A Nichey Niche Convo

Sometimes the Mystery Doctor and the Wildcard talk to each other...

Howdy doodle, Wildcard. I hope this finds you safe and sound, I've been having a few issues with my carrier pigeon as of late. Bastard.

I'm going to completely ignore the NRL Nines because it's in full swing as I pen this letter but there's a vibe. It's the vibe that led me to writing about rugby league because I felt that league was on the rise. It seems that those in the offices who apparently make much more important decisions than you or I are seeing this and it's hard to ignore just how many positive angles there is for rugby league in Aotearoa lately. How do you see the position of rugby league in Aotearoa right now? Given the options that are emerging.

Summer greetings Doc, yeah those carrier pidgeons can be a bit of a struggle. Things tend to get lost in transition, especially with those known pidgeon hustlers Bill Lawry and Mike Tyson out there intercepting them so that they can put them out to stud as pure-bred racing birds. It's an underground poaching scheme that doesn't get a lot of traction in the media. But they're out there, mark my words.

Yep, rugby league in Godzone. I think that just as the best judge of a team is the level of their battlers, the best judge of public opinion is by the dumbest people in the population. And there's no greater hive for dumb people than talk back radio. And maybe it's just me, but it seems that where league fans were once a passionate bunch of underdogs, forever craving more attention like the little brothers they were, now there seems to be a pushback from rugby union fans that don't feel they're getting the recognition they used to. 
Personally, I think all sports (and all people) should be able to live harmoniously and parallel, and that the different 'codes', as they say, shouldn't feel competition between themselves. I don't even like that word 'codes', they're different sports, not variations on some legal document. Maybe I'm just a dreamer. The point is that rugby league really does seem to have achieved mainstream status, and not only when the Warriors/Kiwis are winning either.

I've got no issue with Mike Tyson poaching my pigeon, but Bill Lawry well, he can meet me in the heart of my pigeon sanctuary and see what's up. Not too sure if sanctuary is the right word, I'm sorry Bill.

See I don't think it's got so far as mainstream status. I reckon that right now it definitely is but that's thanks to so much positive news and good stuff happening right now. 
I like how you said that it's not about the sports competing, even though they are in a business sense, but it's just about balance. For a long time there was no balance and as a nation that oozes sporting moisture from its pores, balance is needed. But even me, as chief rugby league expert (do not fuck with me) at the Niche Cache, I'm kind of excited for the Super Rugby season. The balance is what is required and we're getting that especially with football doing alright as well huh?


Woooah, there cowboy. Bill Lawry is one of the last of a golden generation! Mike Tyson is the guy that bit another guy's ear off and now has a show on cartoon network where he solves mysteries.

Yeah, and it's not just that they're not competing, it's also that if you prefer one sport, and some other human being prefers a different one, you aren't obliged to hate them for it. In fact, it just so happens that it doesn't even matter. One person's beliefs don't have to be law because they believe them. I'm so sick of people slamming others' differences just to reinforce their own or whatever.

I do think that football's a different beast. There's always been a more than minor footballing scene - it's been one of the top few sports in terms of grassroots participation in NZ for decades, plus the expat communities really buffer that thing out on account of how basically every other country except for us, Aussie and America/Canada adore it. But I don't think at the top level that it's ever been respected. Even the '82 team were just a bunch of fairy tale underdogs. That's changing now and it'll be fascinating to see how a (fingers-crossed) Wellington Phoenix playoff run would go down with the zeitgeist.
Oh, hey, so who are ya picking for the Super Bowl on Monday?

You know me Wildcard, always been one to hate people irrationally. So fuck Bill Lawry, nah definitely don't mean that. 

You mean like "oh you like rugby league? you must be a pleb?" and vice versa, they're like two extremes.  Heaven forbid we celebrate such pansies Wildcard, rolling around on the pitch in agony. Pfffft.

I'm going with the Seahawks, partly because as a Colts fan, I can't bring myself to like the Patriots in the slightest. Obviously Brady and Belichick are exceptional but I reckon it's the new kid's turn. They started it last year by beating Peyton Manning (the Broncos are just Peyton to me) and now they can kick the other top dawg to the curb. You?

I'm taking the Patriots. It's weird that people are painting the Seahawks as the good guys vs the Patriot villians all of a sudden. I know it's because of the deflated ball thing which we both think is a storm in a teacup (btw, they found out the other, almost 2 weeks later, that the NFL never recorded the pressure of the balls in the first place. Which conveniently took that long to be made public). But people must have really short memories because Seattle are faaaar from Americas Team (only one franchise can hold that title...). In fact Seattle's the PED (Performance Enhancing Drugs) capital of the NFL! They're both tough teams to like, and in tough times you need a hero to guide you through. That hero can be, as it has so often before, Tommy Terrific. The man's as all-american as they come. And just look in those puppy dog eyes of Rob Gronkowski and tell him he's not gonna win a ring.

You bought up Seattle PED thing last time as well. Reckon you could elaborate there chief?

They've had more PED bans in the last few years than any other team. It's not like they're all bulking up like 90's baseballers but it's still something. Earl Thomas tweets that his injured shoulder feels 100 the other day, the next morning he's called in for a 'random' drugs test. He and Sherman are beefing big time over it, saying they're being hard done by. Funny that it's never been a major deal while all these off-field dramas in the sport get massive coverage. From the horrible (Ray Rice) to the harmful-but-stupid (Josh Gordon). Every team is using PEDs, legal or not, but Seattle has a reputation.

Yeah, so why isn't this an issue? You also said before about the NFL only pointing out something that is their fault, not of the Patriots, very late on in the piece ... do you link the sweeping of the PED issue under the rug to the NFL's very fishy way of handling these situations?

Absolutely. Because off the field stuff you can slap wrists for, on the field stuff jeopardises their product. All about the dollars. But to be honest, it's not like having some fringe guys serve small bans has affected anything either. And PEDs aren't the reason for Seattle's success, just as deflated balls didn't save Tom Brady's ass. People don't like Seattle because they're really good and they're defensive, which makes for less exciting games. People don't like the Patriots because they've been winning for so long and by this stage in the Brady/Belichick era, they've probably had a gritty win over every other team. Meaning every fan has a moment or even a full match to recall why they hate them. You don't get to the top of the pile without leaving a few rotting corpses behind. I actually reckon this'll be a great game. There are two superbly evenly matched teams with legacies and great players and above all they both deserve to be there. But, nah, we gotta find the negative and that Lynch fella won't answer our questions!!! So we keep asking him questions!!!

You know how I love a good centre defensive midfielder, who's the guy for the Seahawks? There's a few guys besides Richard Sherman, who's awesome as well? All I want to say about Marshawn Lynch, is directed to Lynch - you're the man.

We also had a certain Kyrie Irving drop a fiddy point game, which I heard described as kind of symbolic of the Cleveland Cavaliers' season - Kyrie drops 50 and the Cavs don't win. But what I saw from Kyrie was him nailing a fair amount of jumpers with a hand in his face which was pretty cool. At a stretch, Kyrie's big game might signal a bit of a rebirth for the Cavs but probably not.

The thing about the Seahawks is that they're stacked. Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Marshawn Lynch, Bobby Wagner, Michael Bennett... the only position they can't match up in is recievers but even then they do ok. Their special teams are mud too, but that's because of the Percy Harvin disaster. The Pats aren't quite as stacked but they're arguably better rounded and they have more star power at the top.

You're being a little harsh on the Cavs, they're on a bit of a win streak at the moment. Most of that's been some prime LeBron stuff, though yeah Kyrie had his 55-er. His offensive game has always been his strongest facet, and it's easy to look like a leader when you score that many. He also took 36 shots in that game however, If LeBron hadn't sat that one out then you'd be seeing the same old story of imbalance ad confusion. I wonder if there won't coem a point where LBJ cracks the whip that he holds over Coach Blatt and says trade the kid, I can't play with him (or rather he can't play with LBJ). Just theorising here, but the Cleveland team doesn't quite fit yet, even with their recent improvements.

You're telling me there's a Wagner playing for the Seahawks? Definitely on their wagon then! 
I'm being a bit harsh on the Cavs!? I never used the words imbalance and confusion, nor do I feel any sympathy for any team who goes for the 3 pronged superstar strategy. It's just not cool, the Heat did it but they did it well while the Cavs are still trying to figure it out. I'm also not a fan of fans ... well fans voting for All Stars. 

All this Cup football in England has me in a spin and the A-League's back up and running so we'll finish on some football. What's something you're super duper interested in seeing in the EPL and the A-League?

Haha, I didn't say I wasn't being harsh on them as well. I really raised that bar, looking back. Here's the thing about fan voting... I kinda like it. If a player dominates a market, if he's the most popular fella going around, that should matter. I have no problem with Kobe being there, especially since he's injured and that means Boogie Cousins gets the nod as a replacement. More Boogie, always. Guys like Lowry and Wall starting? I'd argue the fans did a better job than the coaches! Kevin Durant hasn't even played half his team's games, how can that make him an all star!? AND WHERE IS DAME LILLARD!?
(Deep Breaths...)

Footy, sure. The obvious answer is that I wanna see winning football from the Wellington Phoenix and from Manchester United. My much more clever analyst answer will be... umm, I want to see the teams they play losing. Eh, I guess I'm a simple man to please.

See that popularity contest would be fine, if players didn't get a financial boost from being an All Star in terms on contract bonus', free agency, marketing and even having their desired team chase them. I don't know, it's weird but we're going to play that game 'til the cows come home and get Steven Adams in there. 4 milly votes, not hard.

Common factor there being the Wellington Phoenix, but our beloved EPL teams will be battling it out for those Champions League spots. No one is going to get close to Man City or Chelsea right?

Yeah that's the other thing about fan votes, the top guy (Steph Curry, very deserving) got about 1.5 mill. We get the nation of NZ in tow and Stevie could be there next year! Which also brings up the point: how did the top guy only get that many? With all of the massive international audience that the NBA has. I mean, I didn't vote. I never even felt like I was asked to, despite the fact I'm always trawling on basketball sites.

The Chelsea/Man City thing we're about to get a massive boost in knowledge about as they play each other. Frank Lampard's return to Stamford Bridge, what a travesty. But as thing stand, yeah, they're the two best teams and I think you and I would settle for third and fourth. Then again, Arsenal are on a winning streak, they've bought a defender... maybe they've turned a corner? (Sorry, just teasing ya)

Especially as I think you can vote as many times as you please, so 1.5milly is jack all really isn't it. I'm pretty gutted for Kyle Korver, if there's a basketball equivalent to the CDM position in football (not in terms of actual specifics, just its standing within my heart) anyone who strokes jumpers with ease is amazing. I'm claiming racism.

Mate, we've got a defender, Mesut Ozil did alright the other day so we looked destined for great things. The reason I really don't like you Wildcard is that you're settling for third and fourth, see us Gunners, we're eyeing up a title run. Don't ask me how, but don't expect to be bumped down to fourth as City and Chelsea slide down the ladder

Poor white people, just can't catch a break, aye? I wrote in my NBA All Star picks this week that if Korver breaks the NBA record for 3pt percentage that he's on course to break, we'll look back and wonder how the hell he wasn't an All Star. But then I heard Jeff Van Gundy make the same point about if Draymond Green wins Defensive Player of the Year. Half the game is spent on defence, that's actually quite a snub too. At least Kyle Korver still has a chance with Dwyane Wade probably too hurt to play.

Ha, what a perfectly Arsenal answer. It's all valleys and peaks with your team, isn't it? Beat City and squeeze into the next round of the FA Cup and your gonna win the double. Lose to Stoke or whoever on the weekend and #WengerOut. Best of luck though, Arsene deserves some of that by now. Hopefully Man City completely capitulate and miss the Champions League all together.

Maybe there should be an Actual All Star team, not an undercover brother All Star team but Actual All Stars? Anyway I'm sick of All Star discussions, snubs etc just give me Steven Adams and I'm ok. 

Mate there's no peaks and valleys, we've been embedded in a plateau of mediocrity. Just don't ask me tomorrow because I might wake up on the wrong side of the bed and hate Wenger ... but then I'll just look at him sliding down a water slide and realise it's impossible to hate him. It's not impossible to question every decision he makes though. I've gotta shoot WC, there's this NRL Nines thing that looks like it has taken over the 7's as the largest collection of drunk people in Aotearoa. I have a feeling they'll need some peptides. Holla atcha boy!

Ah poor Arsene. Still can't win, it's just embedded in him. The best compliment I can pay right now is that until your lot beat City, I was pretty confident we'd pip you to third place, now I'm not as sure.

Talk to ya next time Doc, I've got that same feeling and I think you'll be busy.