It’s been one of these weeks that managed to get me to think about sport. I’m not a particularly avid follower of any particular teams or sports, but certainly appreciate that it forms a major part in the lives of many. I’m definitely not one to eschew competitive sport, and believe that young children have a lot to gain from active participation – learning about team spirit, fair play, losing, and hopefully also winning occasionally. The week seems to have raised a number of contrasts.
- During the week Ross County became the first ever football team to work their way up from the Highland League to secure a place in the SPL. I’m a great advocate of the underdog so really wlecomed this news.
- News started to emerge that the SPL are seeking to change their rules regarding the sanctions that should apply to teams that go into administration – it smacks very much of a desperate attempt to enable Glasgow Rangers to avoid being relegated to the Third Division. Sport should really promote fair play and to me it is just wrong to treat Rangers any differently than previous teams that have gone into administration even if doing so does mean a drop in TV revenue for a few years – it is pretty clear to me that potential TV money has probably been a motivator for the dubious practices that have led to the current situation regarding football finances.
- Despite some hints that the teams might withdraw from the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix, the latest indications are that they will decide to go ahead having been assured that sufficient security measures will be put in place to protect them. My problem is that the staging of this race will lend a degree of legitimacy to the Bahrain regime, whose conduct with regard to humans rights remains a cause for concern.
Saturday found me being aware of three major events:
- The first Scottish Cup semi-final of the weekend saw Hibs beat Aberdeen 2-1, my only real contact with this being pre-match chat on Radio Scotland and a few FaceBook postings following the result.
- The Grand National; prior to this I had wondered if any bookies would be offering odds on the number of horses that would die as a result of their participation – NOT that I wished to place a bet; I just wondered if there was a recognition that there was a high probability of such deaths. I couldn’t find any quotes but sadly my suspicion that two horses would have to be put down turned out to be the outcome (although at the time of writing this a further two horses are still undergoing treatment as a result of their falls). Earlier in the week I had been listening to ‘Call Kaye’ on Radio Scotland when they had been discussing horse welfare in the Grand National, highlighting the fact that thoroughbred horses now are less robust and less able to cope with jumps than those that had raced in National Hunt previously.
- The Melrose Sevens was played in sun and hail showers; to my mind, a great example of a ‘feel good’ competition where opposing fans can generally engage in healthy rivalry without any real fear that hateful violence will ensue. I was so pleased when local Borders team Jed Forest won through to face Saracens in the final. To borrow a tired football commentator’s cliché, it was a game of two halves – the first half was very exciting as Jed were first to score and retained the lead until the latter stages. Saracens went into half-time with a small lead, sadly the superior fitness of the professional team showed as Saracens dominated the second half, going on to win by a considerable margin of 50 to 21.
- On waking I decided to give the Chinese Grand Prix a shot; it was interesting and featured a very fluid battle for for third place in the closing stages. It ended with the first race win for Mercedes since the year I was born, and I was fairly surprised to note only one non-finisher, and that due to a wheel change error during a pit stop rather than a racing incident. I will not be making a point to catch all live races covered by the BBC; whilst being an interesting diversion I realised that much of my enjoyment of previous seasons was reliant on fairly detailed knowledge of the intricacies of teams and technical information gained by closely following every race.
- The second Scottish Cup semi-final saw Glasgow Celtic pitted against Edinburgh’s Heart of Midlothian; not being much of a football fan I still found myself drawn to this match as a win by Hearts would result in an all Edinburgh final. I ended up watching most of the match which did nothing to change my view that it is a fairly uninspiring sport. But I do recognise that many disagree with this opinion and I can appreciate the important part the game plays in Scottish society. The final result pleased me as it did see the Glasgow team being beaten; as a result the final on 19th May will be the first time that the two Edinburgh sides will have met in a Scottish Cup final since 1896. Amusingly, post match coverage on Radio Scotland suggested that the match appears to have been dubbed the ‘salt and sauce’ final, in recognition of the preferred option for fish and chips in the Edinburgh area rather than salt and vinegar.
- New course records were set during the third Brighton Marathon. Included amongst the runners was Tracey McCarthy, running to raise money and awareness for The L Project. This also served to remind me that next Sunday brings the London Marathon.