the revolution will so be televised

guy fawkes tried to kill government but brand insists revolution can be peaceful

Russell Brand has been labelled a false prophet and chastised for his celebrity status while encouraging people not to vote in order to change the political and socio-economic system.  But should he be condemned as nothing more than a waffling narcissistic socialist celeb?

Critics rebuke Brand for ‘only’ being well read rather than intelligent but this does not make him misinformed nor dismissable.  His theory on a cultural, economic and spiritual revolution may be extremely limited in its explanation as to how to implement such ideals and govern this dreamy utopia once it has been reached but that does not mean the idea itself is irrelevant or useless.  He never claims to know how to reach these goals other than through rhetoric and the mobilisation of the ‘underclass’ and, as helpful as more insight would be, can we scrutinise him for not being able to provide all the answers?  He is not a politician, nor world leader and as many have pointed out he is not educated in leadership nor governance but then neither am I nor, maybe, you and I still feel I have the right to talk about how I would like to live and what I think the reasons are for not being able to live that way.  Why are people demanding the whole story from Brand, just one person, especially, as his most feverent haters have asked, who does he think he is?

I read his essay in New Statesman and amongst the waffle and name dropping were some fair observations; we should look after our planet better, we should not let ourselves become alienated from politics by politicians, we should act to prevent those less fortunate than ourselves (and it is pure fortune to happen to be born in a place where the water doesn’t kill you) from suffering for our own comfort and wealth.  And, like all good ideas, we should talk about it until we think of a good way to do it.   None of what Brand says is original content, yet he is bringing the popular to the political and vice versa, and there can be no harm in that at least only for those sitting on piles of power and money that are too high for them to see how the rest of humanity is doing.  Whether he’s a reputable spokesperson for the everday person or not at least he’s speaking about it and on massive media platforms, not on just another wannabe social commentator blog…

Like most revolutions Brand calls on the young adult populace to make things change.  (Conveniently this is also where most of his fanbase can be found).  This is important.  If this young populace is a ‘lost generation’ without career prospects, money, cultural identity or opportutunities to try and fail then thought is all that is left.  Thought is free.  A new thought must occur.  Apathy is costly when you can’t afford to heat your rented flat.

I can see the irony people have pointed out in how Brand is more Hollywood hugging than tree hugging these days but I think his point could go further if we stop getting distracted with shooting the messenger.  If he is not the right medium through which to voice the revolution then let’s continue the discourse ourselves.  Let’s take it beyond his rantings of  unfair distribution of money and property, government subsidised private schools (which have produced 51 of our 53 Prime Ministers if you include grammar schools) and stop it becoming just a general loathing for those with more.  Brand not being a politician may be handy as he does not need our vote, he doesn’t vote for anyone himself he says.  Though he does need our ticket sales and I hear his DVDs are a great gift for Christmas. His power comes not from a cabinet seat but celebrity status and to many younger adults the latter holds greater currency than any place in parliament.  Is this as bad or the better of two evils?  If it does lead to change then does that make it ok and can we soundly forgive Brand’s egotism and shameless self-promotion?  Has there ever been a leader who doesn’t like the sound of their own voice and public following (be it Twitter followers or electoral votes)?  Or is this type of leadership that got us here in the first place?  Also isn’t it apt that a TV/film personality should be the one to rejuvenate and lead a disenfranchised youth, it sounds like something straight out of Black Mirror.

Yes, Brand loves an unecessary synonym, maybe he is just well read and witty with a splash of disarming Essex twang.  But so what if he doesn’t have the plans to back up the theories.  Are we actually looking to him to solve all our problems or is a revolution not a movement of the masses for the masses?  Should we all not put our heads together and talk it out?  I studied political theory and sociology as part of massively interesting and thus far unused degree and learnt lots of ideological theories, all of which spun great hope for what change could bring yet all had massive flaws and needed more talking about before trying.  Most required unrealistic selfless leaders as if multiple Ghandis come on a conveyor belt and the world population would be happy to listen and follow them.  And this sounds like what Brand’s utopian BFG-style-led society relies on.  The best worlds call for selfless leaders acting in direct opposition to human nature.  Or am I being too cynical?  I have no doubt that such leaders do exist the problem is the majority of them loose that sacred quality the more powerful they come. Whether that is due to the temptation to give in to human selfishness or the conditions of the system I’m not sure.  Also, to make a selfless leader successful there needs to be a selfless electorate.  Brand states this can be achievable if we remove the negative tones of the media that keep us all hating each other and wipe out the self-interested, you scratch my back etc. government and the ‘democratic’ system that legitimises such behaviour.  Such a task seems unfathomable as we are talking about taking on the two biggest conglomerates of our world who reinforce each other’s power to keep themselves at the top, and a smooth tongued Edward Scissorhands mascquerading as Jack the Lad is going to lead this mutiny…

Yet is that to say we should not try?   Is it better to live under a flawed system then try a potentially freeing yet unknown new one?  Brand may not be our best hope but give him credit, there’s few else loud enough to have their say on Newsnight for the sake of the underclass (whether he has a new film upcoming or not).

why I just can’t hate miley cyrus

 

Before people come round to egg my house and troll my facebook page with abuse let me defend myself.  This isn’t a pro-Miley review or a defence for the ex-Disney dollfaced douchebag.  This is an explanation as to why all the hype, good and bad, around Miley is completely 100% totally unwarranted.

While everyone is preoccupied with either loving or hating Cyrus I’m left struggling to see why either side is so bothered.  Ah yes to be fair she has released a whole catalogue of ground breaking industry changing music.  I guess this justifies the masses of attention; it is always a shame when living legends of a whole generation loose the edge or talent that we all love them for.  Heavy to bare is such a disappointment.  Oh wait, she’s released fuck all songs that will be remembered in five years never mind having the longeivity (she claims herself to have) to produce different Miley eras as if she’s the next Madonna (i.e. Fun 80’s Madonna, Wannabe Brit 90’s Dance Madonna, Shit-look-at-her-scary-arms 00’s Madge).

I suppose you could argue it is fair to devote so much time and energy chatting about Miley Cyrus as, even if her music isn’t particularly credible, she is the first person to do so many things.  Such as being the first Disney kid star to get her raunch on and cross over into the pop charts, shave her head, get engaged incredibly young, it not work out, be cringely ‘controversial’ on the VMAs, have similarly aged pop princess nemesises.  If there’s one thing you can say about Britney it’s that she is one of a kind. I mean Miley!

I’m aware of the irony in talking about hating how much everyone’s talking about Cyrus but it’s hard to avoid the subject lately.  It should also be noted I don’t hate her, or at least as much as I know about her from what I’ve read and seen (and let’s be honest we’ve all seen a heck of a lot of her).  So I’m sorry Miley but this isn’t actually about you for once, it’s about the mountainous amounts of daily coverage you and your tongue get regardless of what actual interesting or important events are happening across the globe. For example the totally unheard phenomena of a popstar smoking weed proved to be truly scandalous.  The reaction to this is as bewildering as Miley’s claim to being a massive pot head, she loves the stuff apparently.  No you don’t Miley, otherwise you wouldn’t keep banging on about it.  Until you have as much G status as Snoop you don’t get to casually drop it into a Rolling Stone interview like you’re talking about tea.  This is not news.  It’s definitely not new news. And if it is well that’s news to me.

And why did Sinéad attempt to save the Tennesse twirking twit or even think she needed saving in the first place?  She felt so worried by the Miley movement that she felt obliged to begin a saga of medicore letters full of cliches and nothing I’m sure Miley or for that matter any 20 yr old girl with her vagina out on Facebook hasn’t heard before.  Cheap dig at mental illness aside, why oh why is Sinéad bothered?  Is she on a one woman crusade to teach all young women in music that nakedness does not equate to likeability/popularity?  Because everyone knows boys like you more the less clothes you wear, right?

Maybe she’s penning a note to Riri right now explaining she doesn’t have to be a good girl gone bad. Or perhaps she’s helping Bieber by sending lots of lesbian support phamplets to the miniture moody madam.  It must be frustrating what with all the attention on Cyrus.  Get your tits out Bieber, then people will talk about you again.

The situation has blown up out of control.  It’s as absurd as the reason it started in the first place – Miley’s claim that the video to Wrecking Ball is the new Nothing Compared To You.  Oh yeh I can totally see the similarities between Nothing Compares and Wrecking Ball. In Nothing Comapres, Sinéad completes the entire vid in one take and cries spontaneously during the verse about her dead mother and Miley gives a hammer a blowey. Jesus.  How did Sinéad feel this validates a response?  It’s like feeling the need to point out the difference between a hurricane and my elbow.  There is no need, it’s pretty bloody evident.

Saying all that however I guess I could sum up the point of this article with one question; who gives a fuck?

why indie will never die

indie music will never die

Try as you might you will never beat the power of the most stagnant music in town.  Brit indie. It stands fast and steady amongst the evolving and new and provides a boring pillar of resilience against innovators, politely though as it wouldn’t want to offend anyone.

Indie is a truly recognisable British-made thing and had a big impact on the music scene in the 2000s emerging from 90s Brit pop offering much hope in the way of Blighty-led musical movements. Listen to something like Absolute radio and you’ll hear all the old classics and, if you’re of a certain age, you’ll impress yourself with how many you know the lyrics to. Man, those choruses were catchy. This type of music is still about today and, whether you like it or not, brit indie will never die.
Indie refuses to change with the times. This usually spells death for most other fads of music but here repetitive releases of the same mediocre songs and indistinguishable bands will keep this genre alive forever. Indie is kept about by its blandness. It ‘s uncontroversy is as strong as it’s hold on the people who love it.
It’s no longer led by innovators as new bands follow the same formula as their predecessors in everything that they do from having a minimum of one northern or slightly west country sounding bloke in the lineup to the obligatory ‘The’ before your band’s name. The Courgettes, The Cream Crackers, The Same Beige As Your Nan’s Sofa, etc. It’s not even backed by legends as they all die off after 2 albums. Or at least they should.
You know when parents like to listen to the old music they played when they were younger, well, if you like this music you can fool yourself into thinking you’re still cool and changing with the times because as one dull and weak band rinses all they can out of the same safe faux alternative set up and hits the invisible two-album glass ceiling another appears. And you can tell all your mates about this great new band who sound just like 100s of others.
Indie; where nothing ever happens and all band members wear the same rock n roll leather jacket while picking their haircuts from the same Gallagher bros. style book. This dull drone of boring music will never die, not unless all people who claim to like this music are wiped out in one massively selective meteor crash because it is the antithesis of Darwinism; unlike other types of music it is completely incapable of evolving and thus secures its survival for another rainy day. When that meteor comes that will be the day the mediocre music dies.

the trials of living with a creative

Written for sabotagetimes.com - june 2013

The hell and heaven of living with someone who makes stuff for a living.

Cre-a-tive noun

1. Someone who does something creative for a living, likely to work from home. Distinguished by an inability to complete mundane tasks effectively unsupervised, refusal to recognise their own unworldly creative genius and are often surrounded by a large collection of used mugs.

The term Creative is used collectively here to include all those people who make something for a living, although it is not restricted to just those that receive an income from it. The something they make may be music, photography, films, oil paintings, wicker baskets, or cross-stitch scale models of thatched Tudor houses; the trade can be many and any. What is similar though are the experiences of Creatives’ partners.

The first step towards understanding a Creative is accepting that you will never understand them. They’re an enigma of highs and lows, illuminating positivity and then falling fiercely into spells of troubled despondency. They’ll feel guilty for not working as much as they can, yet in reality have little spare time to even eat properly. They will imagine the most obscure and beautiful ideas and then make them materialise with unintelligible talent, yet completely lack all the skill it takes to pay the water bill. The most understanding thing you can do for a Creative is to admit that you don’t understand them, but you think they’re fucking great because of it.

One of the things about a Creative you will not understand is how, while they are working, they’re certain that their work is shit. While you look at something as out of this world as the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling or shed a tear to words as stirring as Cohen’s Hallelujah, the Creative will see mistakes, stupidity, misery and despair. This is not a tactic to make you reassure them that they’re great like when skinny people ask you if they look fat. When they say it’s crap they genuinely believe it to be so and this unmerciful self-criticism is a common trait throughout Creatives. During the making process you will be completely unable to convince or reassure a Creative that their rough draft is better than anything you could complete in a lifetime. They will dismiss this and they will refuse to be consoled or cheered up. You may even be a little hurt by the implication that your own level of creativity does not act as valid means of measurement for their own. However they do not mean to offend you and this you should understand. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that they see each project as a completely isolated phenomenon that cannot be compared to any other experiences, even their own.

As they create, the escalating shitness of things will not be limited to just their work but will include all things and people that dare enter their work space. This might be the tools they use, an inadequate biscuit, their socks or the lack or excess of sun/rain/breeze/postmen. This irrationality can be hard to humour, especially for someone like me who tips the opposite end of the rationality scale like a pragmatic cyborg. Their irrationality during these times should not be misunderstood for negativity. Creatives are not negative people. It’s just that all their energy and focus has been employed by whatever project they’re working on at the time and there is no surplus strength or headspace left for logic. The level of their dedication is as incredible as what they create.

Living with a Creative definitely gives opportunity for some interesting surprises. During a four month period of particularly demanding work my Creative insisted on darkness. I came home one day and found that the window had been blocked out. Over these few months haunting and often quite apocalyptic film scores played around the house. All of the time. I started to crave extremely happy things like Disney and kaleidoscopes. I experienced withdrawal symptoms from colour and welled up whenever someone mentioned Spring. There was a particularly intense moment when I got home from work to a very sullen Creative who, after a nightmare about a man helplessly watching everything in his life get destroyed, spent a whole day creating this vision. It was made even more poignant by there not being the right type of bread in the cupboard for lunch. Just another day at the office.

Those particular environmental changes were only specific to that piece of work and since then we have had many other habitats created, so far luckily none of which have required developing bat like senses to compensate for lack of sight again. The metaphorical light and shade many Creatives go through seems to be an integral part to the whole process and the end result, every time, is worth so much more than the course it takes to get there. It may not be for everyone, but I think it’s worth the wait.

The hardest thing about living with a Creative is understanding that the very thing that makes you want to push them out of the window is also the reason why you still haven’t. While they’re working they have no interest in how your day has been, yet you’re inspired by their unmovable commitment. Conversations without them interrupting even themselves with a remark about their work will be scarce, yet you love the limitless of their imagination and being part of the process. Their over-thinking and perfectionism can be infuriating and still you’re impressed by their ambition to always do better. Their creativeness pulls you towards them and makes you feel like you’re running in circles at the same time. And though you may not be sure why, you can be certain that there’s no one else you’d rather live with, and how you live with them is something they will never understand.

there’s nothing lucky about daft punk

theres nothing lucky about daft punk

Daft Punk get lucky a second time this year as Random Access Memories becomes the most streamed album on Spotify after their first UK no. 1 single Get Lucky. And it’s all because they have time on their side.

Daft Punk’s second album Discovery has to be 9/10 joggers’ favourite running playlist and it also propelled the French electronic duo into the UK Top 10. It was followed up with the massively anticipated Tron 2 soundtrack. For many, this was an anxious time in wait as every Tron fan heaped a pile of nostalgic pressure on Daft Punk to produce something as incredible as their memories of the original film. Plus whatever followed Discovery had to be fucking awesome.

Aside from producing some great tracks, Daft Punk (aka Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter) can attribute a lot of their success to timing. With few album releases compared to the many years they’ve been on the circuit, fans are left eager and impatient rather than bored and indifferent. They have managed to resist the temptation to saturate people with numerous remixes of holiday choons in an increasingly popular Guetta-esque style.

April saw the release of Get Lucky with the prince of groove Pharrell Williams on vocals. And the timing was epic. After what seemed the most miserable winter in recent history the UK was ready to throw itself under a metaphorical bus and give up all hope for summer. And then Get Lucky started getting played on the airwaves, and the almighty sun shone and Spring did cometh! Daft Punk couldn’t have planned it better. As their disco beats rang out on the radio it took the chill off a relentless winter. The single became the film score to the weekend for thousands of pale faced Brits as they threw off their coats and became the leading roles in their own glorious sunlit smartphone shot movies.

Others have already begun to capitalise on Daft Punk’s scheduling skills. Radio 1 used the track in their Big Weekend TV adverts and there are already Top 10 lists of the best covers online featuring Daughter and Alan Partridge (sort of). They say that imitation is the best form of flattery and you can put money on there being more examples of this over the next few months.

Get Lucky’s massively summer vibe partly comes from its flirtatious lyrics. Pharrell Williams croons all over the track like a Casanova songbird instantly transporting you to warmer times. That and the fact he’s singing about getting laid ain’t a bad thing for Daft Punk. Casual hook ups set up within the space of a song are all the more acceptable and likely in the summer as holiday romances, boozy BBQs and any old excuse for a street party present more opportunities to get lucky. In the warmer months of the year it’s not so much being easy, more like summer breezy.

There’s also something to be said about self-promotion. Sing along to Get Lucky and you’ll find yourself singing about how you pulled to the song you’re singing… With lyrics like that Pharrell may as well be singing “we’re getting rich to this song, we’re up all night to get minted”.

With age-defying dance floor classics like Around the World, One More Time and Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger under their shiny robot belt Daft Punk have proved they know how to groove us. And their videos have definitely entertained us from Appleseed inspired anime to Academy award-winning director Michel Gondry’s surreal synchronised dance routines. The Daft duo are yet to release a music video for Get Lucky, instead leaving fans and filmmakers to build hype around the song by inundating YouTube with their own versions.

When you have a track as strong and feel-good as Get Lucky there’s no need for a generic dance music video full of every happy beautiful person in the world in a montage of beach parties, and thus far Daft Punk have restrained from these predictable moves. Maybe the next video will feature festival sized crowds of perfectly toothed and tanned models jumping in slow-mo, high on life (unlike the reality of being buzzed off your nut in a field of plastic bottles with that one mate crying about her ex/other mates/missed cat). Whatever the type of video they release no doubt it will be as perfectly timed as the song was and will become the visual hallmark of summer 2013.

The snippet of film that has been put out there looks pretty stripped back with only 2 x robots, Pharrell, and disco producer/guitarist legend Nile Rodgers. Rodgers has worked on some of the most toe-tapping shoulder-shaking tunes over the last 4 decades working with Bowie, Diana Ross, Madonna, Duran Duran, Jeff Beck, Grace Jones, Earth Wind and Fire amongst so many others. In the 1970s Rodgers was part of Chic who grew from an unsigned grassroots disco group into an undeniable musical force moving disco out of the lesser known R&B charts and into next level popchart glory.

Nile Rodgers is no stranger to creating an authentic sound that transcends over time and genres, something that resonates deeper than just a song in the style of another era. In 1979 Chic’s Good Times was sampled in The Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight which was the first multiple-platinum Hip Hop single that many believe truly broke Hip Hop to wider audiences. It is this authenticity that makes Get Lucky more than just a summer chart topper and instead a modern day disco classic. Daft Punk’s fourth album Random Access Memories continues the same groovy tuneage without any feeling of imitation. It sounds like something old yet is applicable and accessible to the present day, much like Wino’s Frank is to jazz, Beirut is to folk, Joey Bada$$ to underground hip hop, Julio Bashmore to 90s minimal house and The Darkness to glam rock (only joking!).

In an interview about the track Rodgers expressed how working with Daft Punk felt like “working with contemporaries”. He explained that the record reminded him of the physical effect Donna Summer’s Love to Love You Baby had on him at the time of its release because of its groove, and the “groove is everything”.

The Independent cited Get Lucky as the “comeback of the year”. But what they haven’t realised is that Daft Punk never went away. They have always been here, quietly watching an endless run of banal dance-pop puppets crucify what makes a Summer Anthem special and necessary. And when it was all about to get too much they re-emerged and showed us how it was done just in time for summer. Groovy.

meet bandy; the nhl’s fat sister

Russia vs Sweden in 2008 bandy final fighting to win as much as be respected by 'tougher' sports

Written for Marathonbet's sport news and features blog - 2013
See here for the original post

Missing the NHL? Here’s a sport that will knock you bandy!

It’s not the most well-known sport in this neck of the woods, but Bandy actually has roots firmly within English history.  Workers were often encouraged to take part in the sport to prevent them from spending too much time in the pubs.  Even Queen Victoria’s Prince Albert couldn’t resist playing goalkeeper in a famous exhibition match in 1853 at Windsor Castle.

At first glance you wouldn’t be alone in mistaking it for ice hockey, but the game’s similarities actually lie more with football.  Bandy is played on ice with sticks and skates, but that is where its relations with ice hockey stop.  It requires a rink the size of a football pitch with 11 players on each team, and unlike ice hockey, goalkeepers may only use their hands and feet to defend their goal.  Instead of a puck, bandy players chase a small orange plastic ball that was traditionally carved out of cork.

While many Nordic NHL players credit their success to playing bandy in their early years, there is a definite divide between fans of ice hockey and its predecessor. The aggressive physical contact and body checking so strongly identified with ice hockey is what makes it a more credible sport, most avid fans would argue. Fights between players are commonplace in NHL and that must be part of the appeal, as NHL is widely viewed across the world. In stark contrast, many of the world’s communities have not even heard of bandy.

Bandy is criticised for its lack of aggression in some quarters, often dubbed as hockey’s ‘fat sister’. However, bandy fans claim a stronger form of athleticism is involved, due to its extremely fast pace and larger ice rinks. On average, a bandy player will cover 7 to 11 miles per 90 minute game.  Players require more stamina and agility as there are fewer substitutions available than ice hockey. A similar comparison could be drawn up between clashing advocates of football and rugby union; where different strengths, skills and fortitudes are required.

With ice hockey dominating North America, and mild winters in Britain (hard to believe that at the moment!) not producing the same scale and strength of ice as it used to, bandy is most popular in the Nordic countries. Naturally frozen lakes and fens, large enough to host the football pitch-size rinks are commonplace in Scandinavia.  There is only one purpose built bandy ice rink in whole of the USA.

Russia and Sweden completely dominate the international bandy scene with third place left for other countries to squabble over.  This concentration of success is arguably a strong factor in bandy’s limited recognition elsewhere.  Russia is due to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, yet still campaigns for bandy to be admitted into the games.

Whilst bandy’s duopoly struggles in an international format, the sport thrives at a local level within the two forerunning nations. Both Russia and Sweden have a regional, tiered league system in which players have the chance to earn 6-digit wages playing in the highest divisions.

2013 will see a first in bandy history when the Svenska Bandyfinalen (Swedish Bandy Final) is played indoors with heating – much to the spectators’ delight!  The newly-built Friends Arena in Solna will host the hotly anticipated event, as well as finals for Women’s and Youth leagues.  Bandy teams and their fans will hope that the predicted success of these events will help to promote and introduce their sport to other countries.

With the necessity of massive, sturdy, year-round frozen football pitches removed – the sport is more easily hosted elsewhere.  Potentially exhibition games can tour internationally and maybe even league games played elsewhere with a similar approach to the NFL/Wembley and NBA/O₂ Arena collaborations.

This week sees big fixtures in both Sweden and Russia’s premier leagues, Elitserien and the Super League respectively.

taylor’s tantrum tells a tale

phil taylor and ageing athletes in sport

Written for Marathonbet's sports news and features blog - Jan 2013
Click right here for original post

Phil Taylor, some make him able to go for 20 titles but does Sunday’s regretful outburst signal the start of the end?

During his 25 year long career Taylor has dominated the darts scene and become infamous for his strong mental attitude, with an unmoveable commitment to his daily training.  The long hours spent each day have helped him raise his game, and his competitors’ as they have had to step up to put any kind of pressure on ‘The Power’.

With the addition of New Year’s Day’s £200,000 prize money Taylor has won £5,250,000 over his career, and holds numerous records such as his three-dart average per match, which is higher than anyone else in the history of darts.

Before Tuesday’s title win there was speculation surrounding Taylor’s ability. As the Stoke arrowsmith reached the wrong end of middle-age, he started to wear glasses and swapped to more weighty darts – prompting doubts that he could still compete with his younger opponents.  He built a gym in his house and began to lose weight and see a sport psychiatrist.  His unrivalled work ethic has seemed to have paid off, and many reports since New Year’s rate him as supreme as ever.

Before the final, Taylor expressed his growing interest in retiring, however he did a complete 180 after winning the Championship, claiming he’ll “be back on the practice board tomorrow getting ready for next season”, with an aim of hitting 20 titles.

Though the battle of Tuesday’s final against Dutch giant Michael van Gerwen – 29 years Taylor’s junior – was successful for Taylor, the war remains very much un-won, and the fight against age is a timely concern for him as it is for any sportsperson.

Taylor’s onstage outburst at Raymond van Barneveld after beating him in Sunday’s semi-final could arguably be a sign of wearisome pressure from years of trying to stay ahead of increasingly younger opponents; keeping up with one’s own reputation and raising a family of four all add to a ‘mature’ player’s mental fatigue.  However it could be said that his snappy reaction to van Barneveld’s heavy handed congratulations was just behaviour for anyone under an intense spotlight (Taylor had to suffer the crowd’s strong vocal support for opponent van Barneveld throughout the game).

Either way, it calls into question the different challenges older-than-average sportspersons face.  Maybe mistakenly we focus too much on the maintenance of their athleticism.  Barely does a comment of 39 year old Ryan Giggs go by without a mention of his unfloundering somatic stamina on the football pitch, and Martina Navratilova retired from tennis just before hitting 50 answering questions as to how she maintained her physical strength and endurance with fruit, and the rest was a mystery even to her.

While some athletes hang up the towel earlier than others due to injury, family commitments or a bank balance big enough to settle the Eurozone crisis, others just cannot seem to stop.  And with each win their enthusiasm to compete gets reignited and another season is to begin.  With the exception of a select few, older competitors are more commonly seen leading the pack in less physically demanding sports, with most over-50’s in last year’s Olympics competing in equestrian and shooting.

Remaining as fast and as strong as younger athletes is heralded throughout sport, yet the exigent mental attitude of less excursive sports is often left uncommented on and unchecked.  Eric Bristow, darts veteran and early financial sponsor of ‘The Power’, believes the 2013 title won’t be the last for Taylor but says, “he won’t get to 20”.

With only four more PDC championships to get until the world champion reaches his single mark (20 if you’re not into darts), it’s unlikely that his physicality – unless majorly inhibited through illness or injury – or a younger competitor will stop him from reaching his target.  But with cracks like Sunday’s tantrum beginning to show, maybe Phil Taylor and others in similar stages of their sporting careers, should keep an eye on their mental health before the stress of competing outweighs the pleasure of partaking.

andy murray 2013 preview

what will 2013 bring for andy murray

Written for Marathonbet's sport news and features blog - december 
2012

What will the new year hold for Andy Murray?  Can he withstand Great Britain’s historic pressure and expectations, and is it all down to the Czech?

Andy Murray has been passed back and forth between the English and Scots like a hot potato over the years. Neither nation was willing to accept his short-comings both on and off the court. With the frustrations of the Henman/Rusedski era in the not too distant past, Murray has carried the weight of becoming the much anticipated British tennis hero. 2012 has seen a shift in the Dunblane lad’s fortunes. Pundits and experts have spotted a definite change in Murray, and the public have rallied around his achievements and efforts; making him a favourite for this year’s BBC Sports Personality of The Year. Could 2013 be just as fruitful, or even be the year that sees that elusive Wimbledon win?

Next year could potentially carve up some title-winning opportunities for Andy Murray if he lives up to our expectations. Many experts say that it’s all down to the help of his no-nonsense Czech coach Ivan Lendl. ‘Andy walks around differently now and the other players regard him with greater respect – and Lendl is the one who has made the difference’, observes three-time Wimbledon winner Boris Becker. Lendl has adopted an aggressive approach to coaching, similar to the ‘business-like’ attitude he had as a player. Becker recalls; ‘the reason Ivan is coming to London is not to take Andy to the movies. He’s here to work.’ Lendl’s tough-love has had a positive influence on Murray’s performance.

The results can be seen clearly enough, with the 25 year old bringing home an Olympic Gold medal in the men’s singles (the first Brit since Josiah Ritchie 104 years ago) and winning the US Open against his fast-becoming nemesis Novak Djokovic. The US Open triumph made Murray the first British man to win a Grand Slam title since the famous clothing inspiration Fred Perry in 1936. 2012 saw Murray and Lendl literally change British history, which has served to raise expectations for the duo’s performance in up-coming tournaments. Much like this past season, 2013 will not be without competition. The Australian Open begins in January with Djokovic and Roger Federer – arguably Murray’s two fiercest rivals over recent years – boasting seven out of the past ten titles between them. Murray is currently ranked third behind the aforementioned tennis titans, and 2013 will also see the return of Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who missed the majority of 2012 through injury.

Murray will have to work hard to overcome the ‘king of clay’. Where Rafa’s confidence excels Murray’s skills fall, and the clay courts of Roland Garros for May’s French Open could prove problematic for the Scot. There’s also cause for another concern from the land of Gloria Estefan, matadores and bleach blonde Bond villains in the form of Nicolas Alamgro. The 11th ranked 27 year old was part of the Spanish team that lost to the Czech Republic in the 100th Davis Cup final last month. Earlier this month Almagro defeated Andy Roddick in a Miami Tennis Cup Exhibition. Recently retired Roddick had beaten Murray earlier in the same tournament. This Spanish combination could prove to be a bit of an armada for Murray, and the effect that Rafa’s return has on Federer and Djokovic’s fortunes remains to be seen.

The main chat around Murray’s resistors is his media-relished rivalry with Serbian world number one Djokovic. This year saw the rivals clash at the US and Australian Open finals, with them taking a title each in a pair of gruelling 5-set marathons. Murray also defeated Djokovic in straight sets on home ground in the Olympic semi-finals, yet they didn’t have a chance to meet during Wimbledon 2012, they were on opposite sides of the draw. Wimbledon veteran Federer dismissed Djokovic in the semis before reducing Murray to tears in the final. Djokovic already boasts a Wimbledon win from 2011, and in 2012 Murray became the first British male to reach a Wimbledon final since Bunny Austin in 1938.

Murray was unfortunately outclassed by the elegant Swiss legend Federer. However, looking into 2013, many would state that Federer has had his best years, whilst Nadal will have a lot of ground to make up following his injury. There seems to be enough evidence to suggest that there’s definitely a score to be settled between Murray and Djokovic. However there are many factors to consider in what makes a true rivalry-of-our-time; does Murray/Djokovic match up to past pairings such as Sampras/Agassi of the nineties or the Williams sisters’ sledgehammer matches of 2000?

If the lure of Lendl’s stoic coaching continues to focus Murray, then 2013 could produce some beautifully tense, equally matched tennis between two opposite personalities. This will make for some great TV, classic tennis and may well be the year of Murray’s career so far.