Wrote this over two days. The Monday post was started around lunch time and continued throughout the course of the afternoon.
Pretty much like any other Sunday. I'm at the comic book store in Tuggerah, rattling off this post. Unusually inspired this morning, I was awake around 8.30am, figured I wasn't getting back to sleep so I got up and had breakfast. My satchel was packed in thirty seconds, and I was out the door, on a bus, then a train, and at the store by 10am. I couldn't have timed my connections any better.
Have already typed up and posted my Blood Bowl blog (of a rather uninspiring match I played in Sydney during the week), lunched on left-over pizza from last night (I felt like celebrating, seeing the Mariners won), uploaded a video taken last night (of a rather chaotic end to the match) and had a few games on the old arcade machine in the store.
So, what's new? No football to report on, apart from the tense, and occasionally heated 1-0 win by the Mariners over Adelaide last night, which I'll comment on a little later. The 4-3 win on April 5 has been our only league game to date this season. Our scheduled match on April 12 was washed out, with it first being re-scheduled to April 23, with a 7.30pm kick-off. However, turns out the ground that we were to play on was double-booked, so our game was postponed again. We have our third round match at 3pm on April 26 (3.5 hours before the Mariners play the Wanderers at Parramatta Stadium), and possibly our postponed second round match on April 30, which would make it a busy week indeed.
Actually, the game being cancelled on April 12 made things easier for me. I had a ticket to see John Cleese at the Chatswood Civic Theatre. The show started at 8.30pm. We would've been playing at 1.15pm that day, which would've left five hours to get from the game to Chatswood. (I would've loved to freshen up beforehand, but I don't think that that was going to be an option.) However, with the game cancelled, it was just a matter of travelling from Gosford. I got there too early. Had a drink (a rookie bartender didn't know what 'dry' was... ) and had a brief moment to say hello to my aunt and her boyfriend who were attending the show as well. (Only found out that they were a few days beforehand.)
As for John Cleese, well, he was as I expected. Though he was mostly working from a prepared script (which was on three different screens around the room), it was still punctuated with much humour, and some spontaneous wit, including one memorable moment when a late-comer entered to take up his third row seat. Cleese, as quick as a flash, welcomed the gent trying to sit down and politely said 'I'm sorry, you've missed a bit' then promptly walked off the stage, re-entered and started the whole show again. Naturally, he didn't do the whole lot to that point, just the intro.
There were plenty of things that I didn't know. Like that his father was in the first world war, was an insurance salesman, changed the family surname from 'Cheese' to 'Cleese' when he enlisted, and that he was born at Weston Super-Mare in September 1939, not long after the second world war started. He told a story about the seaside town being bombed during the war. One theory as to why it happened was reported to having proved that 'the Germans had a sense of humour' seeing the place had no military value whatsoever.
The monologue went from his start in the business, how he was given a break by legendary British TV host David Frost, to the birth and rise of Monty Python. There was a hilarious clip of his eulogy at Graham Chapman's funeral, and some rare black and white footage of him doing a sketch with Marty Feldman. The people he worked with before Python was up and running was like a who's who of British comedy. Two of the Goodies (Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie), the two Ronnies (Baker and Corbett), Mel Smith, Griff Rhys-Jones...
Then there was the tale of Fawlty Towers, and how the inspiration for it came from a stay at a hotel with Connie Booth. He didn't talk about all of his various movie roles (and when you think about it there are quite a few, and not just the python films, but his appearances in some James Bond films as Q, the English sheriff in Silverado, the doctor that inspires Frankenstein in the Kenneth Brannagh version of the story, Erik the Viking, Yellowbeard, Fierce Creatures... ) but he did say a few things about A Fish Called Wanda, which started from a discussion with a veteran film director who said he wanted to see someone run over by a steamroller. He used the film to illustrate a point he was making about black humour. The three things that people loved in the film (Otto being run over by the steamroller, Otto eating Wanda, and Ken trying to kill the old woman) were also the three things that people most objected to, according to test screening surveys. He left the stage to the strains of Sousa's Liberty Bell March, even re-appearing briefly to do a silly walk before exiting for good.
It was a good evening. Must say that the trip down and back also gave me plenty of reading time. I'm currently just over half-way through book two of the Song of Ice and Fire series, A Clash of Kings, seeing there was a trip to Sydney for a game of Blood Bowl last Thursday. Was interested to read of another variation from book to 'live action', that being it wasn't Sam who found the stash of obsidian arrow heads and spear tips, but Jon and Ghost. Tyrion also has Shae hidden from court, in a villa which he accesses via a secret entrance in a brothel. In the show, the only place she 'hides' in is his quarters. Sansa is also subjected to some additional public humiliation, where her clothes get ripped off at Joffrey's whim, in punishment for when news reaches King's Landing that another Lannister has died in battle at the hands of King Robb. Who calls a halt to it – Tyrion.
A good day to get out, and by the looks at the amount of traffic on the road, people are. You wouldn't think that it was a public holiday – certainly doesn't feel like one, feels like another Saturday.
I actually got sleep this morning. Doesn't happen too often. After being awoken by the occupant in number four at 8am, who had a visitor, one of the unit's owners I think, I managed to doze back off, waking around 11.30, feeling rather refreshed and pleased with myself. So pleased, I went for a walk, got the paper, bread, and returned home for lunch and another session of Civ 5.
Well, I read the paper first. I know I shouldn't be playing Civ 5, seeing it has a tendency of taking away large chunks of the day. I even have a notice staring at me telling me 'No more Civ 5!', a reminder as to how this game can just make whole days just fly by without even noticing it. At least I have it set up in a window, and have Open Office running in another, so between turns, I can continue with this post, and try and take over the world, well, at the very least, dominate it.
I have been playing it on a regular basis. Having mastered difficulty level three, winning most my games scientifically by building the spaceship, but once managing a cultural victory as well with researching five entire policy trees (I almost had a sixth done by the end of the game) and building the utopia project, which had me finishing the game in the 1980's. However, it wasn't a good score. I played the Indians, and refrained from going into battle against opposing civilizations, but did build a rather large defence force to deter them from going against me. No conflict (apart from skirmishes with barbarians) but a rather peaceful empire, withdrawn from the world, yet a dominant player all the same.
So, with regular victories at that level, I stepped up to four, and found the going somewhat tougher. At times, I thought I had gone up to five by mistake, with wars being fought on two fronts from two opponents on occasions, my economy faltering, and generally just finding it tough to get anywhere in the game.
So I altered the game maps, to see if that would help. A random map invariably has me starting on a large land mass of some description, with an opposing civilization not that far away, so I changed it to an archipelago, where there are a lot of islands, and chose a civilization that benefits greatly from that – Carthage. They get a free harbour in every coastal city. With an island map, pretty much every city is going to be coastal. Harbours mean trade, and you can connect with the capital as soon as your new city is founded, no need to build roads (but hey, you still need to move units around). The quinquireme also comes in handy – it's tougher than the trireme, and a few of them are good for assaulting coastal cities early in the game.
So far, so good. The current game sees me with a sprawling empire, having started on a considerably large island, where I can spread out. There are more islands nearby, and Carthage was spawning settlers as often as possible to utilize the space. I had eight cities settled before the switch from BC to AD, but soon came into contact with the Russians, and I'm now at war with them. We both wanted the same island, and, well, she fired the first shot.
And just flicking briefly back to the game, for some reason the Celts have declared war on me as well. I have no idea as to why. I'm not too fussed, they're on a neighbouring island and I have my friends the Polynesians patrolling the nearby waterways...
Right, change of subject. I'm currently listening to a rather delightful re-make of the Beatles' Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album. This version, recorded by the Easy Star All-Stars, is all reggae/dub covers of the tracks, and I must say, it's rather cool, and relaxing, even when one is trying to take over the world (lol). This is not the only album that they have covered, but have done versions of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Radiohead's self-titled album, which was renamed Radiodread. Normally, I'm not too much into cover versions, but if the track is done in a different style, then I can appreciate it. Johnny Cash's version of Nine Inch Nails' Hurt is exactly what I'm talking about, along with New Zealand band's Headless Chickens turning Abba's Super Trouper into something completely unusual that just has to be heard to be believed.
But reggae versions of very definitive albums peaks my interest. I took an assortment of tracks from the three albums (as well as one or two tracks from another EP) and put it on my MP3 player. Whilst waiting for the Mariners vs Adelaide elimination play-off match last Saturday, I listened to the entire assortment, starting with A day in the life, and finishing with Within you, Without you. In-between, Karma Police, Time, Money, Us and Them... combine them with a Strongbow, and a rather sunny autumn afternoon, and I was in a rather happy place!
I was in an even happier place after the game, with a 1-0 win over the visitors, an Aussie pizza, an and episode of Death in Paradise on the ABC. Even better when I discovered that some of the pictures that I had taken that afternoon turned out rather good, thanks to where I was sitting, though the camera that I have really does struggle with movement and the artificial light of an evening match.
I was in a great position to see the build-up, and the strike that secured the side's win. Adelaide had had the better of the match in the first half, but couldn't take advantage of it. The home side created a few more opportunities in the second, and the goal from Bernie Ibini was superb. He has a knack in recent weeks of being able to come up with the winner. It certainly made up for the disappointing loss last Wednesday against the visiting FC Seoul side, where an own goal in injury time cost us the match.
But the main disappointing thing from Saturday wasn't the near all-in brawl at the end of the game (well, most cynics would've used the phrase 'handbags at ten paces' to describe it, seeing there was a lot of pushing and shoving, a few harsh words, but no punches thrown – even the coaches appeared to be involved in one way or another) but the poor turn-out from the Central Coast. When the game kicked off, I mused that the stadium wasn't even half full. I was right. The crowd figure given was 9,045 (the Manly vs North Queensland NRL match that was held at the stadium the night before was listed at 10,013, which was surprising as well) which, for an elimination play-off match in the A-League, was very unsatisfactory, and I said so to a friend of mine I was chatting to on the phone as I walked home. 10,000 people were missing. Where were they?
As you can see from the shots of the stands, plenty of empty seats...
No excuses should be made. Trust me, I've heard them all. The weather was good, it was a 4.30pm kick-off, finishing early enough to get the kids home to dinner and bed, or to have a really good night out, or even finishing in time so that you could watch the live NRL match on Fox Sports. It was an important game, the most important one for the season so far, yet, just over 9,000 could be bothered to turn up. I put it down to just one thing – laziness. A 'can't be bothered' attitude which is quite pathetic at times.
I walk to the home games, even though by the time I get to the stadium my ankles are killing me. I have General and Social Anxiety, I really dislike big crowds, yet, because I love this game and the team (they inspired me a great deal to get me playing again in the over 35's) I am willing to put up with it, go to the games, and cheer them on, even if I'm hiding behind a camera and/or have the volume turned right up on my MP3 player to block out the idiotic remarks from rules ignorant and sometimes racist/prejudiced spectators. I'm there when it's cold, I'm there when it's hot, and I'm even there when it's raining. I'm there so often in summer and spring I could even have my mail forwarded to the stadium. Only in the last two years I've had the money to buy season passes, but I've been attending Mariners matches since May 7th 2005, when they first took to the field against Newcastle for the FIFA Club World Championship play-off. At last count, I've seen the boys go round 102 times, from pre-season matches to grand finals. When the Y-League and W-League sides were playing before A-League games, I was there early to see them as well. I don't consider myself as a 'fanatic' - I see myself as a 'dedicated' supporter.
Back in 2008, when the Mariners were fighting their way towards a grand final match-up with Newcastle, crowds of 20,000 plus were turning up to games on a regular basis. I couldn't even get a ticket to the home play-off match prior to the grand final, but had no problems getting one to the grand final ironically enough. Now, if the Mariners actually get a crowd greater than 10,000 to a match, then they can consider themselves lucky. The stadium and the club are actually going to great efforts to put on promotional events to try and draw more people to the games, but nothing appears to be working, which is disappointing for a club that desperately needs more people through the turnstiles in order to pay the bills. But one would think what more do you need to get crowds back at the games, with the side winning the grand final last season?
The thing is, Mariners crowd figures are being noticed, and not just by myself, dedicated local fans and those connected to the A-League. Guaranteed, the NRL are also taking note. When the call again comes for an NRL team on the coast, the powers that be will say 'well, you can't even support the football team that you have' and that'll be the end of it. Even if you don't really like the game, you should be at the game. Your kids are most likely playing it, why can't you go and watch it?
Let's look at the maths. Apparently, there are 400,000 people living on the Central Coast, 180,000 of which live in the greater Gosford area (which I'm assuming takes in Woy Woy and Umina as well). If just 10% of the Gosford population turns up for a Mariners home game, that's a crowd of 18,000. Currently, it's a struggle to get 5% there on a regular basis. The team, with the lowest supporter base in the competition, with probably the smallest budget to boot as well, are currently the A-League champions, and have contested the title on four occasions, and could well make it a fifth time this year despite all the problems we've had throughout the season, from Graham Arnold leaving for Japan, to Marcos Flores' season ending injury. (Which was a shame, for he's a very talented player, and such a nice guy as well.) Considering this is only the ninth season of the A-League, to make the play-offs on seven occasions, and to go on to represent the nation in the lucrative Asian Cup League competition, against sides with budgets twenty times (or more) greater than ours, on four occasions, is a remarkable achievement. This side deserves a lot more support than what it is currently getting from the locals, because it delivers on the pitch. All well and good to turn up in your thousands and for a ticker-tape parade when they won the grand final in April 2013, but where were you when they needed your support in October 2013 when this season kicked off? Or November 2013?, or December 2013?, etc..
Or more importantly, where are you now?
This is a great team. I look forward to going to their home matches every round, and to when each new season kicks off. What I would really like to see though, is five-figured crowds every week, and, of course, the Mariners winning another championship.
Man, I haven't done a rant like that for some time. Might just post it on my FB page as well. A change from a blog entry taking the time away from my Civ 5 game, rather than the other way around!
And on that note, I'll finish up. Ciao!
P.S: Sad to note the death of the former premier of NSW Neville Wran yesterday. Apart from being the 35th premier of NSW (from May 1976 to July 1986), he was also once the national president of the Australian Labor Party, Chairman of the CSIRO, and, as I have just found out, the patron of the Central Coast Mariners. He will be missed.