The Super Rugby season starts tomorrow. I know this because somebody told me.
Obviously the defending champions will kick off the season at home, parading last year's trophy in front of their adoring faithful. Oh, hang on a minute, not so fast, this is Super Rugby.
The Hurricanes, one of the original 12 franchises, will kick off for the first time as defending champions in, wait for it, extended drum roll please, dramatic pause... Tokyo. Against the Sunwolves. Who finished 18th of 18 teams last year with nine points and a negative points differential of 334.
This is not a dig at the Sunwolves. There will be plenty of opportunities for that as the season progresses. It is just gobsmacking that Sanzaar would think an appropriate way for the defending champs to start the season was a Saturday afternoon kickoff 9270kms from their home.
(There is an inescapable feeling of deja vu as these words are written, but last year the defending champion Highlanders at least played a local derby against the Blues in a city where they have more than a few exiled fans.)
Even more bizarrely, this season starts on Thursday night in that rugby stronghold of Melbourne, with a match between teams that finished 11th and 12th last year.
Again, this is nothing against the Blues and Rebels per se... actually, it is.
What the hell is Sanzaar doing opening the season with two franchises who have achieved the sum total of bugger-all since the Rebels first spewed forth their own brand of mediocrity in 2010?
This is not an easy competition to administer. It's not an easy competition to follow. Throw into the mix the fact that the tournament's strongest country by a furlong or two - that's New Zealand in case you're wondering - is a commercial bantamweight compared to the underperforming South African and Australian arms of the operation and you have a tournament that has become an unholy mess.
Still, there are some Running-A-Competition 101 basics that have been ignored. Lesson one: start the tournament with an appetising clash, preferably one that involves the defending champs against a hated (or even mildly disliked) rival.
Instead we get the rugby equivalent of gruel.
Can't help but feel that those defending Kieran Foran on the basis of him "not knowing Rebecca Wilson was dying of cancer" are either deliberately missing the point or accidentally showing they are devoid of empathy. Either way, it is a unconvincing, borderline crass defence.
The point is not that he was using a communications device to abuse a dying woman, it was that he was using a communications device to abuse anybody, fullstop. It matters very little whether Wilson was male or female, sick or in perfect health, the writer of unflattering portraits or puff-piece profiles.
Foran was in the midst of some serious mental health issues, which in no way should be taken lightly and his state of mind could have impacted his behaviour, but to use it as a shield to minimise the impact that might have had on his victim is wrong.
The Warriors' desperation to rush Foran into the fray has a whiff of opportunism, not that there's necessarily anything wrong with a struggling franchise trying to improve its on-field product.
You have to hope Foran turns his life and, by extension, his career around in Auckland. But spare the redemption angles until ithey're warranted.
From the Eden Park files.
Simon the Surgeon, who you may remember from the Alleged Burger Incident during the recent Hadlee-Chappell ODI at the same ground, took his 13-year-old son along to Friday night's T20 humiliation. The son was denied entry to the fifth floor of the South Stand because of a dress code violation, in this case a lack of a collar.
The Surgeon dipped into his pocket and bought his boy a splendid but, at $120, pricey T20 shirt with a fetching collar. The gates to the castle unlocked, they took their seats, only to spot several men dressed in collarless t-shirts.
This story had a kind of happy ending, however.
"I must give credit to Nick Sautner, the GM at Eden Park, for having the 'nads to come and sit next to me and apologise for the double standards on dress code," said the Surgeon via email.
THE WEEK IN MEDIA ...
Usually it takes a while before it dawns on ambitious municipalities that hosting the Olympics is one giant clusterduck. In Rio de Janeiro, they're already well aware of this.
This is a fascinating take on the OJ Simpson trial from one of the most respected sports journalists in the USA writing in The Undefeated. While it is repulsive of the one hand that a murder trial can be seen, essentially, as a black v white game, you can nevertheless see where he's coming from.