The Changing Of The Guard
Written by The Final Ball on 22/02/2021
Welcome to The Final Ball Blog! This is where we’ll have weekly a weekly detailed insight into the last week of sport for those of you who just couldn’t live by only listening to us for an hour a week!
And this week, we’ll start with the NBA, where the Dallas Maverick’s have made the executive decision to no longer sing the national anthem at their home games. Now for a franchise to not wish to do this seems reasonable, but it does lead to a bigger question: Does any league game need the national anthem played at their games? Shouldn’t something that is deemed as “special” be saved for a special occasion, i.e. a final? The patriotic nature of that country tends to be overbearing and find any excuse to go on about how great their country is. Considering most teams play every game, the requirement seems like overkill. Especially when there’s so much that happens everyday over there that makes players listen to the song thinking “what a pack of lies”. “Land of the free”. “Home of the brave”. Maybe we start singing it when we start believing it
And speaking of bravery, we have to commend Ryan Russell for coming out as bisexual. Currently a free agent, the risk of his NFL career has never been higher. The NFL have never been great at embracing subjects that have been deemed as taboo in the past and at 29, a lot of teams will find it easy to avoid signing him up and instigating awkward moments and difficult conversations in the dressing room. But there could be a silver lining to this. Similar to Colin Kaepernick, standing out and standing for something normally results in sponsorship deals from the best brands in the land. Sometimes we focus on the career so much it strikes fear into us when it becomes a sacrificial lamb for purpose. What Ryan is about to represent could have a greater impact on the history of sport than whatever contracts that he’s missed out on in the game (I’m sure it’s also a big weight off his shoulders)
Staying on the topic of public perception, it seems the British media are adamant to eradicate all the joy that surrounded the signing of Amad Diallo. He’s recently joined United after a deal that was agreed in the summer and within a month, controversies to do with his past and his citizenship have been plastered over various media outlets, despite the fact that he’s hardly kicked a ball in the country. Most of these things have nothing to do with this country, they’re part of his origin story in how he’s made it to this very moment. When others struggle, their story gets lauded, why should he be any different? Man United seems to always let the media smash their players like a train, almost as an initiation to making it to the very top. Some rise to the occasion, but maybe they’re also subconsciously killing great talents rather than nurturing mental capacities
And we’ll give a moment to Jurgen Klopp, someone who is no stranger to the media and abrasive ways. It had started to seem like he was losing it and the same rate that his team was. Flashbacks of Dortmund in late 2014 were starting to enter the minds of every Liverpool fan, and seeing him being tetchy with interviewers more often than not (I doubt Geoff Shreeves will be getting any Christmas cards from him anytime soon). But, as it turns out, he was just grieving. We seem to have forgotten that we are in a world where more people than ever are losing family members on a daily basis, and it’s become harder than ever to be with family members or even plan anything that requires multiple people, especially in a different country. We sit there in our offices/bed complaining about the stresses of the world and covid so we shouldn’t expect it to be any different to somebody just because they have a few more zeros in their account
But to finish off, after the week that we’ve had in sport, one thing has been shown to us: a new era is here. Nadal isn’t going to give us performances that made him so loved from the mid 2000’s (unless it’s on clay). The same way that it happened to Venus, Serena has come across her replacement in Naomi Osaka. Even LeBron & Curry, as many milestones that they continue to hit, it’s only a matter of time until we accept that the end is near and start becoming nostalgic by watching back their best bits. But perhaps the greatest example of “The Changing Of The Guard” was witnessed in the Champions League this week, With Messi & Ronaldo suffering with losses and poor performances coinciding with the showstoppers Mbappe & Haland stealing the limelight. Their stats just stick out, even up against the very best for the like decade and even though we shouldn’t expect similar quantities and ratios that Messi & Ronaldo gave us for 15 years, it seems like the joy and entertainment baton is ready to be passed on