I thought I’d interrupt my summer holidays in balmy climes to have a bit of a chortle at two seemingly unrelated stories in the news over the last few days. One concerns cricket, and the other, climate.
For an Australian, the Christmas-New Year period is an unrelenting cavalcade of flannelled fools battering red and white balls across the nation. We have the longer (5-day) form of the game on during the day, and at night, on a different TV network, the 3-hour “Twenty-twenty” version, which is in reality just a weeks-long running advertisement for an American junk-food outlet.
Things in Test cricket are going splendidly. With just one match remaining in the 5-Test series, Australia holds an unbeatable 4-0 lead over England, and thus have reclaimed The Ashes. For British journalists, of course, this has led to much wailing and gnashing of teeth, along with the usual calls for mass sackings, formal enquiries and structural change that accompany every Ashes walloping.
No Pommie journalist has been more strident in his criticisms than a certain Piers Morgan. I’d never heard of this bloke before, but I’ve since discovered that he is particularly unpopular with pretty much every British soldier who’s served in Iraq, plus their families. Morgan was quite voluble in his pasting of the English batsmen as “gutless”. Quite a statement, for someone who has never played the game above village level.
A little background for American readers, and others unfamiliar with cricket. Down here, we are quite amused to hear Americans refer to a baseball as a “hardball”. This, of course, is to distinguish it from a softball. But hold a baseball in one hand, and a cricket ball in the other, and you will see what a “hard” ball really means. The fastest cricket bowlers let go of the ball at about the same speed as the fastest baseball pitchers – between 90-100 mph (144-160 km/h). Being struck by a steeply lifting short ball is no fun, I can tell you.
Which is why, in defence of the English players, former Australian international Brett Lee, issued an invitation to Morgan to face an over (6 balls) in the nets during the tea break on the second day of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. Lee, once regarded as the fastest bowler of his era, is now 36 and a bit slower than at his peak, but still fearsome. A crowd of over 1,000 (most of whom, like me, had never heard of Morgan before this) gathered to watch the fun. They weren’t disappointed:
Not only did the bloke with the big mouth get his comeuppance, but having bandied about the accusation of gutlessness, refused to display any guts himself, beyond actually entering the nets at all. As you can see in the video above, every single delivery, Morgan fled to the back corner of the nets, out of the line of fire, before Lee had even let go of the ball. Not that it did him any good. When a professional batsman takes a step back to the leg side just before the bowler releases, it is not out of cowardice, but to give himself room to play the cut shot to the off side. The countering move by a fast bowler is either to follow the retreating batsman’s body, negating the extra room (which Lee did four times, hitting him on three occasions) or to aim a yorker at the stumps, which the batsman will be unable to hit (which Lee did on the fifth ball).
The really strange thing for me about this, was the number of commenters online who targeted Lee as a bully, ambushing the unsuspecting Morgan! The list of those doing so include no less an identity than New Zealand’s greatest-ever cricketer, Sir Richard Hadlee. I made my own thoughts about this clear on this blog at the DT and won’t repeat them here. But it’s a media beat-up writ large, and a depressingly typical, politically-correct inversion of natural justice.
The other big story this week concerns Catastrophic Global Warming. Caused by human beings, no less. Professor Chris Turney of the University of New South Wales’ taxpayer-funded Climate Change Research Centre, is heading an enormous, 85-person expedition to Antarctica to find how climate has changed since the expedition led by Sir Douglas Mawson 100 years ago (when, in 1912, he sailed into an ice-free Commonwealth Bay as seen below). You can watch the TV report and read the (in hindsight, hilarious) transcript here.
Like Morgan and his allegations of cricketing cowardice, the good Professor and his numerous young cohorts were utterly sure of themselves. So much so, that they saw no need to employ a special ice-breaking vessel to transport them to the Antarctic mainland during the southern summer. Instead, they chartered a much cheaper and lighter Russian vessel, the MS Akademik Shokalskiy, to carry them. Minor irrelevancies like raw sea ice data were no match for computer models, after all, right?
And sure enough, like Morgan, they, together with their delusions, were on an inexorable collision-course with brutal reality. Trapped by pack ice since Christmas, an initial rescue attempt by the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long failed, due to the ice thickness being beyond its capacity to break. The Australian Antarctic Division then sent its own, much more powerful icebreaker Aurora Australis, but that too was foiled, by pack ice up to 4 metres thick; and in the process, emitting an estimated 8,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, or about 100 tonnes for each junketeer researcher.
Eighty-five souls are in peril here, and it’s important to remember this. But my God, it’s hard not to laugh. Reports coming out the Akademik Shokalskiy suggest that the intrepid expeditioners have started to turn on each other (presumably blaming each other for the lack of warming). Naturally, prominent sceptical websites are making merry. The height of farce was reached the other day when, in desperation, a plea from the stricken vessel for weather forecasts in the Southern Ocean, particularly wind patterns, which may indicate when (or if) the pack ice will relent, was beamed to the U.S. Coast Guard, who passed it on to the Scripps Oceanographic Institute in San Diego; they passed the buck to local KUSI-TV, whose duty meteorologist finally got in contact with the man who ultimately provided the requisite information: Anthony Watts!
Oh, the irony!!!
Some have suggested that, like Mawson, the Global Warmists should be left where they are, stuck in the ice in Antarctica, for the next year. Perhaps, as some commenters have predicted, a Lord of the Flies-like society will develop. Or, as several biographers have alleged of Mawson, they will fall to cannibalism. We can all watch with bated breath as the drama plays out.
In 1985, a Usenet group founded a forum that developed into the now world-famous Darwin Awards. These are given annually, in the words of its founder,
In the spirit of Charles Darwin, the Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chances of long-term survival.
If either Piers Morgan or the Akademik Shokalskiy’s Antarctic adventurers succumb to the consequences of their own actions, tragic as it might be, they will surely be strong candidates.