Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Inflated viewing figures

Stumbled upon a fascinating article today in the Independent that talked about how viewing figures for major sports events are grossly inflated by the sporting bodies, and by extension, the media.

For example, the 2006 World Cup Final was supposedly watched by 715 million people. In fact, verifiable sources only put the number at 260 million. So where did the 715 come from? Well, suffice to say that one method widely used is "informed guesswork." I kid you not - and those are not my words either.

The 2006 Superbowl, allegedly watched by 750 million to a billion people? Turns out the number may have been a lot closer to 98 million. I wonder what Anheuser-Busch think about the $2.6 million they spent for each ad now?

The Winter Olympics opening ceremony? 2 billion viewers claimed, but only about 87 million verifiable. So they guessed at the other 1.913 billion. Fantastic.

The Commonwealth Games opening ceremony? 1 billion stated, 5 million verifiable. 99.5% guesswork - I'm sure that would go down well in my day job!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wimbledon succumbs

The pressures of political correctness have finally borne fruit, as they unfortunately always do. Wimbledon will now offer identical prize money for the men's and women's singles. Note that boys, girls and doubles competitors will still be discriminated against!

The clamour for this has grown every year, and it's really just more of the whole
equality and identity confusion that seems to shroud our planet at times.

Amelie Mauresmo's comments today put it in perspective. On the one hand, she said that it was a "matter of principle" that men and women should get paid the same for the same work, conveniently ignoring the fact that they don't, in this instance, do the same work. In the same breath, she then went on to say that it's actually a matter of "equality" between men and women, and that it doesn't matter how many sets are played.

So her bottom line is that men and women should get paid the same for the same work, even if the work isn't actually the same, because what the work is is not relevant. Brilliant stuff.

There are only two or three ways you can properly skin this cat. For many years, Wimbledon followed one of them, but alas, no more.

The first option is to "pay" the players based on the work they do. In which case, per the current system, the women should be "paid" about three-fifths of what the men are "paid."

The second option, in the name of absolute equality which a lot of people seem to desire, would be to have a single open tournament, with men and women competing against one another. That way, there's no argument about equal "pay." Of course, you'd then hear that it's unfair that the women all get knocked out in the first two rounds. You can't win, can you?

A third option would be to actually equalise the work being done. Have the women play 5-set matches. We all know that one's not going to happen either.

Of those three, I lean towards the first - but I have a fundamental problem with treating prize money as "pay." So why not accept reality and recognise what's really going on? Pay the players based on the revenue they bring into the game. Let's have true equality, if that's what we want.

If the women's final brings in 20 million viewers, and the men's final only brings in 10 million, then by all means, pay the women twice as much. They will have truly earned it, for the sport. But if they only bring in 1 million viewers, then pay them one-tenth of what the men get.

Of course, you then have to take it a step further - perhaps Roger Federer should be paid more than Lleyton
Hewitt for appearing in a Grand Slam Final, because people would actually pay money to watch Federer. A lot of proponents of the equal "pay" argument have taken the position that women's tennis is just as entertaining, and draws in the fans - so let's get serious about having the players' rewards tied to that.

It's a sad day when a free market collapses under the weight of political correctness. That's the way of the world we live in. I guess when my daughter wins Wimbledon, she'll now be a little richer than she otherwise would have been, and I should be glad for it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

New Zealand for the World Cup?

Who'd be Matthew Hayden this morning? Battle a broken toe, which could potentially put you out of the World Cup, and move on to a record breaking 181*, only to see your side lose the game and be whitewashed in a one-day series for the first time in the best part of a decade.

Of course, the result of this is that several people are getting big on New Zealand, talking up their World Cup chances, all the while overlooking the Kiwi's remarkable talent for choking at the knock-out stage of any competition (vis-a-vis India's talent for merely choking in the final).

Along the same lines, Australia are now being written off in some quarters - now where have we seen that before? Anyone recall Australia's lead-up to and start at the 1999 tournament? 3-3 with a tie in the West Indies, followed by losses to New Zealand and Pakistan in the opening rounds. Write them off at your peril.

Time permitting, I'll post my thoughts on the various squads and their chances in the coming weeks leading up to the tournament. Suffice to say that I'm not betting against Australia, although I'm not certain that I'd bet on them either.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Out of my Comfort Zone

Well, reading that certainly took me out of my comfort zone. It wouldn't even be far-fetched to say that the two best things about the book were the afterword by Lynette Waugh, describing life as a cricket widow, and the pictures.

I'd looked forward to this one for a while, albeit with the sort of apprehension that I once reserved for War and Peace as a precocious twelve year old. Turns out that Tolstoy spun a far greater yarn, and probably provided just as many insights as Waugh did into what made the Australians tick in the late 90's and through the turn of the century.

I've railed about the Prabhudesai biography of Rahul Dravid, but this was really only marginally better. The details of the odd on-field sledge aside, there just wasn't much in there that I didn't already know. There was little to help us understand the man, or his achievements, both as a player and as a leader.

There was even less when it came to his relationship with brother Mark - and you'd think a cricketer would have something to say about someone he played 108 Test matches alongside. I suppose the fact that most other teammates were referenced by first-names and nicknames, whereas 'Junior' was always referred to as 'Mark Waugh', tells a story in itself.

Bottom line - don't waste your money or your time.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The power of the BCCI

I don't think anyone really doubted for a moment just how much clout the BCCI has in the cricketing world, but if ever we needed confirmation, we now have it, as Trevor Marshallsea reports in the Sydney Morning Herald today.

The last time India toured Australia, they were forced to schedule their series against Pakistan around the southern summer schedule. This time around, the boot is on the other foot. The pattern of the Australian summer has been pretty much sacrosanct since around 1980.

The MCG typically got the 2nd/3rd Test of the major or featured tour, and the SCG the one following. The only deviations from this rule were in 81/82, with the West Indies, and 93/94 and 97/98 with South Africa. In those three years, the summer was a split one, with two equal series, and the MCG opened the second series in each case.

Fast forward to 2007/08. India are to be the main drawcard down under this year. The expectation of most people was that there would be two Tests in Perth/Brisbane/Adelaide in early December, followed by the back to back MCG and SCG blue-ribbon events.

Instead, India will be starting their tour in the middle of December, because the Pakistan series, naturally, comes first for the BCCI. The MCG will open the series, and Perth and Adelaide will, unusually for both, host Tests in the middle of January. It's quite simply mind-boggling to realise that the BCCI truly does yield to nobody.

Turns out that this is good news for me as well. With a trip to India on the cards in September for my brother's wedding, it would have been tough to get to the Perth and Adelaide Tests in November. All of a sudden, that trip can now be part of the 2008 vacation plan - score one for the BCCI!