Deep Baby, Deep, Deep Down

Listening to the radio in the car on the way to work this morning and there was much discussion of the increase in the number of Down’s Syndrome babies being detected by testing.

Typically a lot of the discussion revolved around the decision to abort versus the decision to carry a downs baby.  The soul searching, the tales of shock at the birth, turning to stories of triumph and unbridled joy as the child grew up.  Even an attempted hi-jack by the ‘barren brigade’ about how they’d love the chance to be in a position to even consider a termination.

I wonder just what would have happened centuries ago had Australopithecus had access to screening technology.  Would the evolution into Homo Habilis have been stopped as millions of parents to be were told their unborn child was “different” and perhaps it would be best to terminate?

Are we in danger of derailing evolution with all the screening, testing and general clamour for the perfect human being that genetic science is leading us to believe is out there?  I’m no religious zealot.  I may have been brought up in the Catholic faith, but outside of deaths and marriages, haven’t been in a church since I was 17.  I don’t particularly believe in the idea of an all powerful force that controls everything, but neither am I blinkered enough to believe there isn’t some “magic” at work out there that led evolution to work as it has.  I mean, I understand the biology and the physics and to a degree the chemistry of life, but, at the end of the day just what is it that makes us alive??

Anyway, I digress slightly.  My point, I think, is that there seems to be an acceptance in general that science has all the answers.  That “this is how we are”, and, “this is how we should be”, so that anything that differs from the template is wrong.  I don’t know about that.  What I do know is that mankind, developed and evolved quite well for millions of years without the ability to screen and test for birth “defects”.  I wonder is it possible that we do more harm than good with our recent mania for perfection.  One man’s imperfection may just be another man’s great evolutionary leap forward.

I touched upon the ‘barren brigade’ above.  They are another phenomena of the last 20 years or so.  The idea that it is everyone’s inalienable right to have a child.  Is it?  Again, this seems like so much tampering with nature and the natural order of things.  The population of the planet has grown over thousands of years, despite regular warfare and the lack of fertility treatments.  So much so that the planet is getting close to the point where it won’t be able to sustain the number of people on it.

Enter scientists and the answer to a question hardly anyone was asking.  Now, we have an artificially contrived movement demanding that every woman be allowed to fulfill her basic human right to a child.  Is it a basic human right?  Or has science created that myth to make money?

If everyone were supposed to have a child, then infertility in men and women would not exist.  Infertility is one of the natural worlds defences against over population, by messing around with IVF we override this natural defence mechanism.  Not only that, but, infertility treatments tend to lead to multiple births rather than single.  When coupled with the other “advances” we make in medical science leading to people living longer, is it any wonder we face a shortage of power, food, water and who knows what other natural resources that I would argue are far more inalienable basic human rights than procreation.


Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves

What a week for them eh?  As if it wasn’t bad enough for Rangers fans that they had their own little “Artmedia moment” last week, losing 4-1 at home to Urine A-Mess or whatever the Romanian champions are called, but now we hear tales of their financial problems.  No wonder both them and the other half of the Bigot Brothers are so keen to join up with the English Premier League.

Will it happen?  Not anytime soon.  The existing EPL clubs don’t need them.  No teams in England are going to allow them to just walk into the top league, replacing them or blocking others from progressing.

The only way it would happen in England is if they were to be invited in at the point of creation of a new Premier League set up.  It would be interesting to watch, if only because large swathes of their support go into apoplexy when they lose, something that would happen on a regular basis in the EPL.  The idiots actually believe they’d be challenging for the title.  Sorry, you’ll be challenging for mid table mediocrity at best.

The rest of Scottish football would survive, albeit on smaller crumbs for a while.  By default you’d be looking at Aberdeen, Dundee United, Hearts and Hibs as the main title runners, but the league would be closer and more interesting than at any time since the eighties.

It would be nice for the Old Firm to learn some schadenfreude, if only because most of them can’t spell CAT when given the C_T.


Meanwhile, in London, a sporting event with altogether more money than humility rolled into Wembley last weekend.

For the third year running the NFL brought a regular season game to these shores.  I went to the first one, wasn’t able to get tickets last year and just plain couldn’t afford it this year.  (Thankfully, having to watch the Cheatriots and their cheating head coach Bill Belicheat would not have been good).

I have mixed feelings on the event.  As a fan of the sport since 1984 when it appeared on Channel 4, I loved being able to go and see a proper competitive game as opposed to the exhibition games we had in the late 80’s/early 90’s.  Games where the star players would be on the field for 5 minutes before making way for scrubs and tryouts who wouldn’t be on the team when the real business started.

I went to watch the Claymores on numerous occasions when NFLE was a part of the spring/summer over here.  A league where all the scrubs and tryouts got a second chance to play their way in to the NFL.  Good times but visibly second rate.  Players who looked good, dominating statistical categories in NFLE, barely got a sniff in the NFL proper, left you wondering how good the real thing was.

So we get the real thing, once a year, at Wembley.  Except it’s not really the real thing.  It’s a party for the UK and European NFL fans.  You see fans wearing shirts of their favourite team.  You’ll see all 32 NFL teams represented in the stands.  The “home” team may not have the loudest support.  In fact, because comparatively few fans have a vested interest in the game, it tends to be a fairly quiet atmosphere at times.  A far cry from the atmosphere that comes across on the TV, week after week.

I’m conflicted on the London issue now.  If the Jets were coming over would I be after a ticket?  Probably, although it’s almost as cost effective for me to go to New York for a weekend as it is London.  But, putting the boot on the other foot.  An NFL team has 8 guaranteed home games per season.  That means season ticket holders have to give up 1/8th of their season for their team to come over here.  The outcry was huge when the EPL posited adding a game to be played abroad, imagine if they’d suggested each team losing 1/8th of their home games to overseas!

It now seems likely two games will be played here next year, with a plan to increase that to four by 2012 and possibly a franchise after that.  What I think the NFL don’t see in this push for 4 games/a franchise is that the demand at the moment is artificially inflated. The game draws fans from all over Britain and indeed from Europe, fans of all 32 teams, because it’s a proper competitive game, and it’s a one off each year. Exhibition games died on their arse in this country 20 years ago as fans got sick of only seeing the star players for one series if they were lucky. This way, we get the big names. It draws people in, it becomes a weekend event for the majority of fans at the game.

Increase the number of games available, and people will get more choosy. They will cherry pick. Mainly because added to the not inconsiderable ticket price, many have to travel and spend 1 or 2 nights in a hotel. Not necessarily feasable for more than 1 or 2 occasions in a season.

The rumour is that there will be two games in the UK next year, one at the end of September and one end October. I can see the current logistics working well enough in those time frames as regards bye weeks after etc, but if the 4 game experiment is to follow the same model, I cannot see any team willing to travel/give up a home game at end November/end December when homes games are getting fewer and playoff chances could be on the line.

Squeezing all these games into the first half of the season would have an adverse effect on the demand for tickets for all those reasons outlined above.  The fans going to Wembley are not just from the London area, and the demand for a franchise as such just isn’t there.  The latest rumour doing the rounds is that the NFL would like to have one team come over every year to grow it’s own fan base.  Again, this seems an ill-conceived notion.  We have fans of all teams in this country with allegiances made stronger due to time zones and distance and the sheer effort required to follow your team, particularly in the pre-internet age.  These allegiances won’t be dumped just because Jacksonville are here every year or the British Bulldogs have won a place at the NFL table.

If the NFL really want to grow their fan base in this country they need to get live prime time coverage on terrestrial TV, not hide it away in the Sky Sports ghetto.


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