I will be running Norwich 2016

Run Norwich 2016

To celebrate one year of living in Norwich, I have entered the 2016 edition of Run Norwich, a 10km race through the city centre. The race will take place on August 7th, which will be exactly one year since moving from Milton Keynes. As part of my motivation, and because it is a fantastic cause, I will also be raising money for charity, and would appreciate any support you can offer.

I will be supporting two causes that are very close to me, and have helped my family immensely over the last few years. The first is the Bersham Stroke Ward of Wrexham Maelor Hospital, and the second is the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital. The brief stories on why those two particular hospitals are as follows.

Bersham Stroke Ward: Last year, my grandfather had a stroke. This had a significant impact on him, and while he (at times begrudgingly) followed his rehabilitation and treatment, he had another one in January of this year, which would prove to be fatal. After the second stroke, he was taken to the Bersham Stroke Ward of Wrexham Maelor Hospital. In the few days he was there before passing, he was given fantastic care from all of the staff there, and as importantly, they were brilliant in their care and support for my grandmother, my mother, and once I had arrived, for me too.

Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital: another group of NHS doctors, nurses and support staff who have been fantastic in their treatment of my family. The treatment my grandmother received at Broad Green, including the pig valve that she now has implanted into her heart, not only kept her alive, but also helped the rest of the family from falling apart – though they were impressed with how well turned out my grandad was as he came to visit her.

Both of these two NHS hospitals have given my family everything we could have asked of them, and in thanks for their kindness, professionalism and ability to treat patients and relatives with more compassion than I can wrap my head around, I’d like to be able to support others as they did for us.

I will be posting the links to the fundraising pages as soon as I have been able to set them up, but whatever you can donate will be very greatly appreciated, and I hope that any of you who are in Norwich in August are able to come and cheer me on (chuckling is also an acceptable response).

Thank you.

The Power of Obsession

Bill Gates: obsessed?

Bill Gates: obsessed?

Listening to Colin Cowherd on ESPN radio over the last few days, one of the topics of discussion was the greatness of NFL quarterbacks, specifically Peyton Manning and Joe Montana. Part of the discussion was on how while talent is important, so is application. Or, as it was framed in the show, whether or not these players were described by others as being ‘obsessed’.

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Looking Forward to the New Season?

With the new Premier League season nearly here, and the Football League season already underway, this is usually the time of year to start getting excited. This year, it feels a little different.

That isn’t to say that I’m not looking forward to the new season. I am. We have one of the best squads in the league, one of the world’s best managers and our opposition are all either going through transfer sagas (Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool), adjusting to a new manager (Man City) or both (Man United). So it isn’t fear of being uncompetitive.

It can’t be because of the change of manager. The return of Jose Mourinho is one of the main reasons to be excited about this year’s Chelsea campaign. It certainly isn’t transfer activity, either by us or other teams – if I had to rank the player movement this summer, Chelsea would be pretty much at the top of the list, although Man City have done really well too.

I also know that I’ll be going to plenty of games. Dad and I have both renewed our season tickets for another year, and having been to both Munich and Amsterdam the last two seasons, we’ve been able to witness a lot of winning. It isn’t a separation problem, or knowing that I won’t be at the Bridge 25+ times this season, because I will. And I’m sure we will win. A lot.

Last season was tough. Knowing that the elation, tears and mindless celebrations of Munich would be tough to top, we went into the year looking to do well, but without much of the purpose and swagger that we seem to have this summer. The new signings were phenomenal, and have given a real base on which to build, both in terms of quality and age.

Then there was November. The Di Matteo sacking was painful, both because his goal against Middlesborough was one of my first great Chelsea memories, and because Munich was the most recent. He was responsible for both, and now was replaced by Rafa Benitez, who while being a top quality manager wasn’t someone who I felt comfortable supporting. I was at the FA Cup game at the Riverside that prompted his (very well timed and intelligent) calls for the fans to back the team. He had a point, because some of the chants directed towards him that night were really unpleasant. While he brought it upon himself by taking a job that he knew would make him a target, there isn’t much of an excuse for some of the stuff that got shouted that night.

With all that went on that year, Amsterdam was a good way to end the season. Winning trophies (even ones we never want to compete for again) is always a positive, but it was a tiring season, for both players and fans. There were so many matches, so many dramas and so much anger that it took an emotional effort to keep getting up for the next game, for the next competition and for the next headline.

I think this might have something to do with the lack of buzz I’m feeling right now towards the 2013/14 season. I don’t want to go through another season like last year, or like 2007/8 at the end of the first Mourinho era. While it didn’t test my fandom, or my desire to go to every single game, it made the matches themselves less of a special occasion. The season went on for so long and with such intensity that it has taken longer than usual to want to go through it all again.

I’m not ready for all the drama, the controversy and the endless terrible punditry. Last season the performance art piece that was the football season became too loud, too self-important and too long. It takes time to want to get back to it. That time isn’t up yet.

All of this being said, the first game of the season, of Mourinho 2.0, I’ll be there, in my seat, East Stand Upper, 21 59 on my feet as we walk out to the Liquidator, bouncing with excitement and glad to get back to what we do best: keeping the blue flag flying high.

Writing Idea: Pre-Season as a Professional Footballer

Taking inspiration from Stefan Fatsis’s A Few Seconds of Panic and HBO’s Hard Knocks, I’d love to do a similar thing with a Premier League football team. Given my personal preference, I’d want it to be Chelsea.

In essence, the idea would be to join them on their pre-season tours as a squad member (again, my personal preference would be to play goalkeeper, as its the only position I can play), going through all the training, preparation etc as if I were a new signing – though playing in tour matches might be a stretch.

Keeping a diary of what happens on a daily basis behind the scenes, as well as how it feels to experience the rigours of pre-season, would form the basis of the piece (or book) that would be written afterwards, though of course interviews and opinions from players, coaches and management would be needed to make the experience properly worthwhile.

Anyway, that’s the basic idea. Any thoughts?

Thoughts on Punishment for Drugs Cheats in Sport

Everyone knows that drugs are a problem in professional sports. It isn’t news, and is something that authorities have been struggling against for decades. So how can drugs be removed from sports, and what is the most effective deterrent for drugs cheats?

Currently athletes, cyclists and the like are suspended, often for a couple of years, and have their results (including medals) voided. In some cases, the medals are then awarded to the next placed athlete – for example, the silver medalist is upgraded to gold etc. That is all well and good until the person who finished second tests positive too, as was the case with the Tour de France after Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven titles.

The thing is, even with the threat of spoiled reputations, returned medals and voided wins, there are still drugs cheats being caught, whether its the rash of Jamaican athletes caught in the last few weeks, or Ryan Braun finally agreeing to take a suspension for the remainder of the baseball season, at a cost of millions of dollars in salary.

Rather than just suspending the guilty parties, and in the case of the likes of Braun, not paying them during suspension, here is a slightly different approach: take the money that they earned while cheating, and put it to a slightly different use.

For example: a professional cyclist is caught using performance enhancing drugs, and admits to having been using for five years. During these five years, he earned a total of $5m in prize money (I know these figures are not necessarily accurate or realistic, but it makes the maths easier). Regardless of his wages and if they were earned because of his chemically enhanced performance, or other sponsorship deals, it is known that he earned $5m prize money by cheating.

The cheat now ought to be made to repay the $5m. All of it. Regardless of his current circumstances. Say he has retired, doesn’t make an difference. $5m please. If he isn’t able to come up with the money then it should be treated in the same way as a bank debt or mortgage: reclaim and sell off property until the debt has been repaid. So not only is there the risk of having reputation and wins destroyed, but also going broke. Having to repay all prize money earned through cheating is a pretty solid incentive to not cheat.

So once this hypothetical $5m has been reclaimed, what to do with it? Simple: it should be given to the organisations such as WADA who fight drugs cheats. So the punishment is a two stage process: 1) we take back the money you got by cheating, 2) We give the money you earned by cheating to the people who caught you. (The idea of Ryan Braun’s forfeited payments being given to the MLB’s anti-drug organisation appeals as well, though some of it should go to the enforcement officer he got fired last year).

In terms of the money from sponsorship, it also ought to be possible for sponsors to sue the athletes who cheat to have all of the money earned during that deal while the athlete used drugs.

So, at the end of this hypothetical story, our cyclist has had his $5m prize money given to the organisation that caught him, lost the house he bought with that fraudulently obtained money, and is being sued by his sponsors for the money he got from them by trading on his not-as-wholesome-as-it-seemed opinion. Oh, and in the case of Ryan Braun, he has to deal with the business partner he lied to as well.

Sometimes being a football fan is hard

Guardian interview with Robbie Rogers

In the same week that the Guardian ran the linked interview with Robbie Rogers, who retired from professional football because of his sexuality, Sunderland have appointed Paolo Di Canio as their manager.

For those who don’t know, Di Canio is a former West Ham, Charlton and Lazio player, and has previously managed Swindon. He is also a Mussolini supporter and self-confessed fascist. David Milliband, the outgoing MP for South Shields has resigned from the Sunderland board because of Di Canio’s political views.

It is hard to enjoy a sport where being openly homosexual is career ending, while being openly fascist is perfectly acceptable. And how good are The FA, UEFA and FIFA really getting at fighting discrimination when fascists are able to be high profile managers but being gay means you won’t be able to play?
This sport is broken. Can we please start trying to fix it now?