By GREG DIXON
It was literally the money shot. As Oscar Kightley made a bruising attempt to sink one of his and Nathan Rarere's few remaining pool balls, the cue ball careered into the black, which bounced off another ball, then the cushion, before disappearing into a side pocket.
Game over. I fought — and believe me, I mean fought — the overwhelming urge to charge around the Ponsonby Snooker Centre chanting "I am the champion, I am the champion". But that would have been undignified, even for me.
Instead, I scooped my winnings from the edge of the table before the defeated could swipe it back. To the winner the spoils and thanks to Kightley's cock-up — making it one game to them, two to me — the spoils were mine.
I was the proud winner of ten bucks in change. Of course this titanic — nay, stupendous — best-of-three pool tournament, this battle of wills, was really all about pride anyway.
Was the pen mightier than the microphone? Or could a couple of TV sportscasters dispatch the newspaper hack and settle once and for all that telly types aren't only flashier and better paid than the print media drones who criticise them, but they are also superior at sport — albeit pub sport?
Well, that's a "yes" to the former and a "no" to the latter.
To be honest the win was unexpected. Rarere had said, while we waited for a late Kightley to show up, that his partner was really good. This was confirmed by Kightley himself when he arrived: "I think I'm really good," he had told me.
It turns out his dad was, at one time, a part-time cleaner at some place with pool tables and a young Kightley and his siblings got in an awful lot of practice.
However, I'd hatched a cunning plan to ruin his concentration. We're also here to talk about their new show, Sportzah!, which starts tonight on TV3. So I figured if I asked them a few questions while they're taking their shots, they'd lose. Call it dirty pool.
During their shots then, I deduced that Sportzah! is a logical next step for the pair, who have given local rugby coverage some much-needed personality.
While most of the country puts up with Sky TV's blah or bizarre commentators while watching the Super 12 live, those of
us tuning into TV3's delayed coverage over the past couple of years have had the Nate 'n' Oscar Show serving up the pre-game banter and the post-match interviews.
They have been doing, I might say, a bang-up job — especially when you consider they were more or less thrown in the deep end of the footy park.
Kightley is what is usually called, by me anyway, a man of many parts. Among other things, he has been a journalist (at the Auckland Star), is a comedian with the Naked Samoans comedy troupe and was a panelist on TV3's chatshow, The Panel.
He is also a playwright and winner of the 1998 Bruce Mason Playwright's Award for A Frigate Bird Sings, which he co-wrote with fellow Naked Samoan, David Fane.
Rarere was an original and long-time member of TV3's youth show Ice TV (with Jon Bridges and Petra Bagust) and, until recently, co-hosted with Bridges the breakfast show on youth radio station, Channel Z.
Not a great deal of sportscasting on their CVs then, but plenty of humour, which explains why the pair have brought a tongue-in-cheek aspect to what is otherwise a pretty po-faced arena.
"We don't actually take the piss, though people think we do," Kightley says. "When we first started," Rarere continues, "rugby fans thought we were taking the piss because we weren't your normal serious commentators. But I think once they realised that we do like sport they accepted us."
Kightley: "You can't afford to take sports too seriously or you end up going mental or killing yourself or your family. That stuff happens in Colombia."
"Yeah," continues Rarere, "there was that guy who gave away a penalty, which meant Colombia was out of the World Cup [soccer tournament] and someone went around to his house and shot him."
Not so serious as that then. But that said, the pair underline that Sportzah! will not be like TV2's Sports Cafe.
The aim is for their news and views show to champion New Zealand sportspeople making it big on the world stage and to making sure the rest of the country is kept up-to-date with just how good Kiwi sportspeople really are.
Beside the co-hosts, Sportzah! will also have a team of ex-sports-stars-turned-roving-reporters — including former Black Caps cricketer Dion Nash and ex-All Black Frank Bunce — providing reports on the likes of rugby and cricket and sports that receive little TV coverage, such as lawn bowls.
There will be no room for cynicism or criticism, apparently. It's about respect, Kightley says.
"A lot of people approach it like athletes are real meatheads. But they're just normal people like you and me. If you speak to them like monkeys, they'll look like them, but nobody deserves that."
Well, no. But enough of all that TV stuff. I'd really come along for the pool — and the question-asking bit while they were taking their shots did the trick all right. I walked away with the moolah.
Okay, so it was only ten bucks. And okay, it wasn't the Super 12 pool final or the World Cue Ball Cup either.
But as Kightley and Rarere know only too well: in sportzah, a win's a win, mate.