Deflate Gate: It’s just not cricket?

January 27, 2015

WG GraceIn the run-up to the Superbowl, New England Patriots stand accused of ball tampering. Cricket followers are also all too aware of the catalogue of dastardly tricks to claim a competitive advantage

American Football is shaken to the core by the discovery that match balls during a National Football League Game appeared to have been tampered with.

Shock horror. Accusations are made that The New England Patriots had deliberate deflated the balls. This gives more grip for a star quarterback like Tom Brady to make a winning throw. Cries of Deflate Gate are heard, followed by denials of wrong-doing from Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriot, Coach Belickick and players.

“It’s not Cricket”

On hearing the news, my first thought was the parallel with that most traditional sport of Cricket. Tales of ball-tampering to gain an advantage have periodically outraged the authorities, as bowlers are caught out doctoring the ball. “It’s not Cricket” is a cry which is used in England as a cultural short-hand for cheating in any walk of life. Playing cricket embodies a set of ancient and noble amateur values that are even more fiercely guarded as professionalism invades the sport.

The dilemma

The dilemma might be expressed as this: cheating in professional sport is unacceptable but necessary.

Staying with cricket, I can remember the various ways, some creative some crude, in which the bowler helps the cricket ball to spin, swerve, bounce so as to deceive the batsman. The captain of the England cricket team is regarded as the epitome of fair play, but one struggled once in recent times with accusations that he had led his team into play with a pocketful of dirt to scuff up the ball.

Dishing the dirt

A brilliant report for Hutchinson News [URL not available] starting with the NFL, goes on to dish more dirt on foul play in cricket (‘zipper gate’) rugby union, (‘Wilkigate’), Tennis (‘fluffigate’), and Baseball (‘spittigate’).

Does it matter?

Obviously it matters to those outraged or ostracized by a cheating scandal. And beyond the often pompous and self-righteous outbursts lurkc a cultural truth. Sport embodies ancient values of honestly and fairness that are tested by equally ancient human needs to win at all costs.

Update

In my research, I found the splendid image of W G Grace, an early heroic figure and superstar shown above. Gloucestershire archives tell of his blatant bad sportsmanship which seems to have been condoned.

See also the continued story of the NFL deflategate as Sunday’s Superbowl approaches.


“Cambridge v Cambridge” Obama and Cameron engage in a cyber-game competition

January 24, 2015

Paul Hinks

War GamesPresident Barack Obama and David Cameron’s agreement to conduct a cybersecurity War Game recognises the very real threat from co-ordinated online targeted attacks

In what is being dubbed as a “Cambridge v. Cambridge” hackathon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT, of Cambridge, Mass] will go head to head with the University of Cambridge [of Cambridge, England] in a multi-day cybersecurity hackathon where each team will try to outwit its opponent.

After the Sony cyber-attack

The BBC reported the background to the cyber initiative:

The Cybersecurity war games come in the wake of the recent hacking of Sony Pictures’ computers and the US military’s Central Command’s Twitter feed. This posted comments promoting Islamic State (IS) militants.

The cyber-attack on Sony Pictures led to data being leaked from its computers exposing emails and personal details about staff and its movie stars. The hackers, who called themselves #GOP or Guardians of Peace, also threatened Cinema chains planning to screen Sony’s satirical North Korean comedy. The plot of The Interview involves a bid to assassinate the country’s leader Kim Jong-un.

Sony initially cancelled the film’s release after leading US cinema groups said they would not screen it, a move which Mr Obama later described as “a mistake”.

Leaderless Groups and Anonymous

The manner in which online ‘hackers’ collaborate, and distribute their powerbase deserves closer inspection. ‘Anonymous’ is one example of a self-proclaimed ‘leaderless’ group of dispersed individuals labelled as ‘hackers’ for their various well-publicised distributed denial of service attacks.

Anonymous joins the Je Suis Charlie solidarity campaign

Anonymous recently announced that they would target ISIS websites in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack, They’ve already claimed to have had some level of success. The social distribution of multiple leaders does create a powerful and cohesive force – one which can be used for ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – attacking those who are perceived to hold alternative values from their own.

Improving cybersecurity

Obama and Cameron’s initiative may well provide new levels of cybersecurity research, testing current best practice while also creating debate and discussion about how best to protect against future online threats. The initiative needs to look beyond the technical aspects of cyber-attacks and also explore the social dynamics of how online distributed Communities operate.

Acknowledgements

Author Paul Hinks is a regular subscriber to LWD. He blogs on technology, innovation, and social media. His post on Apple, CSR and Leadership is regularly the most visited of the year on LWD.

Thanks and welcome also to our new production assistant Conor Glean.


Walgreens Boots Alliance and the Rise and Rise of Stefano Pessina

January 21, 2015

As 2014 drew to a close, the second stage of a merger took place incorporating the American convenience stores group Walgreens with what was originally known as Boots the chemist of England. Boots had already morphed into Boots Alliance at the time of the merger

In the new year [January 15th, 2015] the new company announced its first dividends. The histories of the brands can be found in the excellent website of the new company. It positions itself as a first global-pharmacy led health and well-being company. This strap line may not be pretty but it has a rather ponderous truth reflected in the brands of Walgreen stores of America and the revamped Boots stores in the UK. The stores also hint at shared values and reasonably compatible cultures which could go some way to avoiding the pain that accompanies any merger.

WBA is not a football club

Walgreens Boots Alliance, has the new Nasdaq label WBA. [not to be confused with WBA, aka The Baggies, or West Bromwich Albion, another venerable brand in England, and a midlands- based Football club.] The merger was suggested to have been imposed on Walgreens by impatient shareholder activists.

Winners and Losers

The change had more executive bloodshed on the Walgreen side. Unsurprisingly, the veteran Stefano Pessina of Boots Alliance became the most obvious winner, just as he was when he engineered the Merger of Boots with his own Swiss-based operations earlier . The financing of the deal cost Walgreens five billion dollars plus shares. LWD subscribers will have followed the commercial rise and rise of Stefano Pessina in earlier posts in which I noted:

In the original merger between Boots and Alliance, the new board had a majority of former Boots executives. But the Alliance side was the more profitable, and Stephano brought with him a sizable shareholding and considerable personal wealth. Pessina had enough power to be magnanimous. Mr Baker [a departing Boots executive] may not have had much temptation to stay on when the alternative was a £10 million incentive to leave, with more chances of securing a new leadership role elsewhere.

Leadership lessons

I’m not sure of the leadership lessons here. Perhaps it is that self-made billionaires are not all ego-crazed narcissists. Maybe absolute power is not always accompanied by absolute ruthlessness.

Image

The image was one taken as I was visiting a Walgreens in Buffalo, NY last year. It’s not much to do with the merger, unless you read something into the caption …


Andy Murray v Yuri Bhambri : Cave-man tactics and their limitations in sport and maybe in business

January 19, 2015

Caveman

When a qualifier meets a top seeded tennis player, sometimes caveman tactics result. We review Andy Murray’s march with Yuri Bhambri, and consider the implications of all-out aggression in other sports and in business

The start of the Australian Open, the first major of the season. Somewhat against my better judgment, I get up in the small hours in the UK to see how Andy Murray is doing. His opponent, Yuki Bhambri, is a qualifier and ranked 317 in the world.

1st set

Half an hour into the match. Bhambri’s aggression is impressive. Murray breaks Bhambri’s serve but failed to capitalise, being broken himself, ringing the first set to a tense four games all. Murray then breaks and holds to take the set 6-4.

Both players are making excellent winners, but both are rather prone to unforced errors..

2nd set

Bhambri serves first and holds. A discordant but enthusiastic chant rises up from tee-shirted Murray supporters. In the next game, good defense from the Indian draws errors from Murray, but the Scot’s resolve helps him survive; 1-1.

Bhambri continues with his aggressive style of play and wins service after more winners and errors. Murray replies with a love game bringing it to 2-2. Bhambri is still the aggressor and seems to be benefiting from winning though three rounds of qualifiers Murray breaks, then holds, making it 5-3.

Take out the errors…

Minus a few errors from each game, the quality of the match is more suited to be a second week tie. An edited film would be misleading. The commentators suggest Bhambri is playing like a top fifty player.

Defend Rally Attack

Murray continues to plays rather defensively with flashes of brilliance. I remember the coaching maxim: Defend Rally Attack. Murray too inclined to defend and Rally; Bhambri too inclined to go from defend to attack. This is evident again as Murray moves to 40-15. In returning, the all out attack opens up court, higher risk [one attacking return forces Murray to attack not rally, and he hits winner down the line. Murray wins serve reasonably easily and takes the set.

0nce the pattern is seen, it becomes clearer. Bhambri does not rally enough. I think of chess. All-out attack is the weaker player’s weapon which too often accelerates defeat, although the infrequent wins reinforces the pattern of ‘cave man’ play. [which suggests another idea: the infrequent upsets against seeds more obvious in first rounds, more chances for the cave man play to succeed.

Third set

A good example in first game of third set, when Bhambri grabs an ad point then a net point for him wins game and a break. Murray continues to rally and wait for errors. The pattern for me seems to persist but Bhambri wins and extends lead to 4-1. Murray wins own serve. 4-2. Pattern persists, and Murray breaks back. 4-4 and eventually into tie break.

Prediction for tie break

My prediction is that failure to Defend Rally Attack more dangerous in the tie break Murray goes to 5-2 then 6-2 and 6-3 but two then Murray closes it out as Bahmrhi ballons out a return.

Murray’s verdict

Opponent is a junior world champion, but injury explains his low ranking.

Notes

Caveman chess was a popular term among British chess players to refer to violent attacks often unsound but always unsettling.

Rather than show an image of one ‘caveman’ chess player I had in mind, I choose the image from Wikipedia Commons.

Also thanks to Conor for helping in the editing process.


Tennis bounces into the 21st century. Will Fifa be next?

January 17, 2015

Fast 4 Federer

Tennis has followed cricket by introducing a short format of the game using technology to support it. Football appears to be struggling to do the same

‘It will ruin the game…It will never catch on….’ Listen to the inevitable cries against sporting innovations which have echoed down the ages.

Cricket’s Big Bash

Cricket’s short form is bringing in new audiences to the format of twenty overs per team, with additional rules to permit more control of time, and so better advertising breaks. Technology reduces human errors by umpires. Gambling is promoted as heavily as the cricket. That’s the heady mix given another boost with The Big Bash competition invented in Australia. Brilliant name isn’t it?

Now for tennis, the Fast4 event

Now another Ozzie-inspired sporting innovation in marketing the fast form of tennis. One advertisement for Fast 4 tennis had Federer and Lleyton Hewett bashing tennis balls between to two fast-moving speedboats. Another great marketing image.

Here come the curmudgeons

The innovations bring out the curmudgeonly spirit.

Oliver Brown of The Telegraph was at his most elegant and nostalgic in defense of the slow.

Hitting balls from a speedboat in Sydney Harbour, Federer has been proselytising the message of his friend Lleyton Hewitt’s ‘Fast4’ tennis idea, a format where the first to four wins the set, where deuce games are resolved not by an advantage system but by sudden-death points, and where players are banned from sitting down at a change of ends.

There is much to admire about defenders of tradition. In more optimistic spirit, it might be argued that the new format offer survival chances for cricket which has already moved from timeless test matches to a not very fast five day format. Tennis has abandoned play to a finish five set matches.

Football and Fifa

FIFA is gallantly retaining its traditional administrative format, with Sepp Blatter seeking re-election as President for the fifth time. The forces of modernization are backing young pretenders with creative plans of amber cards and sin bins.

A bookmaker is sponsoring the celebrity footballer David Ginola to stand for election. But will a fighting fund of a few million euros be enough to prevent the long form of the Presidental game being played by the wily Blatter?


Paul McKenna and the search for self-fulfillment

January 12, 2015

Until last week I had never heard of Paul McKenna. Now I have become aware of his claims to help me change my destiny, which seems a bit of an oxymoron

The whole thing about destiny, I used to think, is that it’s what fate has arranged to happen to you, come what may. So I listened up, when I heard somebody called Paul being interviewed on BBC Radio Five who claimed to have cracked the destiny business.

Paul spoke with the authority and conviction of a prophet bringing good news to the previously unenlightened. He wanted listeners to buy his new book, plus assorted multi-media aids to enlightenment.

At first, I wondered if Paul was one of those callers with a bee in his bonnet, and whether the interviewer had allowed him to rant on during an afternoon in which callers were scarce. Then he said there was scientific evidence and research backing up his system of do-it-yourself destiny control. I must find out more about Paul, I thought.

It’s all in the Daily Mail

It was a simple matter to track down Paul. He obligingly mentioned the title of his new book several times during the interview.

I found that Paul had outlined quite a bit of his approach in The Daily Mail just a few weeks earlier.

A few sentences will be enough to indicate what he is about:

Congratulations — today is the day you are going to alter your destiny. In just a few hours, the entire direction of your life will change for the better.

A dramatic claim? Certainly, but with just a little input from you, I know we can make this happen.

It may seem like magic, but it’s actually grounded in some astonishing recent breakthroughs in science, psychology and spirituality.

Cynicism and rejection

A few comments on his article were from those who had begun the few hours of effort and had begun to see their destiny changing.

But as happens with charismatic thought leaders, Paul also faces cynicism and rejection. Quite a few comments were hostile to the point of abuse. But that’s the nature of denial and the right to express views on the social media, isn’t it?

How I overcame my fear of flying

Paul mentioned the influence of his training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. I can offer testimony to the effectiveness of applying these principles, although that was quite a few years ago, and I have not caught up on the astonishing breakthroughs Paul mentions.

What works for me is deep breathing. There you have it. A philosophy in a phrase. Deep breathing.

Deep breathing and visualisation

Paul also mentions brain-calming through visualisation. Yes, that works for me too, even that stuff about imagining you are on a sunlit beach. Lesson two. Visualisation.

Paul’s new book is called …

The Daily Mail did not mention the title or publisher of Paul’s book. This puzzling oversight was quickly remedied through a visit to the mighty Amazon. The book is called The 3 Things That Will Change Your Destiny Today !

Paul has also written books about wonderful things to do with gastric bands, and has helped smokers to quit, losers to stop losing, and the poor to become rich.

It works

I quickly found more evidence of how his methods work. A remarkable number of reviews have been submitted to the Amazon site within weeks of publication of The 3 Things That Will Change Your Destiny Today !

There was little of the cynicism of the Daily Mail readers. These Amazonian reviewers had been compelled to write in within days (sometimes hours) of receiving their copy of Paul’s book and tapes to say how they were finding their destiny. They could not restrain themselves from sharing the good news with others.

If that’s not evidence of the powers of Paul’s message, I’d like to know what is.


Je Suis Charlie today, Not In My Name tomorrow

January 9, 2015

January 7th 2015 will be remembered as the day in Paris where two gunmen shouting religious slogans killed eight staff members of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, as well as two bystanders and police officers. Within hours, Je Suis Charlie, became the slogan in support of the murdered journalists. It spread around the world

Late in the evening, still wrestling with the news of dreadful carnage I turned first to BBC’s Newsnight and later to the views expressed in the Social Media.

Harrowing scenes from Paris dominated the BBS’s Newsnight programme, with a serious discussion of the political issues behind the all-too human pain and anger over the atrocity. Perhaps too narrow a band of participating voices? The programme uneasily admitted to the difficult decision whether it should show the cartoons from Charlie Hebdo that had brought down on it cold-blooded murder of its cartoonists.

The Social media debate

It was the intensity and variety of the Twitter stream that jerked me out of a state of numbness. What are you feeling? What can you share? I forced myself to ask.

Tweets were being generated moment by moment. I began to see my dilemma. I shared the expressions of revulsion being expressed. I marveled at the creation of social cohesion captured in Je suis Charlie. If you are against everything symbolized by the acts of the assassins, surely you must be as utterly committed to supporting the principles symbolized by Charlie Hebdo?

Bill Maher ‏@billmaher Jan 7

Condemning attack is not enuf: unless U strongly endorse the right of anyone to make fun of any religion/prophet, U r not a moderate Muslim

Tudor Rickards ‏@Tudortweet

@billmaher however, the right to make fun of anyone is not of itself something I “strongly support” as a guiding moral principle.

trianglman ‏@trianglman Jan 7 responding to Bill Maher

It’s never appropriate to be a dick. Asking people to not only condone dickishness, but endorse it is ridiculous.

PM ‏@StLFullORacists Jan 7 responding to Bill Maher and trianglman

@trianglman @billmaher Don’t think he’s condoning being a dick (maybe), rather endorsing the right to be a dick w/o getting killed.

Tudor Rickards ‏@Tudortweet responding to trianglman

@StLFullORacists @trianglman @billmaher think you got deeper than most here. Wisdom not correlated with number of followers.

Tudor Rickards ‏@Tudortweet attempting to resolve personal dilemmas

Je suis Charlie. of course, today. Then, later see how Not in my name is stronger for tomorrow.

January 8th 2014

The Trump Card

From America, Donald Trump opined that the journalists would have had a better chance of surviving if there were more legal guns available in France. Although Trump was widely described as moronic, it seems his view also received support from Americans calling for him to stand as President

7-9 January

A further atrocity is linked to the attack. After three days of intense search, two inter-related sieges end in further bloodshed

11 January

World-wide support for Charlie Hebdo in largest demonstration in nation’s history in Paris

14 January

Sympathy and financial support for Charlie Hebdo as first edition of magazine is published after the attack.