the sport of it

the sport of it

you read the
best guide to
field hockey
ever written
practiced ‘flicks’*
and ‘pushes’ against
a wide plank in
the backyard
Rod Laver’s*
own story so
you too could
grow up to
be the greatest
left-hander in
tennis  you
were right-handed
watched Onny Parun*
and Brian Fairlie*
hammer out those
summer afternoons
final after final
on the Stanley Street*
grass courts, place-kicked
a rugby ball over
the powerlines once,
at 3 am
with your mother
watched the All
Blacks on a soggy
Welsh field*
Joe Karam* putting
in the boot,
saw Ali* trip
fall backwards
or knocked backwards?
in the ‘Fight’
of the Century’*
played out the
cool pawn sacrifices of
Fischer* against Spassky*
in what might have
been an ice cave*
you hated
in khaki for
destroying you
heard from the tv
‘our way of life’
and their fashion
sense clothes that
looked like jail
you thought
the world was
Mercator’s projection*
and us a
bleed of colour
below that finely
dotted line of
the equator
the dotted line we
tore open our
kornies* our
weetbix* from
with a troubled
history knowing
nothing of history
looking up at those
bright splashes of
country across the
upper reaches of
the map that had
done wars as if
they were going
out of style
wondering when
you would

13 june 2013

*’flicks’, ‘pushes’, techniques used in field hockey for moving a ball without striking

*Rod Laver: The tennis left-hander, who holds the record for most singles titles won in the history of tennis, with 200 career titles. He was ranked World No. 1 for seven consecutive years and is the only player, man or woman, to have twice won the ‘Grand Slam’ (all four major singles titles in the same year).

*Onny Parun: OBE & former New Zealand tennis player of Croatian descent, who was among the world’s top 20 for five years and in 1971 and 1972 reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.  In the New Zealand tennis scene Fairlie and Parun often found themselves across the net from each other in singles matches, although they played together as a doubles pair.

*Brian Fairlie: a retired New Zealand tennis player. During his career from 1968 to 1979 he won four titles in doubles. In both 1975 and 1976 Fairlie reached the finals of the Heineken open in Auckland, losing on both occasions to fellow New Zealander and Davis Cup doubles partner Onny Parun.  I was lucky enough to see both matches.

*Stanley St: The Stanley Street grass courts in Parnell, Auckland. It is now the ASB Tennis Centre.

*The All Blacks 1972 test match against Wales

*Joe Karam: The New Zealand lawyer of Lebanese descent, who played as full back for All Blacks from 1972 to 1975.  In the above test match against Wales Karam contributed 15 of the All Blacks’ 19 points from his goal kicking. New Zealand won the match 19-16.

*Ali: Muhammed Ali, the world heavyweight boxing champion, generally considered among the greatest heavyweights in the sport’s history.

* The Fight of the Century (also known as The Fight) is the title boxing writers and historians have given to the boxing match between champion Joe Frazier and challenger Muhammad Ali  held on March 8, 1971, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

*Fischer: Bobby Fischer, the American chess grandmaster regarded by many as the greatest chess player in the history of the game.

*Spassky: The Russian, Boris Spassky, the reigning chess world champion at the time.

*Ice cave: The match was played in Reykjavik, Iceland, and was fraught with initial ‘theatrics’ on Fischer’s part including forfeit of game 2 until the match was played out of direct view of the media as he requested.

*Mercator’s Projection: A way of projecting the spherical surface of the earth on to a flat surface.  A cylindrical map projection presented by the Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569, Wikipedia notes: ‘While the linear scale is equal in all directions around any point, thus preserving the angles and the shapes of small objects (which makes the projection conformal), the Mercator projection distorts the size and shape of large objects, as the scale increases from the Equator to the poles, where it becomes infinite.’

*‘Kornies…Weetbix’: two popular Australian/New Zealand breakfast cereals of the 1960s & 1970s. ‘Kornies’ are now ‘Weeties’!?  Weetbix, as ever, champion on.

‘Fight of the Century’: Photo credit: Associated Presss




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