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SportsApril 6, 2016

Arguing With My Dad: In which Greg Bruce’s dad claims he invented talkback


The Blackcaps win over Australia in the recent ICC World T20 tournament had nothing to do with masterful innings construction and well-executed bowling plans – according to Greg Bruce’s dad it was all just a fluke.

My dad came into the ICC World T20 hot. The morning after the match against Australia, he turned up at my place and said, “We were lucky. We should have got 200” – something completely indefensible like that.

“What is your reasoning for that?” I asked him, because if there’s one thing I’m not going to do, it’s let a logical fallacy go unchallenged.

His reasoning, and I am not joking when I say this was the full extent of it, was that Guptill had hit three sixes off an Australian spinner early in the innings.

My response was pure confusion. I couldn’t understand how someone who had played club cricket for many years, who had watched more cricket than anyone I know, who had surely offered more opinions about cricket than anyone in history, believed that you could extrapolate from a few shots from the world’s most mercurial batsman to a full innings from one of the world’s flakiest batting lineups.

I sometimes get to thinking about the changing nature of the father-son relationship. How should I relate to Dad now that he is old and I am a basically functional adult? I can’t help but think my role is now largely educational. In this specific circumstance, I thought it important that I correct his apparent inability to see that cricket is a game in which batsmen run hot and cold, in which bowlers bowl better and worse, in which the terms of the match fluctuate.

My dad sincerely believes he was responsible for the invention of talkback radio. Sometime in the 1970s or maybe early 80s, he and some friends were sitting around at home, presumably drunk, arguing about the surname of the British royal family. Dad said, “I know how we can settle this. Let’s call 1ZB and ask the announcer to put it out on air.”

They did it and the host put the question out and they got the answer. According to Dad’s unlikely account, the host called back afterwards to thank him for the question, saying that he’d never before seen so many people calling the station.

Dad’s talkback creation narrative petered out at that point, but I presume he believes that the host went to the Monday meeting and told station management about Dad’s call and the resultant sensational call volumes, and from there, 1ZB built an empire, thus depriving Dad of the credit and probable wealth due him.

On first hearing this story, I called up the internet and proved Dad wrong. Talkback radio was indisputably invented in the United States in 1930. Rather than accepting this evidence, he scoffed in its face, convinced only, apparently, of the ongoing fallibility of facts.

I tell this story only to provide a feeling for the evidential baseline required to convince Dad of anything. I could have talked for hours about the ebb and flow of cricket matches and the fact that batsmen often get out and new bowlers often come on and perform differently from the ones that have already performed. I could have provided video evidence, spreadsheets, brought in Martin Guptill himself to discuss innings-construction theory. None of it would have mattered.

But because some things are too important to let go, I had to try. I soldiered on, eloquent and lucid, saying a lot of stuff like the things I have just mentioned. He just looked at me with the self-satisfied smirk he has used to great effect in our arguments over the years. I imagined Leighton Smith in studio, listening to a ranting caller, looking much the same.

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