ANY GIVEN MONDAY
Sometimes the world leaves you exhausted. More often than not it's about this time of year, when the days are too short and the lawns are too long.
Throw in a global pandemic and the shuttering of professional sports league across the globe and the reasons for getting out of bed in the morning have become fairly tenuous.
Yet there is hope. Across the past week I have found Reasons to be Cheerful Part III*, many of them emanating from these small islands.
Even at its worst, Super Rugby Aotearoa keeps giving.
Nearly everything about yesterday's match was dire, starting with the weather and the Spartan surrounds that hosted the Crusaders v Chiefs.
A dynamic first couple of minutes gave way to a squalid hour where both teams gave the impression they were playing with one arm tied behind their backs.
Even with a couple of nifty tries, one tainted with the requisite controversy, as a spectacle it was a thin gruel.
Then just as the obituaries were being written on SRA's feelgood return, the Chiefs found a bit of something – desperation, rather than skill probably – and the last 15 or so minutes were a reminder never to turn your back on an even competition.
As for Will Jordan, in a game lacking some of the fundamental skills expected of professional sportsmen, even accounting for the weather, he was an immaculate presence at the back.
Watching the lines he runs in support and his bravery and competence under a high ball, it's not wrong to say there's a touch of the ban Smiths about him. Certainly if he adds an unerring ability to beat the first man to his repertoire, the comparisons will be apt.
The Blues and Highlanders face-off was clearly a superior watch, though a previous food-and-drink related commitment forced me to peruse a highlights package only.
The Blues' uncommon win streak has been the obvious talking point but perhaps it should be the remarkable work of the Highlanders coaching staff.
Any rational person looking at the respective squad strengths of the SRA teams would conclude that the Highlanders should be facing double-digit losses every time they cross the white lines, yet Aaron Mauger and his team have masterminded a home victory over Warren Gatland's Chiefs and were desperately unlucky to fall to the Blues at Eden Park.
Moving swiftly from the country's highest profile professional league to the sodden grassroots, a weekend spent on the sidelines of school football and netball provided reasons to smile. Granted, it was the smallest of sample sizes, but even in grotesque weather the sidelined were thronged with overwhelmingly positive parents.
Anecdotally I have been told that rugby clubrooms have been better patronised in the past couple of weeks than they have been for years.
It might be impossible to measure but there is a sense that lockdown and the delayed start to the winter sports season only served to reinforce the important role organised sport can play in kids' lives.
Many traditional team sports at youth level have taken a hammering over the past decade for a multitude of reasons including impossible-to-justify cost increases and a crippling emphasis on performance pathways.
On recent evidence there is still plenty to build upon as long as lessons have been learned.
Finally, the most important reason to be cheerful is the mere fact that sport is happening again. There has been plenty of screeching headlines of late about missteps in the quarantine protocols but if you use sport as a lens it is hard to imagine New Zealand could have got the restart any better.
Around the world, sport is being played in front of empty stadiums and while it might look like the real thing, it is to sports fans what vegan burger patties are to carnivores.
Novak Djokovic tried to start a tennis tour and it was a disaster.
Major League Baseball's re-start has been a clusterduck.
The NBA's bubble plans are bursting with every positive Covid test.
The integrity of the AFL and NRL's seasons has been challenged by the recent outbreak in Victoria.
There's no guarantee we won't endure another crisis here, but watching sport at a variety of levels this weekend left me feeling, at least momentarily, cheerful.
*Do not look for Parts I and II. This is an unnecessary, read gratuitous, musical reference for my own entertainment only.
THE MONDAY LONG READ
The New York Times' very modern breakdown of a very old-fashioned concept: Liverpool FC winning the title.