Cheer up!

Switching on the news and browsing the media websites this week is unusually depressing. Without perspective and a wider source of information and analysis, one could be excused for thinking the world is going to hell in a handcart. I’m not going to list the reasons why one might be feeling low, the media do a good enough job of running “if it bleeds, it leads” stories. 

In any case, I’m not convinced it’s true. In fact, I think the reality is almost 180 degrees the other way; there are far more signs things are going well and what we’re being served as news is simply a mixture of confirmation bias and a logical reaction to incentives. A regular browse of the good news stories on Human Progress is a useful counter to the media confirmation bias.

I don’t say this lightly…. I have become convinced, via conversations with friends, family and colleagues that the media business model, what is left of it, has become detrimental to the general mental health of the world.

Technological advances have resulted in a proliferation of volume (24 x 7 updates) and sources (you’re reading a personal blog, but it’s still “a source”) of news. Our old friend, Pareto distribution, drives eyeballs and clicks to those presenting the most compelling new information.

Not much bad stuff happened today” is not a headline we’ll continue to tolerate on consecutive days for very long.  

Let’s lighten the mood a little today then. Because it’s human nature to take pleasure at others’ mild misfortune (after all, that describes the basis for all comedy), today’s blog post is simply a bunch of happy predictions I am prepared to make and the timeframe within which I expect them to occur. 

If you share my optimism and outlook, they might cheer you up immediately. If you don’t, you might experience the even greater pleasure of delayed gratification when the deadline passes and you can return to the comments section and have a chuckle at my expense. 

Either way, I will benefit from a warm feeling of selfless, righteous altruism….

Bill’s Opinion Predictions

Sports

The Bledisloe Cup match this weekend will be won by Australia and, if this prediction transpires, they will go on to draw or win the return match the following weekend and therefore finally win the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in almost a generation. This one is a long shot and is based more on a feeling New Zealand’s team has become fragile and somewhat “woke”.  

The 2019 Rugby World Cup will be won by a northern hemisphere team. My preference would be England but I could probably live with it being Ireland and, after a little introspection and professional counselling, even Wales. The important point is, it’s not going to be New Zealand.

Brexit

Britain will leave the EU on October 31st without a deal. Boris Johnson will be Prime Minister at the time, but will call a General Election in January and will be returned with a clear but not large majority.  

No material changes will occur to the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Britain will not experience significant disruption to trade or travel as a consequence to Brexit. Some luxury or highly-specialised goods or services might have a wobble but will be solved within a few weeks.

EU

As a consequence to the world not ending after Brexit, the EU will double down on their commitment to a European federal una-state, passing laws to ensure a single taxation code, a European military, centralised control of immigration and further adoption of the Euro.

Leo Varadkar will be ousted as Taoiseach by the Dáil before Christmas 2019 as a reward for being played by the EU with regards to Brexit.

USA

The Democrats will nominate Elizabeth Warren as the 2020 presidential candidate. Donald Trump will win a second term with an increased share of both the Electoral College and the popular vote. The presidential debates will comedy gold on a par with the best efforts of Monty Python and Ricky Gervais.

Media

Following the USA elections, there will be some high profile media casualties, with a consolidation or bankruptcy of several high profile brands such as CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post and the New York Times.

In other countries, such as Canadia and Australia, several mastheads and broadcasters will be further subsidised or even nationalised.

Global Economy

Despite the continuing call for a global stock market crash, higher highs will be reached on the major indices. Gold and silver will see a 20% increase by the end of 2020.

China will “lose” the trade war with the USA. This will be spun as the opposite to save face but the trade indicators will show a material improvement towards the USA.  

Australian Economy

Flat as a pancake over 2019 and 2020 with a slight uptick in unemployment.

House prices in the two main cities will continue a slow atrophy with the occasional dead cat bounce for a month or two which will be lauded as signifying the “new bottom”. At the end of 2020, prices will be lower than today.

 

The Sydney Harbour Stadium

Milton Friedman famously explained the four ways to spend money:

1. Your money on yourself – explaining the model and age of car you drive, balancing comfort, speed and prestige with cost to your preferred ratio.

2. Your money on someone else – explains why the presents you give are generous but not extravagant.

3. Someone else’s money on you – explaining why you always order the fillet steak and a good Shiraz when eating on the company expense tab.

4. Someone else’s money on someone else – explaining why the New South Wales government just awarded a contract to demolish a stadium and rebuild it before the new one had been designed.

No, really. That last one just happened.

In the Olympic event of “Pissing away other people’s money”, it’s a close contender for Gold along side Victoria’s $1.1bn road that never got built.

I suppose the Moore Park location isn’t as godawful as the Olympic Stadium at Homebush, which takes about an hour to reach even if you live close to it (which nobody who follows sports does), but it’s a crap location nonetheless.

If only there were better alternative suggestions….

Bill’s Opinion

Now that it’s been knocked down by corruption mistake, so to speak, why not take the opportunity to turf over the space and let the local junkies have a larger area to pitch their bivvies and overdose in.

Meanwhile, Sydney could build the world’s best sporting venue evah….

Ladies and Gentlemen…. The Sydney Harbour Stadium:

 In summary, our design includes;

1 A world class 120,000 seater stadium built to the north of Clark Island.

2 A “rollable” pitch to be moved out to the east of the stadium when not in use to ensure full sunlight on the grass (learning the lesson of Wales’ Millennium Stadium)

3 A new dedicated underground railway station linking up with Wynyard and terminating at Clark Island.

4 A new ferry wharf to the north west of the stadium connecting with Circular Quay and the other ferry routes.

Imagine the excitement of jumping on a quick ferry ride to a major international sporting event held in the middle of the world’s most beautiful natural harbour. Spectators would quickly arrive and depart using multiple ferries to different harbour locations and the train would connect with the existing rail network.

The footage of the game would be the best advert for Australian tourism (another industry in dire need of stimulus) ever shown on TV. Away matches in Sydney would be the highlight of every international team’s fixtures and their fans would always consider those fixtures as the first choice for travel.

Unlike the current disastrous commercial project the New South Wales government has presided over, this proposed stadium has been fully-designed and costed and, if the government minister would contact me, I will be happy to hand over the three used Malboro packets with the details.

(Keen observers will notice the basic idea for this stadium appeared elsewhere but I have since taken ownership of the copyright).

It’s not the winning that counts

…but the taking part.

Lucky old Tom Decent; he was finally allowed to write about rugby yesterday, rather than being sent to the Folaus’ church to live blog from the Sunday service;

The good news for those who like the rugby status quo is that the Wallabies performed badly, lost a match and the coach and local commentators blamed a single decision by the referee.

Australia had just been awarded a scrum feed but right as the whistle blew Tupou belted South African back-rower Rynhardt Elstadt with a forceful hit. The TMO said he believed it was “clearly a shoulder charge to the chest”, while Williams said on the field: “The guy is sitting there and he’s come running in with the shoulder. It’s clearly dangerous, it hit him in the chest after the whistle. Away you go.”

Many thought a penalty would suffice but Australia were reduced to 14 men and it proved to be a pivotal moment in the game as South Africa ran away with the result to continue an eight-year winning streak on home soil against the Aussies.

Many thought” is doing a lot of work in those paragraphs above.

Many also thought it was fairly unintelligent to steam in to a ruck, shoulder first, in a stadium with more cameras than the Celebrity Big Brother House, particularly when the referee was playing advantage to your team.

A word to young aspiring sports journalists the world over; quoting Phil Kearns’ opinion on anything as if objective and knowledgeable is not conducive to being taken seriously. For example, the words “double movement” are nowhere to be found in the Rugby law book. Oh, and they are laws not rules, Phil.

Yeah, yeah, details are annoying.

Bill’s Opinion

It might be argued that Rugby Union is a dying sport in Australia. Certainly, the attendance figures for the top league are insipid and declining year on year.

Pinpointing when the rot set in is a tough task; the national team have had a reputation for over-performing for years compared to their perceived abilities and talent pool, which may have had an effect of disguising institutional problems.

Rather like Hemingway’s quote on how an individual became bankrupt, (“two ways…gradually and then suddenly“), one suspects the Australian rugby code is now reaping the poor harvest of inaction or actions of perhaps decades ago. My suspicion is the 2nd term of former CEO John O’Neil (2007-2013) might be a good starting point for an investigation and also the subsequent term of Bill Pulver.

Both were great examples of the the strange phenomenon of Australian upper class elite in a country that prides itself on being egalitarian and classless. O’Neil and Pulver attended St Joseph’s and “Shore” (Sydney Church of England Grammar School), respectively, as did most of their predecessors and peers. It’s a shallow and parochial talent pool which often benefits from the “closed shop” approach common to an “old boy’s network”.

Without forensically examining the board papers and internal memoranda throughout that period, it’s impossible to be certain what the causes of the malaise were. The consequences are plain to see though; declining attendance, participation and on-pitch results (there are people who are taking their driving lessons this year who weren’t born when Australia last won the Bledisloe Cup, for example).

Bill Pulver handed the reigns over to Raelene Castle who, although making encouraging noises about grassroots participation, has picked an ideological battleground which risks a heavy financial loss if unsuccessful, one which the sport can ill-afford at this febrile time.

There’s a glimmer of hope in the article linked above though; the semi-professional Shute Shield competition can draw crowds close to those of some of the Super Series teams.

Perhaps that’s the future of rugby in Australia; a recognition of financial reality and a reversion to the model where the athletes have regular jobs on civvie street and play for the love and prestige of the game?

Strangely, that might simultaneously save the sport and satisfy the Shore/Joeys alumni’s unspoken preference for the game to return to its “boutique” and exclusive roots; a visit to a top level rugby match in Sydney has the feel of an excuse for an old school social event rather than an outing for true sports fans.