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Rough patch? Life can be such a pitch


Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona,

For some California grass.

- 'Get Back', The Beatles

AS I rummaged around in the admittedly shallow annals of my mind for something to say about the sandy tribulations of the Sports Hub folks this week, the only thing I got was this old country song: Green, Green Grass of Home.

I know someone who, as a wee boy, had chronically misheard this song, blithely belting out "Green, green grasshopper" instead. It was a spectacular feat, if you think about it, for he managed to put the "green" in "mondegreen".

It is safe to assume that the tragic undertone of that song - the narrator is actually on death row - was lost on this person. ("What do you mean? This is just a song that states the obvious about insects!" is the response I'd have imagined.)

I have been similarly bewildered, watching this sandy-pitch debacle unfold over at the National Stadium. My disdain for sports is bested by my lack of interest in grass, which in turn is outdone by my indifference to Jay Chou. Somehow, the Sports Hub has found a way to combine all three into some kind of red-faced public moment.

Now, a rugby friendly has been called off because the pitch is not lush enough for grown men to engage in the time-honoured tradition of giving each other cauliflower ear.

This has been overshadowed, of course, by the postponement of a Jay Chou concert meant to be held at the National Stadium. So . . . clouds and silver linings, huh?

It's probably a little late to rethink the pitch - like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted and eaten all the grass. But I read somewhere that the field doesn't dry fast enough when it's watered and special fans have to be used, or else the leaves will get diseased. Clearly, this is the fancy stuff, used for the best footballers who will not roll around and fake injuries on just any kind of grass.

What we need is some hardy home- grown material, the lalang by the roadside that long-suffering blue-collar workers with handkerchiefs around their faces are always struggling to tame. I mean, have you seen the plant's tagline? Lalang: Grows Even When You Don't Want It To. These weeds, I suspect, will be better able to withstand the rigours of an involved game of rugby and - more importantly - the screams of rabid Jay Chou fans.

In any case, how hard is it to grow grass, the average ill-informed person like myself wants to know. The way I figure it, you need mostly rain and sunlight.

It's been scientifically proven that you get rain by washing your car and leaving it outside for the day. As for sunlight, we're 137 kilometres north of the equator. We get, on average, about 2,000 sunshine hours a year. That stuff is everywhere. There is so much of it, we sometimes put our hands up in front of our eyes just to get a little less.

But as I am given to understand, the stadium's roof structure is built in a way that limits sunlight and ventilation, which has hampered the growth of the grass.

I don't blame them, though. We have spent decades building air-conditioned shopping malls designed to make sure that the outdoors stays outdoors. Now you want a building that lets in sun and rain and gets in the way of your using your credit card? I'm sorry, but that's just unpatriotic.

So now, the Sports Hub folks have had to buy S$1.5 million worth of special lighting that they will shine on the grass to make it grow. It is a little like someone in Alaska building an ice hockey rink where the ice cannot freeze properly, and having to bring in gigantic air-conditioners to blow frantically on it.

It is as though that chap who figured out how to sell ice to Eskimos migrated to Singapore when we weren't looking. What will we do next? Import our own athletes? Oh, wait . . .