What If –

This is a tribute to that olden British writer, Rudyard Kipling. His poem was originally titled ‘If – ‘ and was dedicated to the son of a friend. We studied this in high school and each wrote our own versions for a quiz. I misjudged the consequence of that work. I remember that it was quite well-written, one of my best efforts up until that point. I am tempted to pen a piece in similar manner to Mr Kipling. While cleaving closely to the source material, this is more parody than commentary. 

What if you could remain humble and composed 

When everyone has done otherwise,

What if you are confident when all people have questioned you,

But allow berths for their questions too;

What if you can fly and not be tired of flying,

Or climb peaks and not be discouraged by heights

Or be disliked, don’t give a damn about scorning

And yet don’t seem too swell, nor talk too tall: 

What if you can time-travel – and not make time your master;

What if you can be a cheater – and not make cheating your aim;

What if you can meet with Good and Evil

And regard those pair of strangers with no problemo; 

What if you could hear the beat of the truth

Perverted by rogues to be consumed by halfwits,

Or watch the castles you built, trampled on,

Yet there you re-build, carving with crumbling tools: 

What if you could make one list of all your enemies

And play a game of high stakes,

All the while counting those names as you gamble

And once you lose you do it all over again,

And as you figure like Groundhog Day you disown any connection between loss and foe

And you never tell a soul about their losses;

What if you could listen, and not hear

Speak, and not blab; write, and not scrawl

Dine, and not gobble; drink, and not guzzle

Touch, and not brush; punch, and not type

See, and not glance

What if you could do all of those, while being true, and more?

What if you could force feed yourself

Extract your being from the constraints of monotonous rule? 

What if you could continue fighting,

When all you hear is sound and fury,

When all you could hang onto is that little voice inside, whispering ‘Keep at it!’

What if you could talk with hordes and keep your moral compass,

Or dine with royals and retain the common notch,

What if neither demons nor loving angels could impair you,

What if all humanity could count on you, but none the richer;

If you could cram the cruel minute

Make every second count,

Yours is the galaxy and all within it,

And what can I say? You’ll be a contended man, my pal!

I remember writing my own version of ‘A Visit from Saint Nick’. I had a lot of fun doing so last year. This is admittedly shorter and likewise less comical. I thought about forgetting the structure and following my own format with a lot more creative control. However, order ruled and I (mostly) stuck to Kipling’s style. The funny thing is how a poem first published in 1910 could remain so relevant a century later. For all the young and budding writers out there, we could learn a lot from Rudyard. His work is an embodiment of resilience, enduring despite a fair share of critics in the decades since his passing. Mr Kipling, ‘The quality of your words is something we should all aspire to reach.’ 

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On this day…

Julia (center) first appeared online and in printed materials as a part of Sesame Street‘s See Amazing in all Children initiative. She’ll now appear on TV as well. From left, Elmo, Alan Muraoka, Julia, Abby Cadabby and Big Bird.

On this day in 1969, Sesame Street premiered on PBS TV. The show would become a classic that soared at the Emmy’s, winning many a kid’s heart along the way. When I was a boy, we had few of the children’s shows that would come to dominate the landscape. Captain Planet, Madeleine, Ninja Turtles, Arthur, The Simpsons, and Sesame Street were what we tuned into. Though I enjoyed Sesame, I wasn’t aware of how big it had become, and how much longer it would endure. I do recall though that it was very educational and was for all intents my first school. 

Learning

The programme commenced mid-afternoon and introduced me to the bigger world. With The Count, I learned the numbers. Big Bird taught me the importance of connecting with others. Elmo inculcated upon me the value of being patient. Meanwhile, while watching, I learned that water was a valuable resource, ditto with salt. The cookie monster was a walking reminder of saving for the rainy days. Finally, Oscar the grouch showed that you can make the most of unideal situations. The show also advanced new words, from giraffe to zoo, apples to cats. Every day was a chance to grasp the alphabet, with Ernie leading the way. The show’s premise is what makes it unique: Sesame features animals and puppets voiced by humans. Whereas The Simpsons and Captain Planet are animated, Sesame utilises sketch comedy and puppetry to get the message across. 

Decorated

Sesame is one of the most decorated kid’s shows, if not the champion. Over its run of fifty years, the Sesame brand has amassed 12 Primetime Emmy’s. This is in addition to a massive Daytime Emmy haul, with a grand total of 192 accolades (Emmy’s and other prizes) as of this year. So successful has the show been that 20 international versions have been greenlighted. Furthermore, Sesame has inspired its own spin-off show, The Muppets. The latter has been quite robust per se, winning four Primetime Emmy’s while also making a winning transition into film. The show has done well but not without controversy. Sesame has been accused of harbouring a gay couple. Bert and Ernie are seemingly inseparable, sleep in adjacent beds, with matching pyjamas to boot. Gay activists have seized on this, utilising the image of the odd couple for their slogans. The introduction of new characters over the years have likewise courted criticism. Despite the producers finally putting the issue to rest in 93, the dynamic duo remains an icon for the gay community. 

In perspective

Sesame has proven quite resilient in spite of the knocks against them. In addition to what I’ll outline later, the programme has been around for part of SIX decades. Allow me to give a few examples to put this timelessness into perspective. During that span, there have been nine U.S. Presidents. When it aired in ’69, the Moon landing was the news story of the year. Bill Russell, the anchor of 11 Celtics championships, had just played his final season. The U.S. and their allies were still contesting the Vietnam War. Carrie, Stephen King’s debut novel, would not hit shelves till five springtimes later. Forty-nine seasons is an eternity in the ratings-crazed world of television. Sesame has changed with the times, going from an hour to thirty minutes in 2014. Voice actors have come and gone, various celebrities and stars have guested on the show, and even the costumes and setup have evolved. While the show’s original creator has long since passed, to have over four thousand episodes means that they’re ticking all the right boxes. 

Casement

Sesame Street was a great window to the world. The content was pretty straightforward while likewise being stimulating. The show’s longevity is a testament to Sesame’s inclusiveness, ingenuity, and far-reaching impact. The show is a nice springboard for kids to soak in more – in the 3 R’s, namely reading, writing, and arithmetic. Sesame is a priceless supplement in learning English and in developing some basic maths skills. These days shows such as Hi-5, Teletubbies, The Wiggles and even old Thomas the Tank trump Sesame in the ratings. In addition, the availability of kids shows online has dented Sesame’s relevance for sure. Over the rest of my childhood, I would come to explore other offerings. Sineskwela, Hiraya Manawari, Bayani, Dexter’s Lab, Popeye, and Looney Tunes were just some of programmes I followed. I learned to watch in both Filipino and English. I may have outgrown those cartoons, but I learned a little from watching them. When you grow as a viewer, isn’t that what we can hope for? 

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Narcos reviewed

I’ve been watching Narcos on and off since late last year. I’ve managed to get to the middle of the third and final season. The series is notable for canvasing the war on drugs. Focus is on Colombian narco operations, specifically Pablo Escobar and later, the Cali cartel. The former was the subject of the first two seasons; the latter headlined the last season. The show was largely presented in Spanish, and had a slew of talented, bilingual actors, including Wagner Moura as the kingpin, and Pedro Pascal as DEA agent Pena. However, in spite of all this firepower, the show concluded without being nominated for any Primetime Emmy’s. This is a real shame, with other netizens concurring that Moura deserved a trophy for his gritty portrayal of the Medellin maestro.

Rise of Escobar

Narcos chronicles the rise and rise of Mr Escobar and details how he built his empire. At first, he had company at the top. By the end of season 1, he was the don, the sole proprietor. I guess it was a pretty good view at the top: lots of henchmen, an attractive family, money by the tons, servants at his beck and call. Amidst this, he manages to outsmart the DEA while leaving a trail of death and destruction. He always seems one step ahead of the opposition, even though the technology back then was light years behind the present. Moura was very convincing as Pablo and spoke Spanish like a local. His immersion into the role was admirable and he looked and felt like the real deal. If you are hiding money behind his back, he will catch you: whether you’re his compadre or dog walker.

(L to R) RAUL MENDEZ, MANOLO CARDONA and BOYD HOLBROOK star in NARCOS. NARCOS S01E06 ” Eplosivos”

‘Where dreams happen’

There was a popular slogan in the past which could be paraphrased to ‘Pablo Escobar, where dreams happen’. Not only does he donate American dolares to the masses, he is also elected in the House. He would soon realise, however, that he is not welcome there. Their Miami foothold became the backbone of their illicit trade. He openly challenges administrations both at home and abroad. At one point, Escobar was relegated behind bars BUT lived like a monarch. Food and contraband was trucked in daily, and the government had to turn a blind eye. However, Escobar overplayed his hand and soon became a fugitive.

Narcos

Tiger shark

Agents Pena and Murphy likewise feature in the action. They head to Bogota with the intention of bringing Escobar to justice. Their relationships with their families take a backseat as they go after the biggest shark of all. They are faced with constant bureaucracy and corruption, and have seen a few politicians fall asleep along the way. The partners would glean that whole institutions are caught up in this. Agent Pena had to dance with the devil, teaming up with the baddies in a last-ditch effort to nab the maestro. This would set off a Pandora’s box that would linger well into season 3.

Escobar managed to evade the authorities for months, living with his father and milking cows. He tells his dad that he was adjudged one of the richest men on earth. His father made it clear that he couldn’t care less. He only had Ramon left. He sends his last guy to unearth money hidden beneath a tree, money that turned out to be unusable. For a guy who had everything, he had to live like a commoner. Towards the end, he got a dose of his own medicine, losing close ones just as he dished out to others. The toughest part was trying to contact his wife over satellite, knowing full well that the end was nigh. When it was all over, the kingpin’s bad luck followed him from the grave. His family were unable to find safe haven and his wife resorted to pleading Cali kingpin, Gilberto Rodriguez, for help.

Cali bastardos

Upon Escobar’s demise, the DEA grasped that the situation in Colombia was far from over. Agent Murphy was there to bring down Escobar, but returned to his family in Miami. That leaves Pena and company to deal with the Cali cartel, whose meal ticket was the Big Apple. Escobar’s undertakings paled in comparison to the Cali hombres. The latter, like Escobar, had their own lawyers and accountants, but their money laundering was far more sophisticated. They did not take kindly to people who crossed them and, like Pablo, had eyes and ears.

Mighty as they were, Gilberto was finally apprehended and his temple began to crumble. Instead of going about their business, the entire cartel was in a holding pattern. They ended up weighing their options and huddling rather than retaining the status quo. Pena did his best to make this happen, even going against the wishes of his own bosses. They were not happy with the arrest of Gilberto, and the cartel had their plant – even in the DEA. Pena did his work while always facing a cloud of suspicion. With Murphy gone, his allies ran thin. There were a few surprises in season 3, including an eye candy.

Deserving

Narcos provided a visceral dissection of the lives of past drug cartels. The programme showcased vivid imagery, captivating dialogue, and full characters. There was even the occasional wit. The proliferation of retro touches is what’s easily overlooked. The show does a fine job of bringing 80s culture to life. I was surprised that the original show didn’t go past the third series. However, I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised as the drama had peaked with Escobar. The law of averages would hold that it would only go downhill from there. I side with the others: this show was good enough for a few Emmy’s. Moreover, from an audience perspective, they’ve won quite a few of us. Salud!

Rating: 4.43/5

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Spring reads

Kowloon

This marks the ninth week since my last reading list. Since then, I have done four novels. I started off with Fractured (Slaughter), dealt with Good Girl Bad Girl (Robotham), dissected two Connelly’s, before finally chipping away at The Institute (King). If I’m not mistaken, this is the first inventory this year without a non-fiction book. I must admit that I tried this book about sleep but found it too dense. Furthermore, I read 100 pages of Genesis (Slaughter) before realising that I had already crested this text years ago. Regardless, here is a recap of the past two months:

  • Fractured (Slaughter). The second book in the Will Trent series, as expected, Fractured once again takes place in Atlanta. The fictional Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) is called into a suburban homicide. Special Agent Will Trent is sent to the crime scene, where a mother is reeling after stabbing her daughter’s supposed murderer to death. As it turns out, the slain teen may not be her daughter after all, and the ‘murderer’ may have only been trying to save her kid. This leads to an investigation involving a private school, an exclusive community, and university lodgers. We also get introduced to Faith Mitchell and her teenage son, both of whom would become regulars in the succeeding works.

The plot is thus more complicated than a simple double murder. Fractured is a fast-paced thriller that leaves you guessing till the end. Moreover, the paperback subverts the reader’s perceptions: from the perp to the survivor. Aside from being a bestselling crime novel, Fractured is an insider’s look into relationships, be it between teenagers, couples, GBI partners and teachers. This book is a worthy follow-up to Triptych.

Rating: 4.55/5

  • Good Girl, Bad Girl (Robotham). This marks only my second Robotham but I was mighty impressed. Imagine a girl who has a gift of spotting lies. Now this same girl, Evie Cormack, was found alone in an attic, refusing to reveal any personal details to authorities. Police psychologist Cyrus Haven knows how it feels like to lose the lot. He throws the rebel a lifeline, helping her reside in his family home. He makes it clear that she will be a purely platonic foster child. Despite Evie’s immaturity, Cyrus tries to make it work. He even buys her a pet.

Cyrus is currently working a potential murder involving an expecting teen. DNA suspects that said kid was involved in an incestuous relationship, which makes Cyrus focus his attention on the runaway’s uncle. The latter coached the missing adolescent, who was a talented figure skater. As the days pass, Cyrus feels that time is ticking away and that every lead, every question, and every moment counts. For most of the book, we are led to believe that the uncle was responsible…until Robotham throws a curve ball near the end. The conclusion is as dramatic as it gets, with threats, fireworks, and an unfolding crime scene. Same with Triptych, this text advances the depth of a mother’s love. A compelling re-introduction into the world of Robotham, I also loved the short chapters.

Rating: 4.7/5

  • Nine Dragons (Connelly). Published a decade ago, we witness Harry Bosch drawn into the world of triads. Years ago, we remember how Harry sought shelter from an Asian store owner during the heat of riots. That man, Mr Li, is shot dead in an apparent heist. However, as Mr Bosch enters the scene, he infers that this is no ordinary gun-down. He deduces that bad elements are in play, and soon hypothesises that this was a deliberate hit. As he gets deeper into the case, his family gets involved. The prime suspect is released after an empty weekend of questioning, and Bosch is without a paddle.

His girl, Madeleine, is abducted and things point to a Hong Kong connection. Bosch races against time zones to meet his ex-wife and puts together that his girl is being held in Kowloon (‘nine dragons’ in Chinese). They put their differences aside for one common goal: to find Maddie. Tragedy strikes when Eleanor is killed in a shootout inside a hotel. With the help of Sun, Bosch gets to the bottom of this. Counting the sleepless flight from LA, the detective deals with a 40-hour day. He would eventually find out that all of this was a sham, and that his daughter was never in any real trouble. However, the ramifications were real, and it cost a daughter her mom. The Li murder turned out to have no connections to Triads. The killers were eventually apprehended, but not before Bosch lost his stubborn partner in the process. His ex’s demise sets off a domino effect that ripples through Bosch’s later appearances. Maddie now lives with him, and, with little warning, father duties are thrust upon. Bosch Many people have said that this is one of Connelly’s weaker efforts in the Bosch series. They point to a rushed plot, specifically an over-and-done with HK interlude. FYI, he followed this up with Scarecrow, another subpar outing. I have to agree with the majority; this feels hurried and contrived and was not his finest hour.

Rating: 4/5

  • The Lincoln Lawyer (Connelly). The first book in the Mickey Haller series, TLL was adapted into a Hollywood film starring Matthew McConaughey and Marissa Tomei. This is more legal fiction than crime drama, and extra time is spent in favour of courtrooms and civilian cars as opposed to forensic labs, morgues and police cars. This 2005 release introduces us to the maverick defense attorney, who latches onto a rich client, his so-called franchise client. Like an ace player in team sports, Louis Roulet is Haller’s meal ticket. Mick admits that these defendants do not pop in often, and so he does his best to ensure that Roulet would be a free man. Mick makes the deadly mistake of assuming that Roulet is innocent of battering a young woman. This costs him a friend and he is being framed from said friend’s murder. Furthermore, Roulet threatens his family, particularly over his 8-year old daughter. Haller has to deal with two ex-wives, the second one being his secretary.

As the title suggests, Haller rides around in his Lincoln. He has four of them, in case you’re wondering. He lives in a house on the hills with ‘a view to a kill’. He gives back to the community, doing pro bono work for a number of hopeless cases. Just as he read Roulet wrong, he likewise realises that another client – sentenced to life without parole – was actually innocent. He had failed the system twice. The book builds up to a frenetic finish, from the courtroom duels between Haller and Minton, the newbie prosecutor. Then there’s the battle among Haller and Roulet, who is a closeted psychopath. Pinch in Haller’s personal life and there’s no shortage of fireworks.

Rating: 4.25/5

  • The Institute (King). My current read, I’ve only dented a little of this so far. Yet in spite of the short introduction, I’m liking what I’ve seen. There are two main story lines in this one: a group of teenagers with special abilities trapped in a compound. This batch is trapped in a Maine forest. Meanwhile, in a parallel story line, erstwhile cop Tim Jamieson starts in a new life in off-the-grid South Carolina. This book has been compared with Stranger Things, and with good reason. I also understand that this has been dubbed as King’s best effort in years. Some have called it as a return to form; in short, classic King.

So, there you have it: I’m four and four; four books, four novels and one more in progress. I hope I’ve handed you a few good recommendations. Till next time.     

Waterloo Station
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Joker reviewed

This past week, my friend and I tuned in to the so-called ‘movie event of the year’. Joker has topped the box office these past two weeks, perhaps the most divisive feature to hit cinemas in 2019. Joaquin Phoenix, the great character actor, has been generating Oscar buzz after his tour de force performance. At the same time, Joker is also notable for having a fair share of negative reviews, with critics agreeing that the production is repetitive, tedious, and misses the point. Personally, Joker is tense, foreboding but always entertaining, a black comedy that hits the mark. An origin story that delivers, Joker, as I pointed out to my friend, also has the right running time. At just over two hours, the film packs a lot while holding your attention span.

Clown

Phoenix’s turn as the unbalanced, misunderstood, and murderous clown, was a joy to watch. We follow him as he evolves from an unassuming mama’s boy who is picked on even as he is just doing his job. From the start, his peculiarity is on notice. Let’s just say that he does things differently, that he is wired differently. He hides his face behind white paint and colourful makeup. He even belts out some bad dance moves. Like thousands of others, he takes the crowded public transport to move around. When he tries to bring joy to the world, he is told not to bother their kid. He has little friends, mostly his two co-workers – one of which gives him a gun to protect himself. He watches talk shows, always holding on to hope that one day he’ll get the chance. In particular, he is obsessed with Murray Franklin (De Niro). For the role of Arthur, Joaquin shed an astounding 52 pounds. My friend mentioned that he had to make extreme sacrifices, just so he could sustain the massive weight loss. To drive home my point, I remember an erstwhile colleague remarking that when you cannot reconcile at all the character with the actor, then that’s when you know that they will probably take home the Oscar. This is one such instance.

Cold-blooded

In Joker, we get reintroduced to Gotham City and Arkham Hospital. My friend said that he liked the retro WB logo that opened the film, which is set in the early 80s. We get to know more of Penny Fleck, Arthur’s mother, and the powerful and well-connected Waynes. We are witness to Arthur’s transformation from doormat to cold-blooded killer. My friend commented that as the movie went on, he became more adept at killing. I chimed in, observing that Arthur was damn proficient with the gun even without any practice sessions. ‘The third guy from the subway was five metres away,’ I told him. ‘The training bit is quite common in movies. It’s become a cliché,’ he said. My pal also believes that Joaquin was an even better Joker than the late Heath Ledger. Phoenix does a superb job in traversing the two sides of the coin: Arthur Fleck and Joker. The inner struggles and turmoil was enrapturing. Juggling the two personas was marvellous, as was Arthur’s slow descent into his alter ego.

Surreal with lighter moments

The movie seemed surreal at times, especially the imagined relationship between Arthur and Sophie. Viewers would easily be tricked that the love story is real. There are also a few occasions when Fleck sees himself among the studio audience, if not on the hot seat, of shows. Throughout the film, Arthur holds onto a ‘joke book’ filled with his own brand of spoofs. Fleck admitted that all the clown act was a front, and that he’s ‘never been happy for a single minute in his life.’ Though the movie can be sad, it has some lighter moments. For instance, he kills Randall with a pocket knife, while sparing the diminutive Gary. The latter is terrified of Fleck. Alas, he couldn’t even reach the door chain. There is also a hilarious punch-out scene when Arthur gets his things from his locker after being let go. While reviewing his mother’s medical file, we see Arthur wedging himself in her memories. Much is revealed at the end and we understand why Arthur is as he is.  

World Issues

Joker isn’t just about family, but also of social issues. The riots that spread in Gotham were as much a result of the Joker as of class differences. The Joker became the beacon of hope for all the oppressed. People were wearing clown masks and gave cover as the five-ohs were pursuing him on the subway. Even with one casualty during the chase, Arthur remains unperturbed. The scenes in the Joker was reminiscent of the current stand-off in Hong Kong. My friend asked me if I am pro-HK. I told him that we should be concerned, even though it’s not in our backyard. We should always be informed and must keep an eye out. My buddy said this reminded him of Logan, although he liked that one better. I must say that I beg to differ: this was a much more well-rounded outing. Among this year’s crop, Joker is similar to Aquaman in terms of being an origin story. The picture has already won the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. My chum stated that he was surprised of director Todd Phillips for this drama-heavy output. Comedy films has been his cup of tea, a body of work that includes The Hangover, Road Trip, and Venom. ‘I’m not sure of being the movie of the year,’ my friend claimed, ‘but it’s a very good movie’.

Rating: 3.9/5

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2019 NRL Grand Final

Last Sunday evening, the NRL Grand Final played out at Stadium Australia with the Sydney Roosters edging out the Canberra Raiders. This is the twentieth successive decider held at the venue, which has hosted the tilt every year since being built in 1999. 82,922 fans were in attendance, including a sea of green from the nation’s capital. The boys from Bondi became the first club to defend an NRL premiership in 26 years, while this also marked the Raider’s return to the finale after a quarter-century. The latter was the currently ‘the longest grand final drought in the league’.

Cronk

Retiring halfback Cooper Cronk played in his ninth Grand Final. He made history as the first combatant to contest three successive finales since the Paramatta Eels of 81-83. Cronk became the second most-capped NRL player ever, having amassed 372 first grade matches. This is second only to his former teammate, Cameron Smith, who stands as the only man (so far) to have hit 400 career tussles. Cronk is the stuff of legends, how he played in last year’s championship despite a broken scapula. He has earned the right to be in the conversation as a potential league immortal. He was likewise sent off in fairy-tale fashion, something that eluded his long-time running mate, Smith.

Finals fever

The build-up to the chip was dramatic. The Roosters overpowered the mighty Storm, outplaying them before a partisan crowd at the Sydney Cricket Ground. While I did not follow the Raiders, they must be the real deal to have upended powerhouse Melbourne, in Melbourne, during opening week of the Finals. Winning in Mel will never come easy; they have so much history and firepower. Any crew who beats them at AAMI Park is worthy of commendation.  

The chip was also not only about the players, but the coaches and referees as well. Two great tacticians gave us a master class in coaching during these Finals. Ricky Stuart won three premierships as a player with the Raiders, before bringing his talents to the Harbour City. There, as a young mentor, he made the Finals thrice, winning in his first try. Since then, fifteen years would pass before his return to the decider. Meanwhile, this represents the third Grand Final for Trent Robinson after seven years with the Roosters. He has a perfect slate so far.

Match in review

The match unfolded quickly, with Sam Verills notching a try after the 7th minute. Latrell Mitchell then booted the conversion. Latrell was shaky, going only 3-5. Perhaps the pressure of the moment had gotten to him. Regardless, he converted another one, and the Rooster led 8-zip early on. Late in the first half, Raiders five-eight, Jack Wighton, scored a try. Trusty and reliable Jarryd Croker netted the goal, cutting the deficit to 2. 8-6 was the score at the break.

The early second half was notable for Cronk’s stint at the sin bin. This occurred at the 49th minute, after his professional foul against Josh Papalli. The commentators slammed the decision, mainly since Cronk easily gave up twenty kilos to the latter. ‘What was he supposed to do?’ However, even with the Roosters down to 12 men, the Raiders were unable to capitalise. This was pretty much the story of the entire match, with the Raiders gaining more chances but failing to deliver. They were in their opponents’ 20 far more than Sydney. They withered in the moment of truth, when their season was on the line. Croker’s kick evened it out during Cronk’s down time. However, that was as far as they got, as they did not score again. Their inability to exploit was not due to ineptitude; the Chooks should also be given credit for a suffocating defence, a hallmark of Robinson’s squads.

The overturned six again call was what defined this grand finale. This involved the Raiders being robbed after the lead referee vetoed his assistant’s judgment. They were so close to the line that they could almost touch it. With another six more shots at target, the trophy was theirs to lose. Instead, they were crestfallen and became bystanders as Teddy raced down the field to score in the 73rd minute. Game over!

The Churchill

There was one final controversy to end the season. Hulking Jared from the Roosters was behind the podium, expecting to be announced as the Churchill medallist for being best on ground. Alas, Canberra five-eight Jack Wighton got the nod instead. Awkies. There were only three judges for the Churchill: Mal Meninga, Darren Lockyer, and Phil Gould. Jared must have been ahead or equal among contenders at the time. The mix-up was reportedly with Lockyer. Regardless, this marks one of the rare times that the ultimate man of the match was awarded to a player from a losing side. Six years ago was the last time, with Daley Evans securing the medal. This was an incredible comback for Wighton, who was convicted and given a suspended jail sentence last year. He has found a home as a hooker, probably the best in the game right now.

Roosters reign supreme     

What a night, what a year. Hard to believe that the first match took place in mid-March. After twenty-four rounds, four weeks of Finals footy, countless tries, a handful of golden points, and three memorable State of Origin rubbers, there can only be one team standing. In spite of the controversy, the injuries and the adversity, the Sydney Roosters are your 2019 NRL Premiers.

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On this day…

On this day in ’94, the NBA agreed to shorten the three-point line to twenty-two feet in a move to make offensive players score more. Air Jordan was one of the main beneficiaries, setting new career-highs in three pointers made and attempted, nearly doubling his prior stats. When you look at the L today, the three-point shot has become an integral part of most teams’ systems. Twenty-five years ago, this was not the case. During that season, Magic swingman Dennis Scott set the single-season record for most trifecta conversions. This would stand until Ray Allen shattered it ten editions later.

Artform

The three-ball is not as glamorised as the dunk. B-ball fans have been spoiled by facials, posters, reverse slams, alley-oops, transition jams, and and-ones. If the three is Larry Bird, the dunk is MJ and the Mamba. However, you can’t argue with the facts: made three-point baskets are worth 1.5 times more than dunks, layups, and other field goals. In recent years, the Dubs have turned the three into an artform; they have made the 3 into their biggest offensive weapon. Nowadays, pulling up for threes during the break is not uncommon. Personally, I agree with the commentators: this is not a wise move. Rather, opt for the sure deuce than pull up for an ill-advised dagger. In this day of the 3, I’ve noticed that players have consistently gone for the home run rather than earn the two the old-fashioned way. This is my view: any open shot is a good one. If you turn down an open three, shame on you. Problem is, NBAers have been jacking up bad shots with increasing level of difficulty. We know that playing hero ball would cost you.

94

Though the line was diminished in 94, it wasn’t until 04 that the three became a staple in a team’s offence. D’Antoni’s Suns were among the first outfits to rain threes. Four of their starters lived beyond the arc, including Shawn Marion and his unorthodox release. They became known for their ‘seven seconds or less’ mantra, winning a lot of meaningless games along the way. A banged-up Steve Nash was deemed the most unselfish player in the L. However, during the playoffs (when every game counts), they did not fare as well. This led observers at the time to conclude that the run-and-gun approach will not win you championships. Before the Suns, there were the Boston Celtics of Jim O’Brien. While similar in style, Obie’s success was much more fleeting. After squandering a 2-1 lead against the Nets in 02, they capitulated and never reached the same heights. They employed a similar brand, with floor spacing, high-volume threes, and ball movement.

Innovative

D’Antoni has since resurfaced with the Houston Rockets (after stints with LA and NY). Harden’s offensive brilliance earned him the MVP, but the Warriors have become their bogey team. So far, they have been unable to unseat the Dubs in the postseason. Shame, since theirs is an offense that is highly innovative. The brunt of their point production comes from three areas: the paint, the charity stripe, and from downtown. They rarely attempt perimeter shots. They put up a lot of threes and thus misfire a lot as well. They live by the three, and conversely, they die by the three. Meanwhile, Harden has been known for feasting at the line. He also has a killer step-back, and his euro step is a thing of beauty.

Divided by two


We can divide the NBA three ball into two eras: pre-94 and post-94. The pre-94 era is rather unremarkable. I doubt that NBA teams put up ten attempts per game before then. The pre-94 period is notable for Larry Bird doing a hat trick at the All-Star Game, with Craig Hodges duplicating that feat. A lanky guy named Reggie Miller entered the L in 87, while the late Manute Bol once made 6 money balls. This was notable since Bol was 7-4 and big men were (supposed) to stay close to the basket. Meanwhile, a few years since the change, a young gun named Ray Allen entered the L. He would go on to have a long career, split between four stops. He made 2973 threes in an illustrious career, with 385 postseason long shots. Both were of historic merit. He was one of the greatest shooters in league annals, both because of his longevity and his accuracy. He was also a big-game player.

Over a decade later, another special assassin entered the L. His name is Steph Curry, son of Dell. Steph’s the real deal: not only can he drain buckets in bunches, he does it in style. From head fakes to step-backs, in transition or off the dribble, he can do it all. Plus, he has the swag to boot. To put it in perspective, Curry stands as the only player to have been unanimously adjudged as the regular season MVP. This was after his 50-40-90 spell while also ending up the leading scorer. During that magical year, Chef Curry likewise topped 400 3’s, the first (and so far only) cager to do so. This was all after he was written off as being too risky due to his injuries. He’s also proven that he can win a few chips along the way, and his splash brothers partnership represents the best shooting backcourt ever.

Evolving

Over the years, the three pointer has evolved – in its use, in the players, and in the systems. The fact remains that triples are the great equaliser. For every three two-point shots, only two three pointers are needed. Great players have benefited from the shorter line: from Michael Jordan to Steve Nash, Ray Allen to Steph Curry. The three-ball has constituted an important part of coaches’ repertoire, including those of Obie and D’Antoni. There has been talk of extending the three point line, and going further, even appointing a four point line. The trifecta inspires more debate, posturing and reactions than perhaps any other shot in basketball. That three is the magic number in the L is no longer a question; it is a reality.    

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