hasler, in February, on speculation that his contract may not be extended at the Canterbury Bulldogs: "Fake news. Yeah, that'd be right." Not as fake as he thought - though the legal validy of the Memorandum of Understanding he subsequently signed, is now before the courts.
Andrew Voss commentating on Fox Sport in March, as the Raiders' Shannon Boyd wiped out the Cowboys' Ethan Lowe with a huge, legal tackle: "What a tackle by Boyd! The human eclipse came across, and the lights went out, below ..."
Bulldogs James Graham in February: "Possibly we do [need to be protected from ourselves]. There's a lot more to be discovered about concussion and the impact of it." He has come a long way from the days when he refused to leave the field for concussions, and raged that no one knew better than the players whether they were OK or not.
Former NFL Player Cedric Benson blamed his inability to recite the alphabet in a field sobriety test on his career, explaining to the officers: "I played eight years in the NFL." He also stated he could only count from one to three.
Leaked emails earlier this year showed what David Beckham really felt about not getting a knighthood: "They're a bunch of c---- I expected nothing less. Who decides on the honours? It's a disgrace to be honest and if I was American I would of got something like this 10 years ago." Could Australia perhaps give him one? Oh, wait!
Dana White responds to Meryl Streep after she so wonderfully bagged Mixed Martial Arts in her Golden Globes speech: "It's not going to be everybody's thing and the last thing in the world I expect is an uppity, 80-year old lady to be in our demographic and love mixed martial arts."
Ben Barba heads to France: "Au revoir everyone, thanks for the memories and who knows I may return down the track you never say never."
Anthony Mundine saying he won't stand for the national anthem: "I am a man that stands against wrong and I think that is a big wrong in our country. And I can't stand for something that I don't believe in. The flagship for the country is the flag and the anthem. They are the iconic symbols. So let's start by changing them and bringing the first-nation people, the traditional owners, with us." See item.
Shane Warne, on the selection of Steve O'Keefe for the First Test against the Indians. "When you first start a session you want to set the tone and put pressure on the Indian batsmen and, without trying to be too harsh on Steve O'Keefe, this is the weakest of the Australian bowlers. I think Steve O'Keefe might get a wicket ..." O'Keefe went on to get 12 of the beauties!
Team of the Year
Greg Wallace. While most of us are putting our feet up over the break, he is doing an ultra run of 800kms in eight days for Hands Across the Water which supports underprivileged children in Thailand. Google him if you wish to donate.
Australian cricket team. Retained the Ashes, after good win in Perth.
Roger Federer and Serena Williams. Both wound back the clock with impressive victories at the Australian Open.
Tiger Woods. 2017 was really the year he slipped beneath the waves, with now only the occasional bubble coming to the surface. These days, when it comes to even making the cuts, he's like a surgeon with a rusty, dull butter-knife. It doesn't work, and only causes pain all around.
Steve O'Keefe. After an otherwise journeyman Test career, it all suddenly came together like magic in the first Test against India in February, when, at the age of 33 - and right after Shane Warne had bagged him again, he took 6-5 in just 24 balls, to make it 12-70 for the match in Australia's stupendous 333-run win. Not sure happened, between then and the Ashes, but still.
AFLW. The hit of the year. So successful that both rugby league and rugby union are quickly following suit.
Tom Brady. Patriots quarterback, nailed his fifth Superbowl ring at the age of 39. Played like a busted arse for most of the first three quarters, only to storm home at the business end.
Warren Beatty. For 28 years, TFF has actually held the record giving "the worst hospital pass in the History of the WORLD" - to Phil Scarr, Eden Park, 1989 - but Beatty's effort at the Oscars, handing the troubled envelope to Faye Dunaway, so she could read out the wrong movie, made him the new, heavyweight champeen champion in the field!
James O'Connor. Nothing good happens at 3am. After being arrested in Paris on cocaine charges in February his cards have been marked. And yes, he could still make his way back to the Wallabies, but for the next two or three years, he will ... need to keep his nose clean. (Thank you, thank you all! Try the veal!)
Shane van Gisbergen. Won the opening race of the Supercars Championship season, the Clipsal 500, that race which I think is the Melbourne thingammy. (Nah, just kidding. I KNOW it is the Adelaide thingammy! Incommmmmming!)
RIP. Dan Vickerman. The life of the 63 Test Wallaby came to a tragic end in February. (Lifeline 13 11 14.)