Mark Reason: A bucket list of sporting events
What is the hottest ticket in town? The arrival of the Indian cricketers on the outskirts of our farms; the anguished bellowing of the Spanish tennis bull over the water; and the upcoming hype and glory of the Superbowl got us wondering as a family as we motored through the finals days of the summer holiday. We live in extraordinary sporting times. So who would we most like to see?
Who would you most like to see at a live event? We opened the question out among friends and there were a few quirky answers. One wanted a time machine to go back in time and watch Viv Richards, the Master Blaster, in his pomp. Not allowed. The time machine is for another day. But a couple of others wanted to see a sporting place, not a person. Hallowed turf. We liked that. They were in.
Here is our list. Subjective, of course. Parochial, not at all. Who or where have we missed out? So in no particular order, can we please have tickets to ...
The Superbowl. The greatest show on Earth, and that's just at half time if you are from (Bruno) Mars or you have a taste for Red Hot Chilli Peppers. It's the slick passing Denver Broncos against the slap-up, bad-mouthing defence of the Seattle Seahawks. And it's taking place at the Meadowlands, New York.
If you don't mid viewing the action through an ice-encrusted telescope, you can score a far-out ticket for $1500. But if you want a warm spot in a luxury suite, that will set you back between a quarter and half a million bucks. That's the cost of seeing if Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning can become immortal.
Usain Bolt. The great Jamaican sprinter was the pick of my daughter. "Nah," said my son. "It will be over in 10 seconds." Under 10 seconds to be precise. He was right, but he was wrong.
It's not just the race, it's the performance. Beforehand other sprinters are doing the alpha male bit, prowling, thumping their chests. Bolt is above it all. He smiles. He throws a few shapes. He fires his bolt into the imaginary heavens. And when the race is run, then Bolt celebrates like no other athlete on Earth. He is the Showman.
Augusta. The first of two golfing picks (not guilty) and the first of two places. For those who have not been, Augusta holds a mystique. The roars of the patrons rumble down through the years. It is history in the here and now. It is special.
It is a world that is forever in bloom. Blue water and pink azaleas. It often rains in Masters week, but in our minds Augusta is forever sunny. It is a place where Jack will always walk on sunshine. Maybe the best advice is not to go. But who can resist touching a dream.
Ronnie O'Sullivan. Yeah, so snooker doesn't really matter to New Zealanders. Not since Dene O'Kane last reached the quarter-finals of the World Championships in 1992. But O'Sullivan, Rocket Ronnie, is different.
His Dad was banged up for murder and Ronnie is a troubled soul. The other day he won a match 6-0 in under an hour, scoring a record 556 points without reply. "I don't know what I can do this afternoon," says bored Ronnie, before picking up a $12,000 fine for Twitter comments. What a 38-year-old teenager.
Wesley Fofana. No one is arguing. Kieran Read is the best rugby player in the world. But he's not a stadium filler. You wouldn't row across the Pacific to watch Read impose his special athletic will on a game.
Many may say the same of Fofana, but the Frenchman is the keeper of the soul of a nation. Fofana can glide. He has pace, he has instinct, he has footwork. As French rugby becomes ever more prosaic, there is still one poet out there. I hope they let him speak against England this weekend.
Col du Tourmalet. The second place in the list. It could have been Alpe d'Huez or Mont Ventoux, but this year it is the Col du Tourmalet finishing at Hautacam.
It is the circle of death, high in the Pyrenees, a sort of anti Augusta. The tour de France can be the most merciless place in sport. The bleached boulders of Tourmalet can bake a man's soul. Watching another man suffer beyond endurance wrings out our admiration. The iconic peaks of the Tour are some of the great highs of sport.
Barca v Bayern Munich. It may not happen. There is no guarantee that the two great players of club football will meet in this year's Champions League. But we can dream.
Last year Bayern annihilated Barca 7-0 in the semi-final, but Barcelona were without some key players and Lionel Messi's hamstring was a liability. Are Bayern really that good. There is a fair argument they would win the World Cup if clubs could enter. But we would love to see both teams at their peak on the same pitch.
Ryder Cup. Once upon a time the Ryder Cup was a beat-up, but now even my Mum will take out a Sky subscription just to watch the Ryder Cup. Forty years ago we went along to applaud the Americans and hope for a miracle.
Then Seve brought magic. The cool autumnal early morning air crackles with anticipation. The Europeans sing the songs that make even the American players look up and chuckle. And at the end, the weight of a continent hangs on the end of one man's putter. Goosebumps.
Rafa Nadal. Or to be more exacting, as can be the case with our loved ones, Rafa v Andy Murray, final of the US Open, not too late and without the sun in my eyes.
Nadal lost the final of the Australian Open, but you had to admire the man's courage. For just a moment we unworthily thought he was cheating, we booed, thought he was pulling a fast one. But as Stan Wawrinka said: "He is always a really fair player, he always tries his best." The greatest? The debate rolls on.
Virat Kohli. Take the chance. It is a beautiful thing to watch a player who could become one of the great ones. The first time you see Kohli, even if it was when he struggled as a test debutant against the short ball, the style was evident.
Kohli had time. He could hit the ball where he wanted. Perhaps he had the tetchiness of a young man. Sometimes he could be impatient. New Zealand wore him down with wide offside bowling the other day. But Kohli has the hands to rule the game. Has he the head?