xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: August 2016

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Picking a winner.

Picking winners is not easy. In fact, throughout my life I have demonstrated an innate ability to reject or ignore some outstanding winners. It is a sorry tale.

In 1957 I was holidaying in Melbourne. From 1956 to 1961, when I was studying at Graylands Teachers College and in my first years of teaching, I used to spend my long summer holidays in Melbourne, later in Sydney, with my cousin Maurie Carr and his beautiful wife, Bobbie. I spent a lot of those summers watching Davis Cup tennis and Test cricket matches.

In January, 1957, I attended the Davis Cup matches at Kooyong Tennis Courts, which Australia won 5-Nil. After the doubles match was completed on the second day, the ground announcer informed patrons that after an interval of fifteen minutes there would be an exhibition tennis match between the junior singles champions of New South Wales and Victoria.

I decided I did not need to stay and watch these two young tennis players. After all, I said to myself, how many of these young players ever go on to be any good in senior ranks. As I walked out of Kooyong I passed Australia’s legendary tennis coach, Harry Hopman, who was talking to a small group of people, including two young men in tennis whites, whom I assumed were the New South Wales and Victorian junior champions, scheduled to play that exhibition match. These two young players looked pretty nondescript to me so I congratulated myself on my wise decision to give their game a big miss.

I am not sure who the 1957 NSW junior singles champion was but the Victorian junior champion was a red headed, freckled faced kid who happened to be named Rod Laver. We all now know that I gave up the chance to a watch a player who went on to become the only player to win two grand slams, in 1964 and 1969, as well as numerous prestigious tournaments in an absolutely stellar tennis career. Many wise judges say Rod Laver is the greatest tennis player who ever lived. Some people say Roger Federer is the greatest player who ever lived but even Roger Federer says Rod Laver deserves that title.

The year before, in 1956, I also had a five pound bet with a friend of mine that an up and coming young singer would never be as popular as Pat Boone. By the end of the year I had lost my bet. Pat Boone was quite popular, but he was well and truly eclipsed by that up and coming young singer, named Elvis Presley.

In 1965 I went to an interstate football match at Subiaco with a good mate of mine, Geoff Parker. Geoff was mathematics teacher at Churchlands Senior High School. As we entered the ground someone called out, “Hello, Mr Parker.” It was a fifteen-year-old boy and Geoff had a brief conversation with him before we moved further into the ground. Geoff enthusiastically told me that the young student was a brilliant footballer. Oh, yes, I thought to myself. How many times have I heard a teacher praise a young child prodigy to the heavens, only for them to fade into oblivion?
Well the young man in question was named Mike Fitzpatrick. He became a Rhodes Scholar, a brilliant engineer and successful businessman. He also became an outstanding footballer first with Subiaco and later with Carlton, where he achieved legendary status. He now holds a very powerful position in the administration of the Australian Football League.

When Jane, our first daughter was born in September, 1969 we placed her birth notice in the West Australian newspaper. I decided to keep the entire page of the paper featuring her arrival into our world.  I thought it would be a nice memento of a wonderful event.

On the other side of that page was a part of the financial news. It featured what was to become another wonderful event. A small story said that Poseidon Nickel had quickly risen from 10 cents to 19 cents a share; It was the height of what was called the “Nickel Boom” in Western Australia. Like a lot of people, I was caught up in the frenzied nickel boom fever and in early October I bought 100 shares of Longreach and 100 shares of Abrolhos at 25 cents per share. I did not buy any shares in Poseidon, which by then was selling at about a dollar a share.

Well, within a month, Poseidon shares rocketed to 250 dollars per share while Longreach and Poseidon hovered around 30 cents a share. Eventually, the nickel boom busted and Poseidon shares fell back to 20 cents a share. I held on to my Longreach and Abrolhos shares for another two years. When I sold then they were worth about 10 cents a share. In fact, any shares I bought quickly lost their market value.

In 2001 I attended the Hopman cup in Perth. I was watching Switzerland play Spain. The Hopman Cup is the only major tennis tournament where men and women compete in the same teams. Teams compete against each other in Ladies’ Singles, Men’s Singles and Mixed Doubles.

The Spanish team consisted of two very well known players, Maria Sanchez Vaccario and Tommy Robredo. The female Swiss player was equally well known, having recently won at Wimbledon. Her name was a Martina Hingis and she was about 18 years old. As I watched the Ladies’ Singles I thought, I can see why the tournament organisers wanted to include Switzerland in the Hopman Cup because Martina Hingis is a big drawcard, but where on earth, in Switzerland of all places, are they going to find a male player who can accompany her. I mean, how many people play tennis in Switzerland, they all too busy skiing, making chocolate and building cuckoo clocks?  I thought this male Swiss player, whoever he is, will appear in the Hopman Cup and quickly fade into obscurity. Well, not exactly. The young mal

e Swiss player was Roger Federer. He and Martina Hingis won the Hopman Cup that year.

So folks, these are but a few examples of how, during my life, I have continuously failed to recognise or pick winners. However, I did manage to pick one winner. It was a choice I made that has provided me with a lifetime of happiness. Her name was Lesley Young. On the 26th of August, 2016, we celebrate 48 years of happy married life.

 Thank you, Lesley, for making me the happiest winner in history.
Monday, August 26th, 1968. Winners are grinners!

March 8, 2014. On Board Queen Mary 2

Crazy Grandies with Grandpa and Nanny. Picnic in July school holidays, 2016.
Jetsetters in the 1960s

Christmas 2016

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

You can bet on it.

On Foxtel TV they are running a commercial where a man tells a fellow worker that he is looking forward to spending the weekend watching the ads on TV. Of course we all know this fellow is an idiot and very quickly a voiceover assures viewers that we are not an ad watching nation, we are “A Sports Loving Nation”. Foxtel then tells us with vivid colours, loud music and flashing lights that it provides the greatest television sports coverage on earth. It goes on to boast that it brings viewers the AFL football each week without any commercials whatsoever during each quarter of the nine AFL matches it shows each weekend.

“Foxtel, commercial free from siren to siren” it proudly proclaims while no doubt thousands of viewers around the nation give three hearty cheers to commercial free Foxtel. Not me. I don’t think Foxtel is a sports loving TV provider. I think it is a sport betting provider. Between those commercial free quarters and at various times of the night and day, Foxtel lets us know that we could make a fortune out of betting on football, or cricket, horseracing, or just about anything at all.

Not only can you bet on who is going to win, you can bet on how much they will win by, who will kick the first goal, who have the most possessions, who will kick the most goals, who will be leading at half time, who will give the most tackles, who will drink the most water and who will spit into the wind the most. OK. I made those last two up, but do not be surprised if it actually comes to pass.

The ads do not only confine themselves to how you can make money by winning a bet. No! They tell you that you can make money even when your team loses or even if your horse runs last. The man on the TV screams at you that even if your team loses but was in front at any of the quarter time breaks  then you get your money back. Well up to fifty dollars of it back.

Same with the horses. If you place a five leg bet and one leg loses you get your money back. Up to fifty dollars. I must point out that five leg betting does not require you to back five legged horses. It just means that you bet on one horse and then put your winnings on the second horse and so and so on up to horse number five. It all seems so simple and sooo generous of the betting company that is eager to take your hard earned cash, credit card or direct debit.

How can you possibly lose? Well, quite easily actually. That is why after the frantic three minute spiel enticing you to bet big and to bet often, a sign flashes on the screen saying “Bet responsibly”. At first I thought this was an inducement to put my hard earned dosh on a horse named Responsibly running in the fifth at Belmont. But no. This sign is telling the people who bet not to bet more than they can afford to lose.Sadly, we know that a lot of people not only bet more than they can afford to lose, they borrow or steal even more money to feed their need to bet.

The Bet responsibly screen image is displayed for about five seconds. It is a requirement of the government which obviously has guilt feelings about making money off bookies who are causing many compulsive gamblers to wreck their lives, their families and their marriages in the quest for easy riches.

TV betting is getting bigger and bigger. During the Australian Tennis Open in January this year, many viewers were driven to distraction by the repetitious sports betting ads of William Hill Bookmakers urging people to bet on the tennis or the golf or anything that else that involves two or more people or animals in a contest.  Believe me, Distraction is not an attractive destination to be driven to. 

Then, at the end of the tournament, all was revealed. The players and the main organisers thanked all the sponsors for making the event possible. One of the organisations that they thanked was William HillBbookmakers. There it was in high density red, blue and green, William Hill Bookmakers was an official sponsor of the Australian Tennis Open Tournament. Well, I never.

Well, actually I have, because each weekend I watch the umpires running around officiating at AFL footy matches. On their backs they all have an advertising message in big, bold letters saying OPSM. Ironically OPSM is the well-known trade name of a company providing optical treatment and spectacles for people with impaired vision. So, you see, it is true what the thousands of enraged fans scream at the umpires during each game. Generally, these often ribald comments may  be translated as “Are you blind, yah stupid mug!” Well, he is. Apparently, they all are.

Many people are heartily sick and tired of the plethora of sports betting ads on TV. There are even some federal politicians who are trying to cut back or even ban TV sports betting ads. Most of us can remember when TV was absolutely loaded with commercials for cigarettes and alcohol. Not any more, thanks to public pressure.

Way back in 1960s I was working in Canada and I was taken by the quaint beer commercials that the Canadians watched on their TVs. I was in Toronto, which at the time had rather prudish liquor laws such as you could not purchase alcohol from any establishment where you could buy alcohol to drink, such as a hotel or tavern. You had to buy your take away booze from a special liquor shop. Not only that, you had to buy it in an outlet near your home, place your purchased liquor in the boot and then drive by the most direct route to your house. 

Even in your own home there were restrictions. One hot Saturday in September, after we had moved all of our furniture into a house we were renting, my friends and I sat on the front lawn drinking a refreshing stubby or three. After a while, the gentleman from next door, who was to become a very friendly neighbour, wandered outdoors, saw us drinking and told us that it was against the law to consume alcohol in the public view, even on your own front lawn. We were stunned when he explained that it was even against the law to drink alcohol inside your own home if you were sitting by a window and people could see you. They could ring the police and complain.

The Canadian beer ads usually had a family group sitting watching an ice hockey game. At a break in the play Mother would stand and say, “Who is ready for a Molsons?” Or a Labatt’s or an IPA or a Carling? Then she would disappear briefly. When she returned everyone brightened up as she approached with the beers. The only thing was that in Toronto you could not show an image of a beer bottle on TV. or of alcohol being poured or consumed. So, Mother’s drink tray was covered with a tea towel which was removed with the same sensuous allure as Gypsy Rose Lee’s outer garment. As eager hands reached forward the screen would go blank and then we would see a static picture advertising the beer that everyone was now, presumably, quaffing. I did revisit Toronto in the late 1990s and they had a much more enlightened attitude to alcohol. I did not watch TV so I do not know if they still do the cover up of the beer bottles.

I am not sorry that they no longer advertise alcohol and cigarettes on TV. I will be even happier if those politicians can get sports betting banned from our screens. It seems to me, though, that the government that is being asked to ban those sports ads has a vested interest in the revenue it gains from taxes on bookmakers and sports betting. I think governments will be reluctant to completely ban sports betting ads on TV.

Of course, the government may ban sports ads on TV but I wouldn't bet on it.